Demystifying Horse Facial Markings

Horses have many facial markings, and such markings are usually unique in shape or size to each horse. For instance, no two snowflakes are the same. Facial markings are essential to horse owners, as they help identify their horses accurately. They serve as a form of identification when filling registration forms or documents, such as Coggins Tests for horse breeds. Here are some typical facial markings:


A white spot located on a horse’s forehead or between its eyes is called a star. It could be a big star that’s large enough to cover the entire forehead area or a faint star that appears as some white hair. They don’t always have the appearance of real stars. They can have a symmetrical shape, like diamonds or round, oval spots.

Some stars may be in the middle of the horse’s nose without touching other markings. The star is usually apparent on gray horses when they’re young and gradually disappears into the gray hair coat as they grow older. Also, the star marking on the horse may blend into its coat color, while the skin color beneath the coat appears lighter. When the only visible part of a star is the outer edge, it’s known as a Crescent.

Facial Mark Horse


A snip looks like a star, as it also comes in varying shapes and sizes. The difference, however, is that it’s a white patch located on the horse’s muzzle or nose. It may extend down the entire nose, or it could be a little spot located between the horse’s nostrils. It could also be connected to a stripe or blaze.


This horse marking is one of the easiest to identify. It’s a white band that runs evenly down the middle of a horse’s nose and face. Some strips may touch the star on a horse’s forehead and extend down to the white marks on its nose. Otherwise, the white markings may be divided so that there are three different horse facial markings on the horse’s face: a snip, star, and strip. A strip is usually narrow, ranging from one inch to two inches wide, and remains on the top of a horse’s nasal bone. If your horse has a wavy or crooked strip, some equestrians may call it a “race.” Strips are also called stripes.

Facial Markings


Blazes are similar to strips but more prominent and broader. A blaze is a vertical line covering the middle of a horse’s nose, from its forehead to the nose. Sometimes, a blaze may be symmetrical or even run unevenly down a horse’s face. Unlike a strip, a blaze covers most of the face, especially between the horse’s bone ridges.

A narrow blaze with the bottom and top broader than the midsection is sometimes called a strip. The lower or upper lip of a horse can be white. The white marking located on the lower lip may cover the chin, and it’s called a chin spot. If a horse has a large snip and a little star separately, it’s called a broken blaze. A white marking is “broken” if the colored portions overlap it.


The term “bald horse” doesn’t necessarily connote a horse without hairs. A bald horse has white areas that extend from its forehead, down to its nose, and it spreads widely beyond its eyes to its cheekbones. The white marking on a bald-faced horse is broader than a blaze, as it can cover its muzzle area and entire nose. Most horses with noses covered in white are at higher risk of sunburn. Bald face markings are characteristic in Pinto horses, Paint horses, and Clydesdale horses. Some breeds have specific names for bald-face markings, such as medicine hat or apron.

It’s common to find some bald-faced horses having blue eyes. If the whole head of a horse is white, it’s called a Paper Face. Such horses typically have blue eyes. A few horses with white markings surrounding their eye area have blue eyes. Also, a horse can have blue eyes without any white markings around its eye area.

Horse Facial Markings


An ermine spot is a dark or black-colored spot that appears in any white marking on a horse’s face. It can be within a blaze or a star. It could be asymmetrical or round. An ermine can also appear on the white leg markings of a horse. It’s common to find black ermines on lighter colored horses. Ermine spots are typically genetic. A dark spot on a horse’s coat is called a Ben D’or spot.


Different combinations of the previously mentioned markings will lead to unique facial markings on horses. Common combinations are snip/strip, snip/star, strip/star, and snip/star/strip. The combinations are an essential way to identify horses easily. The identifying marks and combinations are drawn or photographed while registering the breed or on medical records. These images are essential for verifying the horse’s identity.

A horse can suddenly develop a white mark around its eyes. This marking may not be permanent. Pinkish or white areas may be indicative of a skin condition known as Vitiligo. Also, the white marking may be a scar if the skin beneath isn’t lighter (possibly the actual marking that your horse was born with).

When you spend quality time with your horse, you’ll begin to find the beautiful combinations of colors and markings fascinating. Facial markings are an essential way to keep your horse safe. As a horse owner, you can use facial markings to distinguish your horse from a team of horses with similar color and appearance. You can also use facial markings as proof of ownership and to identify a lost or stolen horse. Make sure to draw or take a photograph of your horse’s facial markings.

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