Although Appaloosas are most commonly recognized by their colorful coat patterns, they also have other distinctive characteristics. The four identifiable characteristics are: coat patterns, mottled skin, white sclera, and striped hooves. The Appaloosa Horse Club recognizes thirteen base coat colors. It is not always easy to predict the color a grown horse will be from the shade it has as a foal. Most foals are born with lighter colored coats than they will have when they shed their baby hair with the exception of gray horses, which are born dark and progressively become lighter. A remarkable aspect of the Appaloosa is the myriad of color and pattern combinations they can exhibit. The seven common terms used to describe Appaloosa coat patterns are blanket, spots, blanket with spots, roan, roan blanket, roan blanket with spots, and solid. Appaloosa patterns are highly variable and there are many which may not fit into specific categories easily.
Mottled or partli-colored skin is also an Appaloosa characteristic. Mottled skin is different from commonly found pink (flesh-colored or non-pigmented) skin in that it normally contains dark areas of pigmented skin within its area. The result is a speckled or blotchy pattern of pigmented and non-pigmented skin.
The sclera is the white area of the eye, which covers the entire eyeball except the cornea - the colored or pigmented portion. The white of the human eye is an example. All horses have sclera but the Appaloosa's is white and usually more readily visible than other breeds. Readily visible white sclera is a distinctive Appaloosa characteristic provided it is not in combination with a large white face marking, such as a bald face.
Many Appaloosas will have bold and clearly defined vertically light or dark striped hooves. However, vertical stripes also may result from injury to the coronet or found in association with a white marking on the leg. Also, light colored horses tend to have thin stripes in their hooves. As a result, all striped hooves do not necessarily distinguish Appaloosas from non-Appaloosas.