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Horse Facial Markings

What Horse Facial Markings Look Like and What They Are Called

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Although there are several basic facial markings on horses, each marking will be unique in shape to each horse. Like snowflakes, no two are precisely the same. This is useful for horse owners because it provides a means of accurate identification. If you need to fill out registration papers, or documents like Coggins Tests, facial markings will be part of the identifying markings recorded for your horse.

If you carefully watch movies that feature horses, you can begin to identify the different horses used to fill the roles by their facial markings. It's not uncommon to see horses with a variety of facial markings all playing the same role as a single horse. Sometimes facial markings can cause problems because they can be difficult to hide. In the book by Walter Farely, and the movie, The Black Stallion, the horse is a solid black Arabian. The role in the movie was filled by Cass Ole, a black Arabian stallion with a white star on his face. In some scenes, if you watch carefully, you can see the shadow of Cass Ole's white facial and leg markings under his stage 'make-up'.

1. Star

Star, partial strip and snip.
Image: 2012 K. Blocksdorf

A star is a white spot on a horse's forehead, between the eyes. A faint star may only appear as a few white hairs, or the star can be large enough it covers the whole forehead area. Stars can be very symmetrical in shape, like spots or diamonds, or they may appear as irregular splotches. Some stars extend down bridge of the nose without connecting to any other facial markings. On grey horses, the star may be very obvious when the horse is young, and disappear into the greying hair coat as the horse ages.

2. Snip

A snip.
Image: 2012 K. Blocksdorf

A snip is a patch of white on the horse's nose. It may be a small spot between the nostrils, or it may extend over the whole nose.

3. Strip

A strip is a band of white that extends in a more or less even stripe down the bridge of the nose. A strip may connect to a star at the top and extend to the white markings on the horse's nose. Or they may be broken so there are three separate facial markings on the face, a star, strip and snip. The strip is quite narrow, only an inch or two wide and stays on top of the nasal bone.

4. Blaze

A blaze.
Image: 2012 K. Blocksdorf

A blaze covers the whole bridge of the nose, from the forehead area, down to the nose. The difference between a strip and a blaze is much wider than the strip. Blazes can be very symmetrical, or they can wander down the face unevenly.

5. Bald

A bald face is covered with a much wider white marking than a blaze. The white areas extend from the forehead to the nose, and from side to side beyond the eye area to the cheek bones. The whole nose and muzzle area can be white. It's not uncommon to see bald faced horses with blue eyes. Horses with a lot of white on their noses may be more prone to sunburn.

6. Ermine

An ermine is a small black spot within any white area on the horse's face. Ermines may appear within a star or blaze. The may be round or very asymmetrical. Ermines also appear on leg markings.

7. Combinations

Combinations of these markings result in horses' unique facial markings. Typical combinations include star and strip, star and snip, and star, strip and snip.

If your horse suddenly develops white markings around the eyes these aren't likely to be permanent. White or pinkish areas may actually be a skin condition called Vitilago.

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