Spots are Spreading! Did You Ever See a Spot, Walking?

by Harold Twitty
(reprinted from May 1991)
© Copyright 1999, Voice of the Tennessee Walking Horse,

Lewisburg, Tennessee

Spots are spreading throughout the walking horse world, bringing added color to spring trail rides and showing up in show rings with spicy splashes of tobiano and overo.

Yes, there are spotted Tennessee Walking Horses, duly registered in growing numbers with the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' AssociationSM!

Actually, there have been spotted walking horses almost since the breed began, a fact that points to the versatility as well as the universality of the horse.

Genetic rule has it that the spots be identified as markings and that the base color may be black, bay, chestnut, sorrel, palomino, etc., plus the roaning of the base colors, along with the white spots.

The origins of spotted horses in America have variously been attributed to Icelandic ponies, escaped from Viking warships, to the mounts of Spanish explorers. Possibly both have merit, along with other sources. (Movies visions of Plains Indians bareback riding colorful Paints and western cowboys riding their Pintos lend credence to the Spanish explorers.)
"Paint" and "Pinto" were originally two terms used to identify horses that had white spotting different from that of the Appaloosa. Now, however, each has its own breed registry.

In the early days of the TWHBEASM, Tennessee Walking Horses were accepted into the registry on gaits alone; color and markings did not matter, and some spotted horses were registered as Tennessee Walking Horses.

A few years later, by the early 1940's, horses were eligible for registration if two of their progeny, or get, displayed the true gaits of the Tennessee Walking Horse: flat walk, running walk and canter.

Later, for more than three decades, solid color horses, mostly blacks and bays, became the favorites of Tennessee Walking Horses fanciers. During that period, extending from the 50's through the 70's, you could hardly give away a spotted horse, let alone sell one.

But the genes that produce the spots and those that control the natural gaits were strong. Spotted Tennessee Walking Horses are survivors. And some breeders held on to their spotted stallions and mares. A case in point is the late Toby Green of Giles County, (Lynnville) Tennessee.

His grandson, Ron Green, Jr., of Skillman, New Jersey, dug into ancient stud books, jogged the memory of his grandmother, Mrs. Cora Green, and sought out fading photos she had taken to back his claims of up to seven generations of spotted walking horses brought forward by his grandfather.
Toby Green acquired Sandy Sun's Sally by trading a mule for her, according to Ron Green, Jr. He said she was used to work the crops, for occasional trips to town, and to raise colts.

"Back in those days, however, spotted horses were not popular so Toby bred her to solid colored stallions, trying to get solid colored colts," Ron said. Luckily, the spotted genes were strong enough to withstand the solid color, and, today, after as many as seven generations, Sandy Sun's Sally's offspring are still producing spotted colts."

Sandy Sun's Sally had six registered spotted foals and of these six, three never had any registered foals, Ron said. Of these spotted foals, Dusty Sally became the dam of 11 registered foals, only two of which were spotted.

"Both were stallions and both have made major contributions to the spotted walking horse," he said. "Their names are Paint The Town and Spirit Of Apache."
Sired by Marshall Dillon, Apache is one of very few spotted horses to have both spotted parents, Ron said.

Another of Sandy Sun's Sally's daughters, White Sally, became the dam of three other important spotted walkinghorses Friday's Child, Black Sally H. and Stormy White Miss.

Friday's Child was the dam of Patches Shadow (granddam of Professor's Best Mark); Black Sally H. was the dam of Struttin' Sal (who later produced Cat Tracks) and Stormy White Miss was the dam of Rainbow's Dandy Man.

During their unpopularity in the 40's through the 70's, Toby Green never profited from his spotted horses, according to Ron.

"But he enjoyed them very much," he said. "Toby Green died in December, 1987, after an extended illness; he died without knowing the importance of what he had started, but I'm sure he carried the memories of Sandy Sun's Sally and her colts with him."

A rising interest in pleasure horses in general, and spotted saddle horses in particular, during the last decade brought about the establishment of two new registries: The National Spotted Saddle Horse Association, Inc., with headquarters in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and the Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association, Shelbyville, Tennessee. Both of these associations register horses on color and gait, so if you own a spotted horse that gaits well, but is not eligible for registration with the TWHBEASM, you may want to contact one or both of these associations. (NSSHA, P. O. Box 898, Murfreesboro TN 37133; SSHBEA, 764 North Main Street, Shelbyville TN 37160.)

Both of these organizations, located within the Central Basin of Tennessee, where the Tennessee Walking Horse was cradled, have infused the blood and genes of the more established breed into each of the spotted saddle horse registries, and many of the spotted horses have become double, even triple registered, along with the TWHBEASM.

There are two patterns of white spotting - tobiano and overo - recognized by the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' AssociationSM.
A tobiano horse is basically solid colored, with four white legs. His face is marked similarly to that of a solid horse, with a dark head and perhaps a white face marking, such as a star, strip and/or snip. The tobiano's white spots are regular and rounded and cross over the back of the horse.

Today, to be registered with the TWHBEASM, both parents must first, be TWHBEASM registered and, second, at least one parent must be a tobiano. (Prior to 1989 there were no safeguards built into the registry system to flag questionable color and/or marking combinations on registration applications for Tennessee Walking Horses. In 1989, however, based on genetic probability, the decision was made that, from that time forward, the TWHBEASM registry would automatically reject a tobiano foal application if neither parent is tobiano.)

The overo usually has at least one solid colored leg, except for normal white markings. The overo may have a bonnet, a white marking that covers the ears and poll and encircles the neck at the throat, or may be bald-faced, a wide, white blaze that covers both eyes, or apron-faced, a white marking that extends beyond the ears and under the chin. The white spots usually come up from the belly and rarely cross the back of an overo.

Unlike the tobiano, the overo horse can have a parentage of two solid colored horses that carry the overo allele. As with the tobiano, overo markings can occur from any color background.

For registration, the application must be accompanied by four color photos of the applicant horse, showing both near and far sides, as well as front and rear views.

Although many of the walking horse purists of the forties through the seventies still prefer the solid colored horse to the spotted horse, the latter is still welcomed to the breed to meet the challenges of an ever-expanding TWHBEASM membership and world market for easy riding, mild-mannered, colorful mounts.

To paraphrase (and reverse) Macbeth . . ."In, In, dandy spots, I say!"

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