Are you confused when it comes to the terminology for
horse markings? If you’re new to the world of horses,
it can be confusing when it comes to understanding the
subtleties of equine markings.

Horse Markings Distinguish Individual Equines

What are Horse Markings?

According to Horse Illustrated, “horses can display a wide variety of markings on their bodies.” Horse markings are determined by genes and these white areas can be used to identify horses from others of similar color. These markings can also help prove ownership of a stolen or lost horse because rarely do two horses look exactly the same.

Horse markings are typically divided into 4 categories, but there can also be combinations of markings and other potential markings.

  1. Facial.
  2. Legs.
  3. Spot.
  4. Dorsal or Eel Strip.

A spot can be anywhere on a horse’s body. What’s unique is that the “hair swirls in a circular direction” in contrast to the rest of the horse’s coat.

A Dorsal or Eel Strip is found on the horse’s back. It is a darker strip of hair running down the back from the mane to the tail. This marking is common among:

  • Mustangs.
  • Duns.
  • Donkeys and mules. (There may also be a second horizontal strip across the shoudes in these breeds.)
  • Certain pony breeds.

Next, let’s look specifically at equine facial and leg markings.

Horse Markings: The Face

Equine Facial Markings
Courtesy: Public Domain / USGS

The common facial markings (by shape and location) include:

  • Star: A white marking between or above the horse’s eyes. Stars come in varying sizes and shapes including round, half-moon, heart, oval and/or crescent.
  • Snip: Like a star (above) in varying sizes and shapes, but located on the nose or muzzle.
  • Strip: A narrow white strip that runs down the middle of a horse’s face. (A crooked or wavy strip is sometimes called a “race.”)
  • Blaze: Where the white vertical line is wider and more prominent than a strip (above). May stop partway down the forehead or continue to the muzzle.
  • Bald: Where the white on a horse’s face goes above their eyes. The white is much whide than a blaze (above) and covers most of the face. Common in Paint horses along with blue eyes.

Horse Markings: The Legs

The common leg markings are identified by how high the white area extends on the leg.

Markings on Equine Legs
Courtesy: Merck Vet Manual
  • Coronet: A thin band of white hair just above the hoof. (The coronet also describes the upper part of a horse’s hoof.)
  • Pastern: When talking about a horse’s anatomy, the pastern is between the top of the hoof and the fetlock. When speaking about horse markings, the pastern is a patch of white hair on this area of the leg that may or may not go all around the leg.
  • Ermine: This describes a dark marking within the white marking above the hoof but also touching the coronet (coronary band) which differentiates it from a regular spot.
  • Sock: A common horse leg marking that extends from the top of the hoof about two-thirds up the leg and includes the fetlock. Horses can have from 1 – 4 socks. Also referred to as an anklet.
  • Boot: The boot extends higher than a sock, but below the knee.
  • Stocking: The marking starts above the hoof and goes beyond the knee and may include the entire leg. A similar marking is called the half-stocking or half-cannon.

Learn more about horse markings at

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