Tag Archives | Saddlebreds

Little white dots

Birdcatcher

In the previous post, I included an image of a really interesting Greyhound with white dots on his coat. In horses, small white dots on a colored background are often called Birdcatcher Spots. They are not usually as large or as abundant as the spots on that particular dog, which is probably why they go unmentioned in most registry applications. The horse above is a good example of this kind of spotting. You might want to click on the image to get the larger version, and even then the small spots on his hindquarters, barrel and neck are easy to miss if you are not looking for them.

Here is a close-up of some similar spots. Both the horse above and this one are Saddlebreds, where the trait is not uncommon.

Birdcatcher2

To my knowledge, there have not been formal studies on Birdcatcher Spots. My own experience has been that they are more often seen on chestnuts than any of the black-based colors. (A reader did share an image of a dark bay with very prominent white spots on our Facebook page back in late December.) The spots also seem to occur more often in the “thin-skinned” breeds with finer coats – breeds like Thoroughbreds, Arabians and Saddlebreds. Some have noted that horses with these flecks are more prone to getting white hair growing back over skin abrasions. The horse above did have what appeared to be a few minor abrasions that were growing white hair. A similar tendency might also explain why some roans become covered in dark lines and specks, since injuries on roans tend to grow back with dark hair rather than white.

That does not seem to be the explanation for all cases, however. Here is another Saddlebred from the same show, with unusual white spots on her face. One is just visible on her right ear in this image, and another just behind the browband. A third can be seen in front of the cavesson, and there was another on the left tear bone (not visible here). When asked, her owner said she had always had odd spots like this. Other than her broken blaze, she was a seal brown horse with no other white markings. (She was a very striking horse with a slightly baroque head shape that reminded me of some of the older images of carriage horses I saw while writing my book, and I would have happily taken her home with me!)

Whitedots1

Here is another instance of random white spots, this time on a tobiano.

Whitedots2

Although this fellow had roan hairs around the edges of his pattern, a bit like the horse at the top of this post, and he did have the kind of blaze that might suggest that one of the sabino patterns was present, these were the only round spots like this on his coat so they seemed almost out of place there.

It seems likely that there are multiple causes, either environmental or genetic or some combination, that cause white spots. Reports of how the spots appear, and whether or not they are permanent, vary. Some owners report that their horse was solid colored and then became spotted with a single shedding. Others report that the spots appeared over time. Some say the placement of the spots shift with each shedding. Still others seem to have spots that get progressively larger and more roaned over time. Unfortunately with subtle color variations like these, it is often hard to assemble enough information to draw firm conclusions.

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Another mystery color

UnusualASB

This five year-old Saddlebred mare was recently listed on Craigslist, and her owner has allowed me to use her photos here. Longtime readers of the blog might remember the unusual greys that were discussed here (“Ponies Don’t Read”) and here (“Another Unusual Grey”). When I saw those horses, they reminded me of some a handful of unusual roaned Morgans that I had seen, though they were definitely not greys. This mare, however, is a lot more like the Morgans. You can see their pictures on the Morgan Colors site. The one most like this mare can be seen here:
Sleepys Select Rose
Sleepys Select Rose (winter coat)

I have seen a handful of other horses a bit like this one, all with roaning on the body that tends towards dappling or reverse dappling, dark legs and white on the face. I’ve tended to categorize them as some kind of odd sabino roan, simply because right now just about anything that produces roaning and white markings gets lumped into that category. Of the existing categories, it was the closest match. But it is much more likely that what we call “sabino” is a lot of different things. What seems to be true of horses like this mare is that they are usually connected – when their backgrounds can be determined, at least – to sabino roan families of a certain visual type. Those are horses that look quite a lot like true roans, only they are more uniformly roaned over their entire body. They usually have dark legs and some white on the front of the face, rather than the wrap-around blaze typical of ‘flashy white’ sabinos.

I have inquired about this particular mare’s background, to see if there are similar connections, and will post any information I receive. In the meantime, if readers have horses with extensive roaning and white on the face but not the legs, but that are not true, dark-headed roans, I would love to see them.

UPDATE: The mare’s name is Wing’s Sable Sky. Her owner is in the process of getting larger pictures taken, so hopefully I can share those in the near future.

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