“Our eyes tell us what a horse appears to be…
His pedigree tells us what he ought to be…
But his offspring tell us what he is!”
Understanding horse color enables us to identify horses accurately. Accurate identification of a horse’s color is the key ingredient in understanding the genetic basis of color. We all recognize that in the Tennessee Walking Horse breed there is a wide variety of colors. The two main groups of horse colors are those with black points (mane, tail, lower legs and ear rims) and those with non-black points. The specific combination of point color and body color are what determines most horse colors. Another thing to consider is that white in markings and patterns are not the absence of all color but rather is white superimposed on what would have been the specific body or point color. A horse’s final color results from the interaction of several independent processes, which can dilute, modify or restrict color.
The new Colors and Markings Chart has been designed to help you to accurately describe your foal at registration and to assist you in correcting a wrong color choice made or to add a modifier that affects the foal coat color after the foal has been registered.
We have included all the colors that have been documented to date in the Tennessee Walking Horse breed and we have designed the chart using the three colors, black, bay, and chestnut; however, genetically there are only two color genes, red and black, and every horseÕs color uses one or both of these two genes as the foundation to create each unique individual by diluting, modifying, or adding a color pattern to those three colors. We have chosen to include bay in the lineup because it simplifies the explanation of how each of the colors are derived.
Selection of the correct color will be done in a four step process. On the color chart you will see four columns with a picture of a horse at the top. The pictures of the first three horses across the top represent the base color for each of the colors described in the column below each horse. The fourth column describes the four white patterns found in TWHs. We have provided a simple description for each color and included the criteria for each possible choice, which in most cases requires that one or both parents display that color, dilution, pattern or modifying gene.
Before beginning the registration process we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the new color brochure and the changes from the previous ways.
Step one: From the 20 color choices available choose the color that most accurately identifies your foal. Please read the descriptions carefully to ensure your foal meets the criteria for that selection. Coat color testing for some of the color selections is available and will ensure the correct choice is made.
Step two: If applicable, select a color dilution for dun or silver. In order to select from this dilution category, the foal and at least one of the parents must meet the criteria by expressing the gene. If this doesn’t apply then skip this step.
Step three: If applicable, select a color modifier for roan or grey. If this doesn’t apply then skip this step Again it is important to understand that color modifiers are not a color and can be applied to any of the colors in step one. A foal is born with the roan modifier in the color remains constant throughout its entire life. At least one parent must be roan in order to make this election.
A foal is never grey at birth but begins to turn grey sometimes when they shed their foal coat or sometimes several years later. When they do begin to turn grey it is progressive and throughout their life continues to lighten until the horse is almost white or white with specs of color commonly referred to as a flea bitten grey. The horses color at birth will remain on the registration certificate and if the foal begins to turn grey it will be added to the base color, ie., black/grey, palomino/grey, etc. In order for a foal to be registered grey, at least one of the parents must be also registered grey.
Step four: If applicable, choose one of the pattern choices. DonÕt forget that if choosing a Pattern, we will need a photograph of the front, back and both sides. Correctly identifying your horseÕs color and faithfully reproducing his body markings helps you, the owner, to identify this animal if he or she is stolen or lost.
The section of the Colors and Markings chart entitled ÒCOAT COLORS OF TWHSÓ provides an explanation of equine color geneticÕs terms used. It is important to note that all color genes have a dominant and a recessive form whether they dilute, modify or add a white pattern.
– Elsie Darrah