White markings and fungal infections



I have had a number of people contact me asking about the color on this mare, currently with the Another Chance 4 Horses rescue. I apologize to those easily upset, since these are photos of a horse in obvious need of a more caring owner. I do want to talk about her coloring, though, because horses like this are often misidentified. I’d love to see her find a good home with someone who would feed her properly, but I also think that all animals are more likely to find permanent homes when the people around them understand what they are – and what they are not.

Horses with this kind of coloring have occurred in the past, and in the case with the most concrete information, it was believed to be the result of a fungal infection. That was the WC Saddlebred Simply Striking. Here is a picture of Simply Striking as he was before the condition. Here is one from after the infection, where he shows a strong resemblance to the rescue mare. In later photos, the white areas are far less distinct, which suggests that some of the hairs later come back dark again. The discolored areas also appear to have spread, though whatever has been used to treat the infection might play a part in that, too.

If infection is part of this type of color, that is important to know because that would place horses like this mare into the same category as horses with somatic mutations. That is, they are “cool colored horses that didn’t come from cool colors and will not themselves produce cool colors.” This is important because historically horses of unexpected colors were hidden, so as not to reflect poorly on the breeding programs that produced them. In some cases, perfectly good horses were culled from breeding just for producing a horse of questionable coloring. The tables have turned somewhat in recent years, so that horses are now more desirable (at least to some) for their unusual colors. That puts horses like this mare at risk for ending up homeless again, since someone looking to recreate the pattern is likely destined for disappointment.

The other problem is when the pattern is mistaken for something else. It seems most often horses like this end up misidentified as appaloosas. Here is a purebred Thoroughbred mare, Pelouse’s Queen, with a similar pattern.

She was part of the Money Creek appaloosa breeding program. In the 1970s, when she was of breeding age, good Thoroughbred mares were in demand to improve the Appaloosa breed. The idea that they could contribute color as well, and lessen the chance of a solid foal, would have been very appealing. In today’s market, it is not hard to imagine someone purchasing a mare like Pelouse’s Queen with the idea that they might be able to found a line of purebred “appaloosa” Thoroughbreds. If her pattern, like the one on Simply Striking, was the result of an infection, then she would be no more likely to pass along color than any other brown Thoroughbred. (Whether she might have a genetic predisposition to recurring fungal infections might be another issue entirely!)

The mare pictured at the top was listed as a “pintaloosa”. In all likelihood, she doesn’t have either a pinto or an appaloosa pattern and would probably breed like an ordinary chestnut mare. Like horses with somatic mutations, she truly is unique. Hopefully she will find a home with someone who appreciates her.

[Note: there is a link to another horse like this in the comments section, and I am hoping to post some more detailed shots of yet another horse in the near future.]

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23 Responses to White markings and fungal infections

  1. Threnody November 17, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    I’ve been having the exact same conversation with the exact same examples about what caused this this horse’s color somewhere else. It’s deja vu!

    There is another pony who has odd markings that people have been debating who seems like another fungal infection candidate.


  2. Joy Hohenshelt November 17, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Do you have a link to more info on the first horse?

  3. The Equine Tapestry November 17, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Sorry about that, Joy. I thought I had linked directly to her page, but all I had was the opening page. The link is fixed now. You’ll need to scroll down to see her.

  4. The Equine Tapestry November 17, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    Thanks for the link, Threnody! His markings look almost painted on. 🙂

  5. Joy Hohenshelt November 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    I really wish I could get this mare a new home.

  6. Christy Allen November 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    WHAT FUNGUS CAUSES THIS ?? In 40 years of dealing with a huge varirty of breeds, various disciplines and a multitude of rescues….haven’t run across a fungal infection that would change coat color like this…….
    What about the history of Muchado or Birdcatcher spots ?

