Are Your Dreams in Color?
by Rita Greslin
You've always had a dream of breeding your mare and raising your foal. You have bred your mare to the stallion of your dreams, you waited 11 months for her to foal and after many nights of no sleep wondering when the magic time will come. Well, Okay your mare delivers a healthy baby. The foal is th spitting image of of Dad with just the right stuff from Mom thrown in, just what you wanted except there is still one question, what color is it? You might know what color it "appears" to be, BUT what color will it be when grown? What color do you regiter it as?
It is pretty important to get the correct color of your horse on its papers. It aids not only in the correct identification but also in future prospects of foal production, if you or someone else decides to breed it. This is a question in the Andalisoan and American Aztecas horses particularly, can cause a lot of thought and sometimes guessing for even the most serious breeders.
Lets cover some general rules, and a few scenarios of the most common colors and how they progress.
Foals are not not usually born the color they will be when grown up. Some of this is due to nature which provides new foals with camouflage needed to keep them hidden from predators. I guess horses still havn't been totally convinced that mountain lions and wolves don't come into warm barns and stalls. In the wild herds often though, that is a concern and nature has provided a way t hide some of the babies from being spotted bya hungry lion of coyote. Foals are often born dull colors or colors that have a natural way of blending into their environment. Primitive markings are commonly seen on foals but disappear later in life, like striping on the legs, shoulders and back. Though the Quarter Horse today, those markings would be considered dun, they are not duns, in some cases I have seen with the Andalusians and sometimes American Aztecas. Remember the Andalusian is a very old breed dating back to the times that primitive markings like those of the Przewalski and Sorria were often found on horses. The quarter Horse having those same markings would very likely be a dun, carrying the dun factor and would keep those markigs for life. Often though, they disappear from Andalusian and Azteca Foals when they get a little older. They were only camouflage characterisitics and they are not duns and are not carrying the dun gene. In order to have a dunfoal you must have a dun parent. Some Lusitanos maybe and many Quarter Horses are duns. They do carry the gene, so be aware whether or not one of your horse's parents was actually a dun when deciding what your foal's color is.
It is adviseable to wait until the horse has shed its first winter coat and see if those markings are still there. If they are, and you have at least one dun as a parent, then you officially have a dun. General rule of thumb, if it is old enough to judge and has a dorsal stripe and leg bars often with shoulder striping and cob webbing on the face, it is a dun. If it has a dorsal stripe only with out theother dun factors, that might be a different thing called "counter shade striping" and it is not a dun.
A couple of other general rules apply to foal coats:
Light foals usually darken, and foals that are born dark vivid colors in Andalusians and American AztecasSM usually turn grey losing all color as an aged adult. Notice i am saying "general rules" and "usually" there are some exceptions that we may cover in other articles, but for the most part, this is the rule.
With 80% Andalusians being grey, it is a major factor in the offspring and important to determine. Grey foals are usually born dark vivid colors, like black, bay, brown, chestnut and even paint/pinto etc . . .
These are several indicators that might help determine if you have a grey foal. One is to look at the colors of the parents. There are three rules that are hard a fast.
1. If one parent is grey you have a 50% to 100% chance of a grey foal.
2. If neither parent is grey, you will not get a grey foal, even if some of the grandparents were grey.
3. If one parent is homozygous grey, you have a 100% chance of a grey foal.
If both parents are grey, Does it mean that your foal will be grey? Not necessarily, you would have to investigate the parents pedigree to get a better idea of hwat genes they might be able to pass on. You can get a colored foal from two grey parents.
With it understood that you must have a grey parent to have a grey foal. Look at the foal's hair: The first and best indicator is around the eyes and on the face. If your foal have grey hairs, even two or three, around the eyes, IT WILL turn grey. Now look at its "born color", within a few days of birth. Are its legs very dark or black? If so, it will probably turn grey. Are its legs light tan, fawn, grey, smokey? If so, it will probably darken. Foals that are going to be dark or bay are not born with black legs They are usually very light blonde to brownish.
No other color will win over grey. If your foal inherited the grey gene it is going to be grey. It does not matter if it is a loud paint, a beautiful black or golden palomino or buckskin. If the grey gene is there, it will turn grey.
An amzing thing with the Andalusian, is that foals that are going to turn black are born mouse grey, dirty brownish, or as the Spanish say "color of the rat". Foals that are going to be grey are born vivid colors, jet black, bay with black points, dark brown, etc.
Funny how nature likes to keep us confused or should I say, surprised.
If your foal is going to grey, as it gets older you should see more and more grey appearing, starting on the face first. Usually you would know for sure in a few months whether or not you have a grey, but sometimes they can stay dark for a long time and really keep you in suspense. If that is the case remember what color it was born and keep watching the face. Grey hairs appearing on the face indicate that the horse will turn grey. Watch the inside of the tail by the bone. Those are the first areas to grey. I have seen horses five to six years old and even older that you would swear were not going to grey, but the telltale signs in the face and tail showed that they were.
With the introduction of the Quarter Horse to create the Azteca, roan becomes a possibility. So, is he grey or roan? For your foal to be roan, he must have at least one roan parent. Then again, watch the face. Roans do not usually have white hairs on the face, just the body. If your horse has white on the face face, it is probably a grey.
There are some types of roan that Andalusians have also. One is called Rabicano. It is found on a solid colored horse and shows with white hairs in the flanks and usually the top of the tail. These can be as little as having roan patches in the udder or under the sheath area to as large as fanning out from the flank, over the ribs and even having patches elsewhere. Another possibility is called "ticking". Ticking is finding several or many white hairs scattered throughout the body on a solid colored horse. This is why looking for grey hairs on the body or in the flanks is not a good way to tell if a horse will grey. Roan, Rabicano or Ticking does not increase significantly with age, although elderly horses often develop more grey hairs because of age. Sort of like we do! There are many colors to cover and we may do so in subsequent articles, but for now this may help determine the color of your new horse.
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