A reader sent a comment and referred to The Equine Tapestry blog (linked here).
So, I looked it up. And to my delight, it is all about equine color!
I am fascinated by color, color patterns and genetic colors in horses. I’m probably fascinated because my chosen breed, The Morgan Horse, has no color variation – until recent years of breeding for color.
BREEDING FOR COLOR.
As an aside, don’t get me started on breeding for color…
Take the Morgan Horse for example. The Morgan is a breed that for all of its existence has had no color variation. Now, Morgan breeders are trying to extract color from the Morgan. To me, it is reckless to breed for color without considering soundness or temperament. It takes generations and generations of very contemplative research to ferret out color AND conformation in a solid breed.
To me, the prime example of color and soundness integrity in creating a never before color in a non-colored breed would the the Scripps Miramar Spotted Saddlebreds (no affiliation). Michele MacFarlane’s mother spent years culling the tiny white hairs on her most genetically gifted horses and crossed them with the most gifted mate.
It took YEARS to create the fine examples of colored and exceptionally fit and sound Saddlebreds.
I’d rather see breeders – and I was one – breed for good feet or sound hips instead if color; unless they had absolute dedication to the program and also had homes for all of the ‘trial’ babies that are born out of the color experiment.
(Stepping off of my soapbox…)
ANYWAY, ONWARD ABOUT COLOR!
Having said all of that, I am fascinated by color, as it happens naturally. And, I think others are interested in this genetic science as well!
If you read THE EQUINE TAPESTRY BLOG, you will learn that the author is an artist who paints horse sculptures.
In her effort to get the color patterns correct for her artwork, Lesli Kathman began researching color patterns… and her passion began!
Soon, she was consumed with this little known science. She had to gather as much information as possible.
And, she gathered enough for a book series on the subject!!
Here is the outline for the book and her workplace, which I found honest and charming.
EXCERPTS FROM THE EQUINE TAPESTRY BLOG
GENETIC TESTING FOR YOUR COLORED HORSE?
I came across another part of The Equine Tapestry blog which is all about color testing and mutations. If you have an unusual horse or know what all of these ‘types’ mean and want to add your horse, please write to her and submit your horse! Or, just read more, here.
BUY THE BOOK HERE (no affiliation)
You can buy the book here!
Hello Helga: Thank you for your submission. But, I must clarify, I do love this breed and I wasn’t
doing it a disservice by stating that my opinion. I still believe that it difficult to breed stellar color individuals in a short amount of time. I didn’t lump all breeders. My concern is that there are many breeders (in all breeds) that breed for one trait and neglect the others. My hope is that every horse is loved and has a home. That’s all.
I am sad to see such misinformation still making the rounds in this breed. I am a second generation Morgan breeder, breeding since the 60’s. First, my chosen sport is competitive trail and endurance, dressage etc. I don’t breed for color. I was extremely fortunate to stumble across my stallion, the love of my life, who is 99.9% foundation and GRAY. I breed for good conformation first and foremost because you can’t ride color. Second, color, and quality color, has been in the breed since the third generation of the Morgan horse. Just look up Buckskin Wheeler horse, and the grays etc. I have the full set of registry Volumes and verify the number of many colorful Morgans. Thanks to genetics today, we now know that Morgans, including Lippitts, carry quite a bit of color. After all, Justin Morgan was bred to many different breeds and colors. There are many foundation Morgans that are colorful as well. And splash exists in Lippitts, about as foundation as you can get. Please, don’t do such a disservice to the breed you claim to love, nor lump all breeders in the same boat. While there are some substandard conformed colorful Morgans, there are twice as many plain wrapper ones as well. A colorful competing often has to be twice as good and even better than the bays and chestnuts because of discrimination. Breeding should never be about color but putting the best animal on the ground you can, and if it has a nice wrapper, it’s a win/win.
You are right. I should have contacted Maddie about her breeding program and her splashy horse. It is not my intention to upset
any horse owners. My passion is to have horses loved and cherished, whatever color or conformation.
I am happily going to erase my offensive remark.
