Is it a Bay and Gray World? Loud Coat Colors in the Hunters

A palomino pony competing in the Large Pony Hunter division at WEF. Photo by Izzy Feinstein.


Though we have all seen our fair share of unique colored horses showing in hunter divisions; bays, greys, and solid colors are the most common. You don’t often see many unique patterns, but does this mean that “the norm” is the best? Some riders might want a uniquely colored horse to stand out, and with that the possibilities are endless… though you’re still more likely to see a bay than a pinto showing in the hunters!

When I watch a hunter class, I realize how much the uniquely colored horses stand out and may be more noticeable to the judge. Some think that judges discriminate against unusually colored horses. Lexi Smith shows her appaloosa pony, Lacey, in the hunters, and feels she is sometimes discriminated for her color. “I have many people tell me that she won’t make it to Pony Finals because of her color. I don’t think it should be based on what color they are. If she horse does well they should have an equal chance with any other horse in the ring,” Lexi says.

Lexi Smith and Lacey in the 2’6 Hunters. Photo by Ingrid F.

Lexi admits that having an unusually colored horse does make you stand out – sometimes even if you don’t want to! “If I do something really good or bad the judge will remember.  Her coat makes her stand out because no one else has the same design as she does.”

It’s not just loud appaloosas and pintos that can make a horse standout. Dapples, distinct markings or highly sought after “chrome” can make even solid horses visually distinct. Often in the hunters, it’s finding the balance between not blending in with everyone else… but also not standing out too much.

Mimi Gochman and Remarkable in the Hunters at WEF. Photo by Izzy Feinstein.

In the pony rings, you see tend to see a lot more variety when it comes to coat color. Roans and palominos may be unique in the Junior Hunters, but they are fairly common colors for Welsh and Welsh cross breeds. Despite the “splash of sunshine” a bright palomino brings, colorful ponies are often in the top of the rankings — if their performance backs it up.

Mia Green and Vermont Here’s The Gold in the Large Pony Hunters. Photo by Tori Weed.

Loudly colored horses in the hunters can be a complicated topic. The hunters, derived from fox hunting and historically dominated by Thoroughbreds, through its history carries some natural prejudice against colorful horses. However as our sport modernizes, judging usually rewards the best horses. The most rhythmic trip without errors. The best distances. The 10 jump – no matter what color the horse is.