Breeding colorful horses, especially with various white markings, appears to be good business for breeders according to Swiss researchers.
A study conducted for the Swiss national stud on 974 Franche-Montagne horses found that while disposition and healthiness were the two most important purchasing points for non-professional buyers, white markings made horses more attractive and did not have any negative influence on horses’ health.
According to Muriel Federici, DVM, MSc, a researcher and equine clinician practicing in Switzerland and France, who was the primary author of the study, “People are breeding for more and more white markings because these horses seem to sell better. But this has been a controversial practice in certain circles because of the association that has been made between colors–especially white–and health. Our study indicates that, at least in the focus breed, diversifying the colors and white markings could improve the marketing opportunities without significant adverse effects on the horses’ health.”
The only minor health concern related to color was pastern dermatitis (“scratches”), which appeared twice as often in horses with white legs.
“This symptom nonetheless remains a minor problem in most of the affected population,” Federici said. “It has no influence whatsoever on performance, is not particularly painful, and has no negative effects on the general health of the horse. From a financial point of view, it can usually be treated by the owner relatively inexpensively.”
Although these health-related statistics were based specifically on data from the Franche-Montagne breed, they could reasonably be extrapolated to all horses, she added.
As for me, my last two horses have been a dark bay (almost black) with only a few white hairs and a solid chestnut who has a touch of white on one foot. Guess I was shopping in the bargain section.