Unusual roan


I encountered this roan Saddlebred at a local show this past winter. Roan Saddlebreds are extremely rare, and the few modern examples I have seen have all been bay roans. Classic, dark-headed roan is frequently linked to the gene that makes horses bay or black, so chestnut roan is less common in many breeds.

This gal was odd even for a roan. Perhaps most striking was her mane, which went from red at the roots to white in the middle to red at the bottom againt. The owner allowed me to pull some hairs, and they were all banded in this fashion. She said the mare (who obviously had some age on her) had always been this way. She also said that she was much lighter in the summer, which is pretty typical of roans.


The hairs in her tail were also banded, though not as consistently so the effect was not as dramatic.

She was also faintly dappled. I tried without much success to capture them in a few pictures, but the show grounds there are set up terribly from a photographers standpoint!


In many ways she reminded me of the odd sabino roans that Laura Behning found in Morgans, perhaps because of the white dappling.

Her owner also said that the mare came as a surprise to her breeders because both the sire and dam were ordinary chestnuts, and there was no history of roans in her family. I haven’t taken the time to track down her pedigree to confirm that, but if that is true that would make her all the more unusual.

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14 Responses to Unusual roan

  1. jamie coughlin June 28, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    She is quite attractive. I love the mane. If her parents really are just chestnut then I think she is a sabino roan that just happens to resemble a true roan. It is also possible that one of her parents IS a roan but is so minimal that the owners did not realize it. She reminds me of that oddball trakehner mare who is roaned all over with spotty markings.

  2. The Equine Tapestry June 28, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    Thanks for commenting, Jamie! I was hoping that the approve-a-poster-once setting worked, and your comment appeared just as it should. 🙂

    I wondered the same thing in regards to sabino. There is a pattern of roaning out there which I’ve tended to classify as a kind of sabino, though I suppose you could just as easily say it is a sort of roaning. Or white ticking. They all kind of run together! But it does have a consistent look in that the body is pretty evenly roaned and while there is face white (almost always a moderate blaze) there is no significant leg white. She reminded me of that type of pattern, although she was more thoroughly roaned than the others that I had seen. But yes, if she doesn’t have a roan parent that would be my guess.

    And that odd Trakehner reminded me of the roan Morgans Laura found. I noticed she had more sabino roans on the page now that fit that same roan body-just a blaze profile, too. I need to ping her and have her come look at this one. (Interesting enough, this sort of roan has not appeared on anything but chestnut, unless you count the Trak in there with them.)

    For the upcoming book I did a breakdown of the different visual types of sabinos, and I did include that kind of roaning in there with them. I suppose you could just as easily call it a kind of roan. I suppose it’s all semantics at this point. 🙂

  3. Nikki June 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    I know a gal that bred a true dark-headed bay roan ASB, she was full blooded.

  4. The Equine Tapestry June 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Tom Bainbridge used to have a bay roan tobiano Saddlebred mare. I need to ask him again to find pictures…

  5. jamie coughlin June 30, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    Here is Sweet Return (GB) who is a similar type of sabino/DW/rabicano roan that is often seen in TBs. Well maybe not OFTEN but not uncommon either. What is uncommon is when it is seen in GOOD racehorses like him!

  6. The Equine Tapestry June 30, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Thank you for the link, Jamie. That is the kind of roan-mimic sabino that I have seen. Someone just posted a very similar Saddlebred to him on Blab.

    I have also seen some that have no leg white. In fact, that seems to be a feature of a certain kind of sabino roan – if indeed they belong in the sabino family of patterns. They typically have face white in the form of a blaze, and sometimes even sabino-like in that it goes under the jaw. And they are all-over roaned, rather than dark-headed. The Miniature stallion Roan Ranger is the one that I always think of with this sort of patterning. Here is a good page with a lot of his descendants. He passed that sort of patterning on pretty consistently:

    I have seen it in other breeds, none closely related to Miniatures though. I wondered if this mare might be like that, but honestly I don’t know. She is odd, and so are they!

  7. amberfaithaz February 6, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    As a lifelong horsewoman, animal rescue mom and professional artist/illustrator, I have a passion for the equine color palette and genetic/allele modifiers. And love this blog!

    In 2009, I rescued a registered ASB red roan mare from an AZ kill auction. I grew up with ASBs and TWHs, and had seen roans amongst the TWHs but never among the Indiana-KY ASBs.
    She is now the center of my life. 🙂

    Registered at birth as a red roan out of two chestnuts — I have her ASB registry # and a 8 gen pedigree via her original and very reputable owners—- she has a solid copper red chestnut body with visible evenly distributed white hairs all over — excepting her shade-darker red points and 90% of red face.
    Somewhat solid red on back but not a dorsal stripe. Very large diamond-star with descending stripe and off-set white snip on lip. Dark eyes. Definite Pangare shading inside back legs and on belly — most obvious in winter.

    Her mane and tail are a shade+ lighter than body — a balanced mix of 90% honey gold, red, a pale cream and 10% white hairs. No sign of strong rabicano white hairs at tail base. The white hairs are scattered there but do not make a skunk tail. She has one white dime-size spot on hip (not a brand or scald mark) and several corn spots from old wounds. One Bend-Or spot, too. NO white legs or feet. Dark hooves.

    After tracking them down via her registry #, the prior registered owners stated she had thrown two rose-grey foals when bred to a black and then to a very chrome+ chestnut stud. Wish I knew where they were now.

    That said, her color is, I believe, rare among ASBs. I have photos.

    Thanks for being here.

    • The Equine Tapestry February 11, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

      Sorry for the delay in approving and responding to your message. I have gotten terribly behind on blog maintenance the last few weeks. I would love to see photos of your mare. I have been trying to keep files on horses with extensive roaning that have come from solid, non-roan parents. It seems that they are rare, but they do occur, so I keep collecting their information in hopes that there will some day be enough of them that there are clues to why it happens. It would be particularly interesting to track down those two foals!

      • amberfaithaz February 11, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

        Thanks so much. I normally would not go into such depth of description of my personal horse online, but I immediately understood you were deeply and seriously devoted to your equine colour palette studies. We both know that the details reveal everything…in time.

  8. amberfaithaz February 11, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    I don’t think I was clear in my description– my mare looks like a honey-maned red chestnut until you get right next to her and see the peppering of white hairs throughout the body coat. Considering the non-roan red lower legs and large star/stripe, does she sound like another example of your above-mentioned no-leg-white sabino roans? I am learning so much here, and plan to order your book when I get my next check!
    Thanks for any feedback.

    • The Equine Tapestry February 11, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

      I just recently took some pictures of a sabino roan like this, and plan to get those up on the blog soon. I had been hoping to come across one for a while, so I could get some good images, so I was happy to find him at a recent show!

      • amberfaithaz February 11, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

        If you like, I can go through last year’s photos of Babe ( ASB reg as Viva L’Amour) to post here, and now plan to create a roan-study group of winter coat/summer coat photos for your research. I understand obsession in following those threads of wonder! 🙂

    • amberfaithaz April 16, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

      Just confirmed that the ASB stallion my red roan mare was bred with back in 2002 & 2003 was OCOEE… a grey. Previous info given to me was wrong. This explains her two grey foals from the breedings. Sorry for my jumbled facts.

  9. Zori November 13, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

    I just took in a horse who was a rescue with no known history other then he is around 10 and my trainer said he is a red roan –also a saddlebred. He has a dark red dorsal stripe going from mane to tail red on the top to a strawberry blonde stomach and white legs and a white blaze. He has a very red mane and a mix of red and blonde tail. Got him from somewhere in Wisconsin. Wish I knew more but he is beautiful