Articles by Laura Hornick Behning, published in THE MORGAN HORSE magazine (PDF format)
Ahead of his Time: Sunup Neptune
Look Alike Colors
Making A Splash: The Story of Shahaylee
Californio, A Friend to All
What Color is it, anyway? A Primer on Foal Color
High White Rising
Legacy Mares: Cotton Candy
Legacy Mares: Foxton Felicia
A Box of Crayons (MEMC Morgans)
Legacy Mares: Hy Crest Satina
Articles from the Rainbow Morgan Horse Association Newsletter
What if it really happened? What if you did not expect it? What if you ended up with the ultimate colorful Morgan? You bought a solid-colored Morgan mare bred to a solid-colored Morgan stallion. You assumed the foal would be solid-colored too. At least, that is what Karen Beck of Angola, Indiana thought in 1982 when she purchased the palomino mare Q Tawny (Merry Madison X Tia) and the bay stallion Tawny was bred to, Moreeda Andrew (Lippitt Rhodes X Moreeda Gay Trilby).
Imagine the exception to the color rule that spring when Tawny gave birth to a palomino and white pinto marked filly! This filly emerged in all her golden-and-white glory, completely surprising her owner and causing veteran Morgan breeders to wonder. The filly was an absolutely beautifully marked frame overo. Fred Beck, Karen's husband, claimed her as his horse and refused to sell her. Neither he nor the rest of his family cared that this unique little marvel could not be registered with the AMHA. They knew, without a doubt, that the Pinto Horse Association would gladly accept her.
The filly was named "Sky Walker", which to some suggested a spiritual connection to another place. Others felt she was clearly a celestial gift or ethereal messenger, revealing that not everything is as it appears. Unfortunately Morgan purists and traditionalists, who supported the solid colors, doubted her heritage, declaring that the chances of a pinto marked Morgan were virtually impossible. They believed her sire simply had to be a Paint or pinto stallion. Bloodtyping, however, revealed that Sky Walker was indeed the offspring of Tawny and Andrew.
Sky Walker's background was well-documented and easy to trace. She was bred by Gerry Clevenger of Rome City, Indiana, who owned her sire and dam, his only two horses. Gerry later sold Q Tawny (in foal) and Moreeda Andrew to Karen Beck. Andrew was gelded, then ridden and shown by the Beck family for several years. After Sky Walker was older, Karen sold Tawny back to Tandra Haines of TaHa Morgans in Montpelier Ohio, who had owned the mare for many years before Gerry bought her.
By the time Sky Walker was born, Q Tawny had produced quite a few solid-colored foals, including several palominos. Her best known golden offspring was TaHa Tina (by Cloverlane Andrew). Tina was the dam of Render's Gold Torch, Render's Gold Flame, and Senator Gold Fire, all sired by Hylee's Flame Fire. These Morgans were the foundation stock for Loretta Brown's Goldtree Farm in Carrollton, Virginia. Many champion Morgans have emerged from this well-known breeding program.
Sky Walker's sire, Moreeda Andrew, was 31/32 Lippitt, almost a full Lippitt, with one outcross to Archie O. Bred by Norma Reeder of Moreeda Acres in Janesville, Wisconsin, Andrew came from a Morgan family of all solid colors. The question as to where this "cropout"color originated continued to build.
The most likely theory was Sky Walker's similar bloodlines, through her dam line, to War Paint (Chief Justin Morgan X Painted Girl), the famed overo stallion bred by the Cross Ranch. While War Paint's name was not in Tawny's pedigree, he and Tawny shared many of the same ancestors, such as Warhawk, Glider, and Imperial. Tawny's dam, Tia (Chingadero X Yellow Girl), like War Paint, was bred by the Cross Ranch. Some people believed that Sky Walker, like War Paint, was a throwback.
No matter what belief people chose to explain the source of Sky's brilliant coloring, she was truly a crowd pleaser. Once she was trained there was no stopping her show ring success. Sky and her young rider, Susan Beck (decked out in a red saddle seat coat), excelled in English Pleasure, winning the majority of their classes in open competition. The pair went to the Indiana State Fair several times, taking home several blues and widening their ever-growing circle of admirers.
Some of these admirers were children. They loved taking lessons on Sky and using her for trail riding. She was shown year after year at the local county fair, becoming a familiar and beloved fixture as time went on.
As the years passed, some folks wondered if Sky Walker would ever be registered for what she was, a Morgan. To many she had been a true ambassador for the breed. Finally, in 1996 after the White Rule was lifted by AMHA, Sky was granted her registration certificate. On this document she was described as a palomino mare with "connected wide star, strip, snip, white on right cheek, brown eyes, left fore sock, left hind pastern, right hind coronet, pinto marked body."
Karen shared the news of Sky's registration with her horsey friends, who were thrilled. Eventually Sky was shown in some Morgan classes, too, where the reception was rather stirring but generally positive. In addition the mare continued to be a lesson horse, as she is today. Her current skill is hunt seat. This writer's daughter Roxanne, age sixteen, rides Sky frequently, calling her "a good, kid safe horse who always tries to do her best".
