Leg Markings on Horses

Young girl with horse
Horse with socks on back legs Thomas Grass / Getty Images

Leg markings are areas of white hair that extend up from the hoof on an otherwise the dark-colored horse. There is so much variety in leg markings and so many unique combinations that leg markings are an important way to identify individual horses -- they're important enough that even old horse proverbs mention them. Horses may have four similar white markings on their legs, or the leg markings can be completely different on each leg. For example, a horse may have no white on one leg, a high stocking on another, a coronet on another and a sock on another. Leg and facial markings are sometimes passed on from one generation of horses to the next. For example, Arabian horses of Crabbet bloodlines often have wide white facial markings along with four white stockings. Horses with particularly flashy and eye-catching white on their legs are said to have "chrome."

What Is Chrome

Lots of chrome can present a grooming challenge. For a show, these flashy markings are sometimes tricky to keep clean and there are many grooming tips to keep them white. 

Reasons for Accurate Documentation of Markings

For breed registration and other official paperwork, you must accurately draw the markings on the documents you will submit. You may also have to write a description, and that means you have to use the right terminology. If your horse were to go missing, it's helpful to have clear photos that show its white markings, a written description, and you may need to be able to describe its markings accurately when giving information.

Patterns of Markings

Most often, if a horse has white leg markings, the hoof wall will be white too. Anywhere there is a patch of body hair or an ermine mark, there may be a dark stripe down the hoof. As grey horses age, the leg and facial markings may not be as obvious. However, they are still there, because the skin underneath white leg markings is pink, and the skin under the coat color will be grey. The shape of leg markings does not change though, regardless of the age of any colored horse. If a horse was born with four white stockings, the shape of the stockings will remain the same throughout the horse's life.

Occasionally, you'll see white markings on the legs that the horse wasn't born with. These white marks are from old injuries. Because they are permanent, they too can be used as identifying marks.

  • 01 of 06


    Low section of horse
    Coronet Tobias Titz / Getty Images

    A coronet is a band of white hairs around the top of the hoof (the coronet band of the hoof) that does not extend up onto the pastern. If the coronet extends around the whole hoof, the hoof itself will likely be white. If there is a break in the white hairs where there is coat color, the hoof may have a dark stripe below it. If the white hairs only cover a small area just above the coronet band of the hoof, usually at the back the marking is called a heel or partial coronet. 

  • 02 of 06


    Horse walking in field
    Sock on left hind leg Pixabay

    Socks extend above the fetlock but not to the knee. Socks stop about half-way up to the canon bone on either the front or back legs. If the sock is solid white around the hoof, the hoof will most likely be white. If there is a patch of coat color or an ermine just above the hoof, there may be a stripe of dark hoof below.

  • 03 of 06


    Horse back legs
    Stockings K. Blocksdorf

    Stockings extend to the knee or hock and above. They may end in a symmetrical or pattern, or they may extend further up the leg in a jagged "irregular" pattern. If they extend well past the knee or hock they are called "high white."

  • 04 of 06

    Boot or Fetlock

    Equestrian - World Festival CHIO Aachen 2009
    Fetlock Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

    A boot or fetlock is white that extends up to, but only slightly past the fetlock joint. A partial fetlock means that only a portion of the fetlock joint is covered with white hair.

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  • 05 of 06


    Detail of horse doing dressage exercise
    Pasterns on the front Lea Roth / Getty Images

    A pastern marking covers the pastern area but does not extend beyond the fetlock joint.

  • 06 of 06


    Close-up of horse legs
    Ermine on inside left hind hoof, just above the coronet band. rollover / Getty Images

    Ermines are random black spots that appear on white areas on the horse's body. They can appear on the horse's white leg markings, and if they are against the coronet band of the hoof, there may be a stripe of dark hoof wall on an otherwise white hoof. Ermines can also appear on horse's facial markings.