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Making Sure Your Horse Is the Right Color

March 3, 2014

Does your American Quarter Horse’s registration certificate reflect his correct coat color?

The Midas Touch Kid, owned and bred by Kimberlee Brown of New Richmond, Wisconsin, is a cremello.

It is important that your horse’s true coat color matches the registration papers. This horse is a cremello.

It’s a common scenario: You welcome your new American Quarter Horse foal into the world in spring and use the AQHA Coat Color Chart to chose the most logical color and get him registered with AQHA. Come summer, he loses his foal coat and appears to be a color very different from what his registration papers reflect. Now it’s fall, and you have a very different opinion of his coat color.

Fear not!

It’s important to get your horse’s papers corrected, and we’re here to help every step of the way.

AQHA equine color specialist Lisa Covey is one of several people at AQHA who specialize in Quarter Horse color genetics. Here, she takes some time to answer your important questions regarding your horse’s coat color.

Why is it important for your Quarter Horse’s coat color to be correct on his registration certificate?

Identification of a horse is one important reason the color should be correct on his papers. Whether you’re purchasing a horse or trying to identify horses in various situations, being able to verify the correct color and markings is important.

Other reasons include accurate pedigrees and historical records of horses. In those cases, it’s important that the color is correct to assist horse owners or horse enthusiasts who like to research horse pedigrees. A horse’s pedigree is important when breeding horses for color or for predicting the color of offspring. Also, having the color correct on the papers of the sire and dam can help prevent questions about color when registering the offspring at AQHA.

How do I know if the wrong color is listed on my horse’s papers?

Horses are usually registered as a weanling. Foal color can change considerably during the first year — even during the following spring. Horses tend to be born lighter in color and shed off darker when losing the foal coat. Other changes include horses that shed off roan or turn gray when losing the foal coat.

How well do you know horse colors? Learn the difference between a buckskin and a dun, a red roan and a blue roan, a cremello and a perlino and many more. Download AQHA’s free Coat Color Genetics report today.

The AQHA panel test for color is a great tool to help determine the correct color of your horse, and at $85, it is a good deal, too. Color testing is very helpful, especially for horses who inherited more than one modifier, such as a buckskin carrying the cream dilution and dun dilution.

If you have any questions about the color of a specific horse, contact AQHA and request the assistance of one of the color specialists.

How often is the wrong color declared on a horse’s registration papers?

Many of our members are experienced in knowing the foal coat colors and what changes to expect. However, there are always foals born with a questionable color, or other foals who go through many color changes before they reach maturity.

I recommend that you don’t wait to register a foal, even if you are not sure of the color. In most cases, it is much cheaper to register a horse the color you believe it will be, then you can change it later, if necessary, for a $15 fee. Waiting too long to register the foal can cost much more.

How do you get a horse’s color changed with AQHA?

Owners have six months from the date AQHA registers the foal — or a year from the foaling date — to request a free correction. The foal’s first shed in spring will often fall within that time limit. If your correction falls within this time frame, simply give us a call, and we’ll walk you through sending in your correction in a written statement.

If your correction falls outside of this time frame, AQHA’s Affidavit for Correction form is available for $15 (for AQHA members) on AQHA’s website and includes instructions. The original certificate of registration must be sent to AQHA, along with photographs.

When should I contact AQHA about a horse’s color change?

Most horses exhibit their true color when they shed in the spring. Later in the summer and fall, horses tend to become faded or sunburned if outside all the time. Also, winter coats can be very different, especially on roans. When dealing with foals, contact AQHA after the foal has shed the foal coat, usually at 3-4 months of age.

Why wait for the foal to get here, when you can know what color your new foal might be today? Download AQHA’s free Coat Color Genetics report to learn more about your horse’s color genes. This robust, 20-page report is helpful when determining a new foal’s color, and it’s great for science projects and school reports. Full-color photos of horses with all 17 AQHA recognized colors will help you train your eye and become a coat-color expert.

In colder climates, many foals are born in the summer and may grow their winter coat before losing the foal coat. In those cases, the color might need to be reviewed after they shed the first time in their yearling year.

How are color specialists involved in the process?

AQHA’s color specialists are always happy to answer questions and visit with members about the color of their horses. When a foal’s registration is received in the office, a color specialist is often asked to review the registration if photos were submitted and there is a question about the color.

The AQHA database is programmed to know what colors are normal from the cross of two parents based on their colors. If the foal’s listed color falls outside that programmed range, the entry clerk (not a color specialist) sends a letter to the foal’s owner asking for photos. This does not mean AQHA considers the foal’s listed color to be impossible; it means the color needs further review.

When photos are received, a color specialist reviews the foal’s registration and the pedigrees/offspring of the sire and dam to help determine the color.  Sometimes, additional photos may be requested of the foal’s parents, because either the sire or dam may require a color change, as well.

Continue the Conversation

Got a Quarter Horse coat color question for Lisa that isn’t addressed above? Comment below, and we’ll work hard to get you an answer.