Tag Archives | Hackneys

Shooting the designer


My husband says there is a saying in product development that there always comes a time when you have to shoot the designer, or the product will never make it to the marketplace. It probably says a lot about his good sense that he waited to mention this until after I approved the final proof – one of a seemingly endless successions of “final” proofs – of the book. There is no question that the designer on this project (that would be me) should have been shot some time ago!

But it is done. As I type this, I am waiting for confirmation that Amazon has begun to stock it. It is already available for order from my own website, which has recently been revamped. Now when you visit horsecolor.info, you’ll get a splash page that asks if you are looking for information on the pottery or horse color. Clicking on the Horse Color link will take you to information about horse color, and from there to a page where you can order the print version of the book. (The Kindle version is still in the works.)


In the next few weeks, I will be doing some much-needed maintenance work on both the website and this blog. On the top of my list is moving the Splash Project page to the website. While this blog is wonderful for free-form discussion, I have more options for organizing the information on the Splash Project page with a true web page. I also plan to work on a better structure (and more consistent use of) the blog categories. With more than a year’s worth of archived posts now, the ability to find past topics of interest is even more important.

This will also help me put together a list of those topics that never were developed as intended. While the posts here tend to wander a bit, I do try to go back and finish those posts that were meant to be a set, but that hasn’t always happened. Now that the book is put to bed, I will try to tie up some of the loose ends here. I also have a really large backlog of posts that have waiting while I was finishing up the book. It has only seemed quiet here for the last few weeks!

Really I was looking at too many of these…



Those are page spreads from Color Descriptions section of the book. Here is one from the chapter on Hackneys in the Breeds section.


It has been a long process, and I have certainly learned a lot about publishing in the past year. Hopefully that will pay off in a shortened time frame for the next few volumes!

Update: The parent website for the publishing company is now blackberrylane.info, rather than horsecolor.info. The links at the old site will take you to the new one.

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A book update

Illustration from the chapter on Hackneys in Equine Tapestry

I apologize that the blog has been so silent for the last few weeks. I have been consumed with work on the book for the last few weeks, and have been trying to focus on that. My planned publication date of late summer obviously passed, in part because I underestimated the technical issues I might encounter with the actual printing. That has been a big part of the problem, but I have to admit a lot of the delays are my own fault.

Mission creep – the tendency for a task, esp a military operation, to become unintentionally wider in scope than its initial objectives

If there is something that has characterized this project from the start, it has been mission creep. Believe it or not, this was supposed to be just a quickie reference guide for painters and scupltors; a handbook where they could quickly look up and see if this or that color or pattern was found in this or that breed. That grew when I decided to include as many of the lesser-known breeds as I could. Then I fell victim to my own interest in the history of breeds and their colors. Why just tell what colors breeds have, when you could also tell about what they used to have? But then I couldn’t really tell those stories without telling about how the breeds themselves were formed. Soon I was grappling with just how many volumes I would need for this, and the rest just followed.

I also made this worse by not drawing the line on the inclusion of new material. Just when I would finalize the text, a contact for some obscure breed would surface, and I’d find myself adding back a breed that had been dropped because there was not enough information. Or a long-forgotten query would be answered, and I’d have to make room for more photos. Each addition seemed so unique, and so interesting, that it was worth the delay. Of course, I can hear those of you who know me well laughing now. It really took a peculiar blindness to my own bad habits not to see this coming.

So now I have a book with 350+ pages and a word count somewhere around 170,000 (not including the front matter or the indexes, resource lists and extensive appendixes). I haven’t counted, but I believe there are close to 200 photos and illustrations. I have all that, but I am also months behind schedule. Right now the book is still being edited by outside sources, but I have high hopes to send out a printing proof before the holidays. I am sure that the book will not be ready before then, simply because everyone slows down (myself included) as the demands of the holiday season rise. I do apologize to everyone who has waited patiently, both for the book and for my return to a normal production schedule in the studio. My hope is that despite the delays, the resulting book will be a useful reference.  I know I have learned so very much just in the writing of it!

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Sabino variations


As many people have noted, the term “sabino” has become a bit of a catch-all for a lot of visually different patterns. In this way it is a little like “overo” was ten or fifteen years ago. At the time, the term overo was used to mean “not tobiano”. As the different kinds of overo have become more widely understood, many have dropped overo in favor of more specific terms.  But when something doesn’t quite fit tobiano, frame or splash, it usually gets classified – for the moment at least – as some kind of sabino.

In the upcoming book, I attempted to separate out some of the different forms the pattern we call sabino takes. Because only one form of sabino, Sabino1, can be tested at the moment, we don’t actually know if the patterns that are visually different are in fact genetically different. (We already know some things that look virtually the same can be genetically different!)  But it is true that some types of sabino can be found in some breeding groups and not others. It’s also true that some of these variations don’t fit the stereotypical “rules” often assigned to sabino. In fact, quite a number of them are likely to be misidentified as something else.

The pony mare in the picture above is a good example. Many people use high stockings and little or no face white as a clue that the horse or pony has a minimal version of the tobiano gene. (Although it isn’t the best picture, if you look you can see she had some white hairs on her forehead but no other white on the face.)  She’s not a tobiano, though. She’s a Hackney pony, which has not had tobiano in the gene pool since the early 20th century.

The one back leg does give a bit of a clue, since the white goes up the front of the leg rather than the side. This overlay illustration of a tobiano and a typical sabino pattern shows how the difference in the placement of white on the leg typical for each pattern.

That is often a good indicator, though it always has to be remembered that “typical for the pattern” is not necessarily the same thing as “always must be so.” The fact that tobiano is not part of the gene pool is a much more reliable indicator. What’s more, this kind of sabino pattern is not really uncommon in Hackneys. In the book I called these Unbalanced Sabinos, because they break the general rule that flashy white on the legs is usually matched with flashy white on the face. As these types of sabinos go, this little mare is actually pretty minimal. There are Unbalanced Sabinos that have extensive body white and very little white on the face.

Unbalanced Sabinos also break the rule posed by some writers that the sabinos have white on the chin or lips. This was my old Walking Horse gelding, Master.


He had a star and a snip, but no white on his lips or chin. Not only was it unusual to have four white legs without much face white, his leg markings were themselves unusual. The angle on this photo does not show it well, but there was a dramatic difference in the height of his front stockings, which rose in the front to his knees, compared to his hind socks. That was actually what caught my eye when I first saw him, because it is unusual for the front legs to have more white than the hind ones. He also had a belly spot half way between his girth and his sheath.

(And no, he was not a poster child for classic conformational ideals.)

One of the reason sabino variations have been on my mind was this excellent blog post by my friend Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig. In the post, Sarah talks about the value of taking reference pictures for sculpting. Like Sarah, I am a huge believer in amassing a huge collection of reference pictures. There really isn’t any substitute for looking at hundreds and hundreds of variations of the same pattern. But even more than that, I would recommend the practice of sorting that collection. Nothing helps the eye spot trends like arranging like with like. That was how the different visual categories of sabinos were developed for the book. Stacks of sabinos were sorted into groups that were visually similar. In some cases, I pulled patterns off one body type and transferred it to another. You’d be surprised how often breed type can override your eye when it comes to spotting similarities (or differences) in patterns. Transferring the pattern over to a different body type can force you to really see things. That’s one reason why the illustrations in the book are on generic horse shapes rather than ones specific to the breed or type being discussed.

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