Jackie and Scott Nelson, from Melbourne, Florida, are known for breeding gorgeous paint horses.
The couple owns a riding ranch called Down Under Colour, and their horses often take home prizes in championship horse shows. Despite their enviable equine knowledge, the couple got the surprise of their lives when they took a closer look at Coconut, one of their newborn fillies.
You see, coconut has extremely rare color markings that held great significance in older times.
Coconut is a rare “War Horse”—considered extremely important in Indigenous culture.
Indigenous legends, and Plains mythology in particular, often mention the Medicine Man. Both a priestly healer and spiritual guide, the medicine man would help heal his tribe of physical and spiritual problems. Considered to have a special connection to supernatural creatures, animals, plants, and other elements of nature, men in this renowned position would only ride one type of horse— the War Horse.
A pinto needed to have specific markings and characteristics to be considered a War Horse.
War Horses are completely white in color with only a small patch covering their ears and the top of their heads. This marking, called a “Medicine Hat” or “War Bonnet”, was the most important trait for a War Horse to have, but other characteristics could make it more esteemed.
In addition to the medicine hat marking, War Horses had to have at least one blue eye. “This eye in [Indigenous] mythology is called a ‘Sky Eye’”, Jackie explained. Tribes believed if a medicine man was killed during a battle, the horse’s blue eye would carry his spirit back to the Gods.
Indigenous tribes attributed many special powers to the War Horse. They thought the animal could protect the Medicine Man in battle and warn other riders of impending dangers. They were considered “hunters” in a sense, believed to be able to track rare game hiding in the forest.
According to Wind Chaser Ranch, tribes would often try to steal the War Horses of other tribes. They believed the horse held some of the group’s “good magic” and by stealing it (or killing the Medicine Man), they’d be able to weaken them and take their luck. As a result, the animals were closely guarded, holding great importance in the tribe.
Although some people say a ‘real’ War Horse needs a shield on its chest and markings on its flanks, Pony Box notes the most prized War Horses in history were completely white except for the medicine hat.
The War Horse’s white body was also the perfect canvas for decorative war paint.
We often see Indigenous warriors clad in brightly colored war paint, but often, they painted their horses too. Specific patterns and symbols were used because they were believed to bring protection, victory, and luck. In this photo, the circle around the horse’s eye symbolizes alert vision. The handprint on the chest signifies he’s previously knocked down an enemy.
According to horse breeders on Horse Forum, various genetic combinations of tobiano, splash, frame, and sabino can result in a ‘medicine hat’ horse, but the exact genetics behind a War Horse remain relatively unknown.
When Jackie and Scott first realized Coconut was a War Horse, they stood frozen in awe.
Realizing what a rare filly Coconut was, they immediately took a video to share. Since being uploaded five years ago, the footage has been viewed more than 3 million times.
“What a beautiful baby and a great mom!”
“She is adorable, and such beautiful colouring. Mum is so very attentive.”
“Medicine hat AND the war shield on her chest!”
As you can imagine, little Coconut’s grown up since Jackie recorded the footage so many years ago. Although her legs have grown longer and her body more thick, she’s still impressing people with her incredible markings to this very day.