All horses and ponies are of one of the 4 basic colours. Any of these dilutions may be inherited singly or in multiples along with any of the coat patterns, on top of any basic colour.


  PALOMINO DILUTE or CRÈME is unrelated to the dun gene. It is said to dilute only red pigment but can sometimes affect black too. On black, it can produce a smoky black, which looks like a very dark liver chestnut. On bay, this dilution produces buckskin. The buckskin has the bay pattern and no eel stripe. The body colour is diluted to a very pale sandy cream or a darker cream or sooty brown. The points may be black or dark brown. A newborn buckskin foal has pale legs. Buckskin is sometimes mistakenly called dun. It is not dun if the dorsal stripe is absent.  The crème gene on chestnut produces cream or palomino. The body may vary from a very pale cream, called cream, to dark gold, but the perfect palomino should be no more than 5 shades paler or darker than a newly minted golden coin with pure white mane and tail. A double dose of this gene on chestnut gives cremello, a very pale cream with white mane and tail, pink skin and blue eyes. The double dilution on black or bay gives perlino, which is very similar to a cremello but usually a little darker. Cremellos and perlinos are sometimes called blue-eyed creams. They can carry other patterns such as dun or roan. They are not albinos. Palomino dilutes usually go paler in colour in their winter coats.

  SILVER  is said to dilute only black pigment. It is extremely variable in its effect and will often be overlooked. A black horse with the silver gene may show only a slight silvering on the legs with a few silver hairs in the mane and tail at one extreme, or it may be diluted to a pale grey or fawn colour with near white mane and tail. In between these variations are chocolate silvers, chocolate coloured horses with light manes and tails. Bay horses will normally retain the bay body with a varying degree of silvering to the points. Some bays may become so light in the mane, tail and legs as to closely resemble chestnuts. Silver bays are often called red silvers. The most spectacular of these 'silver' horses also have prolific dapples all over the body, giving rise to the name of silver dapple. Some silvers may be confused with mushrooms but a DNA test for silver will determine the colour. Not found in purebred Shetland ponies.

  MUSHROOM alters the coat colour of chestnut by removing all trace of redness in the hair. It can closely resembles silver but mushroom ponies that have been DNA tested have proved negative for silver. Foals are born a grey beige or pink beige colour, usually with a coffee coloured mane & tail. Hooves are often striped but the stripes may grow out with age & the hooves become dark coloured.  Eye colour at birth is usually a grey blue which darkens over the following months. Adults may be a pale beige through the shades to a liver colour. Mane & tail are usually near white or a mixture of near black with white giving a silver effect. The colour has so far only been recognised in Shetlands with UK registered pedigrees. It is recessive so can be produced by parents of any colour but has been tested as genetically chestnut. A DNA test for mushroom is now available. Further information

  CHAMPAGNE is a more recently recognised effect, not so far recognised in European equine breeds. It is said to dilute black to brown, and red to yellow. The coat has a high sheen to it. The skin is usually orange-pink, light brown, or mottled. The eyes usually start off blue and become amber. Not found in purebred Shetland ponies.


Star is a white marking on the forehead area.

Snip is a white marking between the nostrils.

Blaze or Stripe is a white marking down the front of the face, from eye level to nostril level or further.

Strip is a thin white marking down part of the front of the face, shorter than a blaze.

Bald face indicates the face white covers most of the face, over the eyes and muzzle, even  including the lower part of the head.

Lip mark is a flesh mark on either lip.

Sock is a white marking on the lower part of the lower leg.

Stocking is a white marking extending further up the leg than a sock.

                All white markings should be defined by their size, shape and location, such as ‘sock to top
                of fetlock’ or ‘stocking to below hock’, ‘crescent shaped star at centre above eye level’ etc.

 Whorls are places on the coat where hair either converges to form a crest or tuft, as in crested whorls or tufted whorls, or where the hair parts to grow in different directions as in feathered whorls.  The most obvious whorls on any horse are those in front of each stifle. Most horses have a whorl on  the forehead but some have 2 or a double whorl here. Whorls are also commonly found on the chest, at the throat or at the back of the legs, but may be found anywhere on the horse.

These are brief descriptions of the most usual colours, shades and patterns. Research constantly throws up 'new' colours. Further and more extensive information can be found with illustrations from other sources. Recommended further  reading and web sites can be found on my 'Links' page.