However, I still stand on my opinion for all the reasons you have already heard through your many discussions about color in the Morgan.
My point was, is and still stands that many breed for color instead of the all-around horse. And, I know that it is difficult and improbable to get a wonderfully honest, sound and gifted horse of common color, let alone that individual IN A RARE COLOR without very careful genetic contemplation and TIME.
There is a lot of incorrect information in this blog, but I will mention those most egregious. The comment that upset most people (there is a discussion about this going on via the Morgan Colors Facebook page) was the derogatory comment made about Maddie (Journey’s Made to Order): “the color on this horse is very suspect. I sure hope they bred for conformation and just happened to get this odd color. But… probably not. (My opinion.) ” It would have been kinder to contact Kathleen beforehand and get the scoop, as it were, on Maddie. A cursory Google search would have turned up the relevant information, both contact information as well as genetics information about the splash pinto pattern and how it can “hide” for generations, as it takes two splash genes to have body spotting. Kathleen is a very dear friend and I know your comments have hurt her feelings. Consider how you would feel if the tables were turned and it was someone casting aspersions upon one of your horses on their public blog or web page.
My comments about education referred to your knowledge of color genetics and nothing more. You cite the Scripps Miramar Saddlebreds: “Michele MacFarlane’s mother spent years culling the tiny white hairs on her most genetically gifted horses and crossed them with the most gifted mate.” Culling means discarding; I’m not sure what you typed was what you meant :-). But at any rate, the tobiano gene (these horses are tobianos) existed in Saddlebreds before the Scripps Miramar breeding program; that they have selectively bred these horses is indeed true. But the same thing is true of many colorful Morgan breeding programs, using genes that have existed since the beginning of our breed. Indeed, our reigning World Champion Western Pleasure horse, MLB Capo did Capo- a buckskin- is one such Morgan.
You also stated “my chosen breed, The Morgan Horse, has no color variation – until recent years of breeding for color.” This is not an accurate statement. Color has always existed in Morgans. It was discriminated against in the east, but western breeders had no such prejudices, and so the various color genes survived (except for true roan, unfortunately). With the repeal of the White Rule (1962-1995), homozygous creams as well as pintos with high white and blue eyes could be registered, and were. These colors did not all of a sudden appear, however; they’ve been there all along and due to their genetics, can go unseen for generations- in the case of splash, in seemingly “solid” individuals, or hidden under black, in the case of cream.
I know that in my own tiny breeding program, good hips and good feet (as you cite in your blog), along with Morgan type and temperament, are paramount. Color may or may not happen, and I am ok with that; a good horse is never a bad color. I hope my farm website illustrates this. If you are ever in the Atlanta area, you are welcome to visit and see them in person.
Dawndi, Actually I was hoping for more white than either parent had. Color has been in Morgans since the beginning and unfortunately bred against with some success. Many of “color” were mis-registered as something else just to be able to be registered. I also prefer my Morgans to be gaited-another recessive characteristic that has been denied or bred against that has been in the gene pool of Morgans from the beginning. Genetic testing for both color and gait are available and will be beneficial for breeders looking to breed for or against either characteristics.
Hi Kathleen! What a nice surprise for you!
My point was not that colored Morgans are not registered Morgans. My point was that it is difficult to get a colored Morgan with great conformation and temperament quickly if you are breeding for color. That’s all. It takes generations to create a formally non-colored breed into a colored breed with all the conformational assets of the breed standard. Clearly, this was a surprise and you were not breeding for color.
I am the owner of the loud pinto Morgan you “suspect” was what? Not Morgan? She is 99.4% foundation breeding-very little outside blood and neither sire/dam had very much white. She was a total suprise and I was thrilled. I tested her for all known pinto patterns when she was foaled May 2010, she was negative. When the splash test became available she was tested for that and it was determined she is SW1/SW1. She is not what I consider a perfect Morgan, she has her faults, but few rarely are-especially in light of the different disciplines being bred for and the specific characteristics required for the show world winner. She IS a registered Morgan qualified by DNA, and exhibits the wonderful disposition Morgans used to be known for along with an all purpose conformation.