Sky Walker's "best" has been that of a superb lesson, pleasure and show horse. She has never been bred, but she has certainly made memories, warmed hearts, and brought tears to the eyes of hose who know and love her. At age nineteen she is sound, healthy, and happy, living out her days with the Beck family. For some of us, Sky Walker represents the child in us- the child who wants a horse like Amigo in Walker, Texas Ranger, Roy Roger's Trigger, or the Lone Ranger's Silver. These colorful and heroic horses have given us a purpose and an inspiration to continue our dreams. That longing could be to breed the ultimate colorful Morgan. If knowing or reading about Sky Walker has spurred on that aspiration, then once again this lovely mare has fulfilled a mission- as an envoy for the Morgan breed.
After months of waiting your mare has presented you with a healthy foal. You are thrilled with the new arrival...yet one question keeps nagging at you: what color is it, anyway?
Lucky is the breeder with a quick answer. Many times the newborn foal does not instantly offer up a definitive answer. Foal colors are notoriously fugitive... meaning they can undergo great change. Guessing the final adult color from the color of a newborn foal is risky business. Yet there are some clues. The color of the parents is important, and so all the rules of color genetics must be remembered. Your two chestnuts, for instance, are not going to produce a black, and dilute foals must have the proper dilute parents.
Many palomino babies are born golden. But some are nearly white. So are cremello foals. As both initially have pink skin and blue eyes, how does one tell them apart? First of all, unless the foal has two dilute parents, it cannot be a cremello. Based on physical appearance alone, the palomino foal's blue eyes will be a darker blue than the cremello's. The skin of the palomino will start to turn dark within a few days, which soon leads to them having the "eyeliner" look. A little later, when the foal coat starts to shed, the palomino foals develop the raccoon look as the dark areas on the face shed out.
Other palomino foals are born looking like odd little chestnuts. They have been described as apricot, peach or pink babies. Within a few weeks, however, they start to lighten, the manes and tails grow in white, and they reveal their true color. Again, a cream dilute parent must be present for this. A peachy colored foal from two chestnut parents is not going to turn gold. Some breeders with palomino foals born "peachy" report the ones that are actually palomino often have gray-ish eyes while the true chestnut foals have darker ones.
Buckskins can also be born looking "bay". Like the peachy palominos, these foals become lighter as they grow, revealing their buckskin shade when they are a few months old. Again, the lighter eye often is present in these foals. People who get a silvery foal with black points are certain from the start that they have buckskin. Ones with a funny, sandy-colored foal will just have to wait and see if the babe turns golden or not.
Black chestnut is a color that seems to cause a lot of trouble. Adult black chestnuts indeed often are very nearly black in color, and are often called that. When born, however, they are lovely little red babies. This is one case where the foal color is very important.
Black foals are usually born a grayish mousy color, although some are born very dark. As they mature, they can go through phases where they look like a number of other colors, including bay and some of the darker dilute colors. The genetics of the parents become really important here to determine the true color of the foals. If the black foal is born to a dilute parent, the issue becomes a little more complicated. If the dilute involved is the cream dilution, the black foal may be a smoky black. It should still be registered as a black, but it may not be a typical black in appearance. In fact, it may more closely resemble a bay, chestnut or dun.
Dun babies are often very distinctively marked. The lighter shades have a slightly muted or dusty coat color with prominent primitive markings. The color most often used to describe the foal color of red duns is "strawberry roanish". The darker duns are, like the darker versions of most other colors, harder to call at first. Some breeders of grullas report their grulla foals are born very pale...almost yellow-buff, with grayish points. Over the years (yes years: they say they sometimes don't reach their full color until 5 years), they continue to darken to their full adult color.
Roan foals often don't show any sign of their future color. Some begin to show some lightening at weaning; others wait until their yearling year to shed into the roan color. While roan is not progressive (getting more and more with time), some foals do need to take a few years to achieve their adult colors.
Grey is a progressive color, with the gray horses being born "not gray". Breeders of gray report that the foals that will turn gray have gray around their eyes. The foal coats are also sometimes darker than they would be in the non-gray foals. A black foal that will turn gray, for instance, will be black, while one with out the gray gene will be born mousy.
Flaxen in chestnut foals is hard to call in the newborn. Most foals of nearly every color have white edges to their tails and white fringe on their manes. As the foals matures, the flaxen color will assert itself in the growing mane and tail.
Champagnes- if they exist in the Morgan breed- are interesting in that they are born darker than their final adult color. Understanding the differences between champagnes and the "born bay or chestnut" buckskins and palominos discussed earlier is important, as using lightening from the birth color as the sole criteria for determining this is insufficient.
Sometimes it is easy. Red foal with no dark points is a chestnut. Same color foal with black points is a bay. Sometimes we must be just a little more patient to have the definite answer. Fortunately, the papers aren't due until the foal is 6 months old. By then MOST have declared their true colors. For those that haven't ..well...color correction on the registry certificate is simple and free.