  7. The Equine Tapestry November 17, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    Christy, I only know what owners have reported hearing from their vets, and their experience with trying to control the problem. I have wondered, too, why this is not more common. Do they discolor because the problem is prolonged? So far those cases that have any information at all seem to point to a situation that does not clear up easily. Is it a rare type of fungus – either because of its persistence or its effect? Or is there something in the horse’s reaction to it that is different? I honestly do not know. I would not rule out some kind of genetic component, though as I mentioned I’m not sure it is one most people would want.

    There are previous posts about manchado, which in my opinion probably is not environmental. If you use the tags to the right of the blog, you’ll find the heading “Manchado” with those posts.

    • Christy Allen November 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

      Have you thought about posting these photos and a question about the anomaly on http://www.thehorse.com?
      This site used the top vets in the US and may be able to tell us more???

  8. lyndagraveline November 19, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    I wonder if it’s at all similar to Birdcatcher spots? My gelding has been slowly getting more white spots all over his body. Some of the thumb sized spots stay for a few years and some of the smaller ones only stay for a few months, I think they all disappear eventually though but there are always new ones to replace them. I’ll have to get some pictures of them they are pretty neat though they don’t look anything like those guys, and they never group together like the spots in those horses.

  9. j haddle December 10, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    I have an AQHA mare with similar spotting. Even gone so far as to have her genetic tested for the LP gene, which they say she is negative for it, though she has “grown scelera, stipped hooves, and spotted genital, face and muzzle areas.” Being an Appaloosa breeder for over 40 years, I would, without the genetic test have assumed she was a late spotting LP horse.
    Now she is a curiosity.
    She is 20 years old, and had no history of “spots” until about 2005. Some of her spots have become larger with the edges roaning/haloed out, with her age and each spring shedding, and new spots are visible each spring shedding, but none have dissapeared. She has roaning along the bridge of her nose, in the throatlatch, and girth area that has now appeared, yet she is not a rabicanno either
    As her color progresses, she as well has become more flax and white mix in her mane and tail..

  10. The Equine Tapestry December 12, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    Thank you for sharing the information on your mare. I would love to see pictures!

    Dr. Sponenberg had a photograph in one of his presentations years ago of a horse that had progressive spots that sound like what you are talking about. I wish now I had thought to ask for a copy of the photo, because it would be interesting to compare it to some of these “fungal” spots and to your horse.

  11. Silke Schneemann August 29, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    I have a pony with unusual white spots. They change constantly and are not as defined as 2 years ago now. I hope you can see the pics. Just scroll down the page. http://www.reitforum.de/besondere-fellfarben-teil-iii-253741-826.html

  12. Max Rutan November 28, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Please someone rescue this mare from these owners! They are so proud of this mares unusual markings,but should be very ashamed of the fact this mare is very underweight! Looks like they are using her as a riding horse,what a terrible thing to do to an animal in stress! Anorexic people can’t run marathons because they are to thin and not healthy enough to do so. So why do these owners think this poor mare can carry their stupid big butts!! RESCUE THIS MARE PLEASE !!!!

    • The Equine Tapestry December 3, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

      If you read the text, you’ll note that the mare was in a rescue at the time of the post. If her unusual color helped bring attention to her plight, and convinced someone to give her a better home than the one where she had been mistreated, then I am happy to have run her images on the blog – even if they are disturbing to see.

  13. Marcia Fuller January 17, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    I just wanted to inform you that the information you have on Simply Striking is not correct. The picture you say is “before” the “fungal” infection? Is not. I bought him with the white spots, and was able, through diet and stress reduction, to return him to chestnut. It was NOT a fungal infection. Just wanted to clarify. Thanks!

    • equinetapestry December 9, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

      Marcia, thank you for the information and I am sorry that I missed this reply until now. Did your vet give an explanation for the loss of pigment?

  14. Silke Schneemann July 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    And was caused the spots on Simply Striking then? Two universities have ruled out that the spots on my pony are caused by lack of minerals, So I would really like to know the reason for these spots.


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