It is well known that Mountain Horses come in the trademark "chocolate" body color. But there are many unique colors in the breed! Mtn. Horses can actually be found in a rainbow of shades. Some colors, however, are very hard to find in any other breed, and it is those colors that we'll celebrate here.
We'll start our tour of fun colors with Silver Dapple, the trademark color of the Mtn. Horse breed. Silver Dapple is found not only in Rocky and Kentucky Mountain horses, but also in Miniature Horses, Shetland Ponies, Icelandics, some European draft horse breeds, and an occasional rare QH or TWH.
However, it is the Mtn. Horse breeds that have really latched onto this color, and have "made it their own" so to speak! What is Silver Dapple, or "Chocolate" as it is called in Mtn. Horses? It's actually a dilute black, not a chestnut! A rare gene acts upon what is basically, a black horse, and turns the body color a shade of brown, while lightening the mane even more so.
Chocolate comes in a rainbow of shades, from a pale dappled beige that looks a lot like a Sooty Palomino, all the way to the richest bittersweet chocolate brown, so dark it looks nearly black. The mane and tail may be silvery white, reddish or golden flax, or even nearly black with only a few stray silver hairs. The endless combination of mane, tail, and body colors makes every Chocolate horse unique. The color often changes as the horse ages, with manes and tails turning darker as the horse gets older in most cases. Enjoy the beautiful shades of Chocolate shown here!
Above: Amazing example of an extremely dark chocolate with white mane and tail. This color is very difficult to get, and even harder to keep, as the white mane and tail tends to darken with age on many Chocolate horses. Blue Boy's Dakota, photo courtesy of Yvonne Thompson.
A wonderful example of lighter Silver Dapple color. "Smooth as Silk" owned by Fair Chance Stables, registered RM and KM. Photo by Jane Gean.
The second "best known" Chocolate color in Mtn. Horses is "Red Chocolate". Remember, Silver Dapple turns black body colors into dark brown, and lightens the mane and tail even more. It does not change red based body colors at all. because it only changes parts of the horse that would normally be black.
So, a bay's black legs become dark brown, and the mane and tail may be any shade that would normally be seen on a Chocolate horse - flaxen, silver, even pure white!
Above: Example of an extremely light red chocolate color. "April Sunshine" is owned by Overlook Stables and is for sale. Contact Jane Gean for more information at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Above and below: Two examples of Red Chocolate. Filly "Hosanna" shown above, and stallion "Crimson Timson" below. Both of these horses may be mistaken for flaxen-maned chestnut at first glance, but note the dark legs. Photos courtesy of Tara Nichol, Honyesuckle Hill Mtn. Horses.
Below: The light red chocolates above may be mistaken for chestnuts at first glace, but dark red chocolate below could pass for a bay with "highlights" in the mane and tail. "Empress" also displays fantastic stocky Mtn. Horse build in addition to her lovely color.
Photo provided by Sharon Stokesbary, http://www.mnequinetouch.com
Above: Fearless, a World Champion stallion at stud at Overlook Stables. This is dark red chocolate with a flaxen mane and tail. Photo courtesy of Jane Gean.
Now that you see that the Silver Dapple gene can change a bay, let's consider buckskins. A buckskin is a bay horse, that has had its red body color changed to a light tan by the cream gene, the same "modifier" that also turns a chestnut into a palomino.
However, a buckskin has black areas on its body. Just as the black areas on a bay are changed on a Red Chocolate, the Mtn. Horse with the "Silver Buckskin" color will have dark brown socks, and the mane and tail will show some lighter color.
A darker Silver Buckskin will pretty much look like a regular buckskin, but might have a few flaxen highlights on a dark mane, causing the horse to look as if someone decided to add a few highlights to the mane and tail.
The most extreme Silver Buckskins can sport a pure white mane and tail, which makes the horse look like a palomino with dark socks!
Above: Choco Dock Jr, a popular RMHA stallion. His dark Silver Buckskin color has a brownish cast, because the "sooty" black hairs of a regular buckskin have been lightened to dark brown, and he has flaxen highlights in his mane and tail. Photo courtesy of Jane Gean.
Coppertone, a Silver Buckskin bred by Sandy McCart. Like many Mtn. Horses that carrry Silver Dapple along with Cream, he has amber colored eyes and could probably be mistaken for a Champagne.
Above: Chocolate Roan, photo courtesy of Christi Volz, Volz's Mountain Horses
Osgood, IN 47037, 812-689-7130 email: email@example.com
It's always exciting when a Mtn. Horse breeder produces a Chocolate Roan. The Roan gene is found in all the Mtn. Horse registries, and "regular" blue and red roans are present. In Mtn. Horses, it is also possible to combine the Silver Dapple color with roan. A Chocolate Roan is quite striking. They may appear to have almost a purple or lilac tint to their bodies. Sometimes "Red Chocolate Roans" appear, which creates a bay roan that may have a lighter mixed flaxen mane and tail. Roans in Mtn. Horses are very sought after.
Above and below: A chocolate roan Mtn. Horse. Roan lightened the dark brown body, but the Silver Dapple gene caused the mane and tail to stay a light blonde flaxen color. Photos courtesy of Jane Gean.
Classic's Shogun - Absolutely breathtaking Red Chocolate Roan stallion standing at Classic Farms. No matter the color, this is one beautiful horse! AI is available for folks living out west. Visit their website for more info: www.classicfarm.com
By now, you are probably getting an idea of how this works - any color that would normally be black is changed somewhat in Mtn. Horses if the Chocolate gene is at work. So what happens when a rare Grulla also inherits the Silver gene? There are very few of these in existence, so we don't have very many examples, but the mane and tail are lightened, and the body color may also be altered somewhat.
Above: Absolutely stunning example of Silver Grulla. These photos were saved from an Agdirect ad posted a long time ago, and I'm afraid I don't have information on this filly any more. If this is your horse, please contact me if you would like me to remove these photos, and especially contact me if you have updated photos that you'd like to share of her now!
There are plenty of other very fun colors in Mtn. Horses. These colors are also seen in other horse breeds. Some lesser known Mtn. Horse colors include Red Dun (also called Apricot Dun), Grulla, and Champagne!
Above: Classic Champagne grade Rocky mare, traces back to Dock. Located in Tucson, AZ. Photos by Amanda Butler.
A red dun KMSHA showing dorsal stripe. Photo courtesy of Jane Gean.
Palominos and Buckskins are also popular, and are always in demand.
Above: Brandy, a KMSHA mare that traces back to Tackett's Trigger, and her colt. Her colt (shown below) was born with blue eyes that later turned amber like hers. This is probably due to a "hidden" silver dapple gene.
Below: Marilyn Monroe, a dark palomino daughter of "Moon" (MPHA/KMSHA lines) and her daughter, "Rocket's Rowdy Ria". Photo by Thomas Farms.
Black is sought after for crossing to Chocolate horses and is very common within the breed.
Bay and glowing red chestnuts are also found.
Above: Timbrook, at age 24. A gorgeous aged stallion showing the heavy, rounded "old time" Mtn. Horse body type. World Champion KMSHA & Mtn. Pleasure horse owned by Barry & Ann Manning