Updated: August 21, 2020

Horses have been with humans for centuries, being an important part of the development of our societies. However, despite having shared so much with them, we still have a lot to know about the different breeds of horses that exist today. Most horses we discuss here are of a specific breed, but the chestnut horse is a little different. This is because it is actually a coat color which can be found in various breeds. However, it is a genetic inheritance which deserves to be discussed here at AnimalWised.

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  1. Origin of the chestnut horse
  2. Physical characteristics of the chestnut horse
  3. Chestnut horse character
  4. Caring for a chestnut horse
  5. Chestnut horse health

Origin of the chestnut horse

It is still very common to hear incorrect references to the chestnut horse as an equine breed. Reddish-colored individuals are called chestnut horses, due to their ‘chestnut coat’. The term chestnut refers to the color of the horse's coat, and not its breed. In fact, it is possible to find chestnut horses of various breeds, some with very different origins, physical characteristics and temperaments.

The striking reddish hue of the chestnut horse is due to the action of a recessive allele that produces a red pigment called pheomelanin. This recessive allele is known as e and for a horse to have the famous chestnut coat, it must be homozygous with respect to this genetic trait (i.e. both alleles re e creating an ee marker).

However, chestnut horses are not homogeneous. They can show different hues and patterns in their coat. This is due to the fact that the coloration and distribution of the reddish color in the horse's coat depends on several genetic factors. Still, these factors are all associated with the combination of additional alleles that act on the fundamental pair ee that produces the basic red color.

Physical characteristics of the chestnut horse

Red is one of the basic colors in wild horses, so it can be present in all equine breeds. A huge morphological variety is observed among chestnut horses. Generally, they have brown eyes, although white-faced chestnuts (with white spots covering their eyelids) can display blue eyes.

The physical feature that characterizes all these equine types is the striking chestnut coat. Even within this color, it is possible to observe a great range of color shades among chestnut specimens. The hairs that make up the base of its body can show different intensities of red. These range from a reddish brown to shades of dark brown and cinnamon. The mane and tail can also be red, blonde or white, but they should never show black. It is also possible to find individuals with white spots on their body.

Depending on the intensities and the distribution of the reddish color in its coat, we can see different types or varieties of chestnut horse. Here we summarize the 6 most prominent types of chestnut horse in the world:

  • Basic chestnut horse: also known as red chestnut, they are characterized by having the ideal chestnut coat that exhibits a solid reddish color throughout their body.
  • Sorrel chestnut horse: the specimen that is most similar to the red chestnut, their main characteristic is to have hair of the same tonality on its body, mane and tail. Their fur also tends to have a less intense shade of red than the basic chestnut and may even highlight golden reflections.
  • Flaxen chestnut horse: it is the variety that shows the lightest coat, with a predominance of brown hairs. In addition to genetic inheritance, diet can influence the intensity of their coat color. They are also known as a blond chestnut.
  • Liver chestnut horse: also known as dark chestnut, they are characterized by a dark brown coat with reddish reflections, which may eventually be confused with chocolate bay horses.
  • Black liver chestnut horse: this is very similar to the liver chestnut horse, with a solid dark brown coat, but their mane and tail are noticeably redder. They may even show orange highlights.
  • Black chestnut horse: despite the name, their coat is not actually black, but shows a tone very similar to liver, with bronze-colored reflections spread throughout its body.

Chestnut horse character

As with physical traits, the character of chestnut horses can vary significantly depending on the breed, lineage, education and environment of each individual. Therefore, no single temperament can be defined for the chestnut horse.

However, these beautiful equines will logically show some traits that characterize horses. For example, we can highlight their great courage, high stamina levels, privileged intelligence and, when they are inclined, they will show a remarkable predisposition for learning. This is why they can be trained for very specific purposes such as dressage.

When properly cared for and living in a positive environment, chestnut horses will tend to show a balanced and friendly character. They are able to live with other animals and enjoy a bond of mutual trust with their caretakers and riders.

Caring for a chestnut horse

The chestnut horse must receive all the essential care necessary for a horse's health and well-being. They need this to fully develop their physical, cognitive and emotional abilities. Among them, it will be essential to provide your equine with a proper grooming and hygiene routine. This includes brushing their chestnut coat daily and cleaning their hooves at least once a day, if not more when necessary.

Depending on the conditions and the type of activity or training you do with your chestnut horse, it may be necessary to shower them regularly. At least, you will need to clean their legs to prevent them from accumulating dirt and moisture on their skin and coat. If you choose to completely bathe your horse, do not forget to use suitable hygiene products and take special care when washing them near the eyes and the mucous membranes of theirbnose and mouth.

A complete and balanced nutrition will be another essential care for a chestnut horse. Their diet must supply their nutritional needs at each stage of their life. Like all herbivorous animals, the diet of horses should be based on the consumption of food of plant origin. Your chestnut horse will need to eat enough hay, green fodder and grass to provide the proteins and fibers necessary to maintain a balanced metabolism and optimal digestion. In addition, it is advised that they consume vegetables that are good for their health, such as potatoes, alfafa sprouts and carrots. However, this should only be done in moderation.

How much food should a horse eat per day? Generally, it is estimated that a horse needs to consume 1 kg of food for every 10 kg of its body weight. However, it is worth remembering that newborn horses require mother's milk. It is the only food capable of fully supplying their nutritional requirements, since their body is not yet able to digest other foods.

To complement the nutrition of your chestnut horse, it is also recommended to provide them with salt licks in moderation. They are excellent sources of minerals, calcium and vitamins that are essential to strengthen the immune system of horses. Last but not least, chestnut horses need to have their body and mind stimulated daily, as they have great energy and an advanced intelligence.

Chestnut horse health

Chestnut horses usually highlight excellent physical resistance and optimal health. However, they can be affected by several of the diseases most common in horses. These diseases include colic, tetanus and equine influenza. In addition, they will need to have a hygiene routine specific to their environment and a good grooming routine to prevent skin problems, such as dermatitis, scabies or ringworm.

Of course, your horse will need to receive adequate preventive medicine to strengthen their immune system and prevent their health from being affected by numerous pathologies or parasite infestations. Therefore, remember to make preventive consultations every six months with a specialized veterinarian, and keep your horse's deworming and vaccination schedules up to date.

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