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Condition dapples

This type of dappling is associated with good health and grooming. When paired with sooty patterning, the effect is very striking.

My goal in attending the SCQHA Palmetto Classic was to document chestnut variations. Shade and intensity have been the subject of some recent scientific studies, and Quarter Horses have a wide range of chestnut variations. What I didn't think about was that the show's timing (late spring) meant that I would also see a lot of dappling. The extensively dappled gelding at the top of this post was one of the first horses I encountered.

Given the irregular shape (and higher contrast) on his shoulders, I suspect he may have a combination of condition dappling and sooty dappling.

Even so, a lot of it appeared to be condition dappling. Even compared to the photos above, the extent of the dappling was more noticeable in person. It was also possible to get shots where he looked almost uniform in color, like the one below. That's one of the frustrating characteristics of this type of dappling. Slight changes in lighting can make a big difference in what the camera captures.

There was also this unusually vivid dappled chestnut. Most red horses—especially those with bright red tones—do not show a lot of contrast when they dapple. This guy was obviously an exception.

Like the first horse, sootiness may be enhancing the condition dappling. The shape, intensity, and placement of the dapples on the wither are more like a sooty overlay. However, that's a pretty unusual expression for sootiness on a red chestnut.

Dark overlay dappling is much more typical in sooty bay horses. This bay horse shows pretty obvious sooty patterning on her neck, shoulders, and saddle area. The second image shows what looks like condition dappling on her hindquarters.

The next two horses have the kind of subtle dappling usually seen in chestnuts. These are probably condition dapples, without influence from sootiness.

This clear bay has faint condition dappling on the hindquarters and shoulders. On the above three horses, notice how the dapples are more rounded (not angular or star-shaped) compared to those on the sooty bay horse.

Dapples on greys and silver dilutes, as well as seasonal dapples, tend to look like they are an integral part of the coat. Condition dapples look like they come up from within the coat. For artists, that sense of depth is one of the hardest things to convey with paint. All too often, dapples end up looking like light spots placed on top of the coat.

What was interesting about some of the horses at the show was that they had white ticking. When that occurs along with condition dappling, the depth of the dapples contrasts with the "on top of the coat" effect of the white hairs. If you look closely at the barrel of the dark chestnut mare pictured above, you can see how the white hairs give the impression of being closer to the surface than the dapples.

White hairs and white ticking patterns were also common at the show. In fact, if you look closely at the first horse in this post, there are white hairs sprinkled in that coat. I'll save some of those for a future post since this one is already long. But, before I do that, I want to share some images that explain why dappled horses look the way they do. That will also give me the opportunity to incorporate some of my husband's work in science, since this is one area where our interests overlap!


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