Dapple, dapples, dapples. How can you “add some” to your horse? Well, maybe you can, and maybe you can’t.
Dapples are textured, concentric rings within the coat, and look like amazing darker circles of coat with a lighter color on the inside. They are commonly spotted along the rumps, and sometimes bellies or necks, of some horses. It’s fairly common for some horses to dapple when they are in great health, or sometimes when they are a smidge overweight. And by great health, I mean a balanced diet and a great exercise program, topped off with a Pro Grooming routine.
Dapples are also possible if your horse has the silver dapple gene. This gene is common in Scandinavian breeds, as well as a few American breeds. The silver dapple gene is responsible for diluting the base coat color (normally black).
You may also have a horse that dapples if he is true gray horse. Gray horses are born black, or almost black, and over years and even decades will lighten up and eventually become flea bitten grays. During this process, they spend several years as dappled grays. My gray horse has no dapples at the age of 21, but his knees and hocks had some residual dapples until about age 17. If you looked very closely and had a vivid imagination.
Let’s assume you have a non Scandinavian horse that is not gray, but instead chestnut or bay. There’s a chance that he can still display dapples - and it may take some experimenting to find them. This is because genetics is infinitely more complicated than “he has the gene, so he will have them”.
I have known more than a few horses that show dapples in the summer, but not winter, or some that dapple in the winter, but not summer, and even a few that only show dapples when they are clipped, and some that will have their dapples clipped off with a body clip. My VERY unscientific observations have no conclusions for you. I can also tell you that you are more likely to see dapples on gray or bay horses. For you redhead lovers out there, you will probably just have to enjoy your horse looking like a newly minted penny.
I wanted to also do a bit more research about dapples, so I chatted with Dr. Clair from Summit Equine Nutrition. Dr. Clair is originally from England, and the first thing she mentions about dapples is that in the UK, they are called "hammer marks", like you have hammered some tin or copper to make those eye catching circles. Then Dr. Clair gets down to business confirming that a healthy coat is necessary for dapples, and we get a healthy coat on our horses because of balanced trace minerals and omega 3 fatty acids.
The bottom line is that dapples are not “in” every horse, and since we strive to have the best nutrition, exercise and grooming programs out there, you will see dapples if your horse has them. (Anyone remember the “Grooming Scale”? Follow that and dapples could appear!)
What has been your experience with dapples?