I'm back finally. I kinda sorta have a plan. I am in the midst of creating a new life, like it or not, and at the core is I am now officially a freelance writer. Which means I am poor again. Sigh. Pity party at 6 pm.
I still carry two columns at the paper, but need to make up a bit of income elsewhere. So I am immediately going to devote some time to my little blog here and try to wring some money out of it...which means getting on facebook, picking up some more advertising, writing regularly, hopefully this will all be a good thing.
I have put the blog on Amazon’s Kindle. It seems a little weird to charge for something I write for free, BUT if you guys check it out and give me a review I’ll love you forever. You don’t have to buy it to review it. Thanks ahead of time.
Have any of you written for Squidoo? Is it worth it?
I would also like to get the "Mind Meld' blog up and running. Do you remember that one? Basically a training blog, but run by reader participation.
If we get a question about ground work we'll get input from all types of riders, from dressage to reined cow horse to whisperers. No harassment, just input, so the rider who is asking for information can pick what works. If a training suggestion is dangerous to horse or rider the flaming can begin, but only then. We can argue and fuss at each other but learning from everybody is the primary goal. Give me a few weeks and we'll get cranking on this one.
I've always loved the idea, but haven't had the time to get it going until now.
Back to the blog....
In the comments on some of my more recent posts I've been asked my thoughts about the "color breeds," and by the way my remarks about mustangs have been challenged I realize I need to clarify some of my opinions. To be completely honest, a lot of my comments came from gut reaction, so I've had to do some homework.
You guys are so great, you make me think, think, think.
All this thinking not only gave me a headache, but turned this into a two part column.
I was talking over a few of my theories with my boss, a paint and QH breeder, at work and she added some interesting insight about paints.
So I've got some new thoughts about some old opinions that have developed over my years with horses.
Color or breed? This question swirls around endlessly, for new horse owners especially, the misleading information can be so mixed up with the truth it is almost impossible to decide what is what.
I used to think it was easy to differentiate between horses being bred for color only and being called a breed and breeds which also have color.
Of course the issue keeps getting muddier and muddier, a veritable claybank you might say, the longer I study on this and the more I learn. Typical of every aspect of the horse world, there’s always room to feel like a gunzel.
So let’s start with color. All of it, chestnuts, grays, paints, apps, every variation of every black, white or red hair.
I think we can safely agree most QH are some version of red. You know, what some might consider the boring kind of red, chestnut, and sorrel....the kind of color nobody wants in the QH world, except maybe me.
If the boring red horse has a skunk tail, plenty of chrome and lots of white roaning on the flanks, suddenly the color is much more desirable, because then the horse could be showing off his Smart Chic Olena breeding. Or if that red horse is marked and colored like a Hereford steer, then Trashadeous bragging rights appear, even if the closest the owner has come to Be Aech Enterprise is driving a car from the #2 car rental agency in America.
The thing is the QH is not bred to be red. Bays, blacks, browns, grays, duns, palominos and now, paints, cremellos and all those other colors are welcome, if not sought after, within the breed. Red simply shows up a lot.
If a potential horse owner seeks a red QH with a big blaze and roaned flanks it’s because the buyer likes and wants the talent and ability of those Chic O Lenas and knows this is a color which often comes with the blood line. The owner wants other horse show folk to know what he bought.
Buckskin, dun and palomino have always been a popular color of QH. They were relatively rare colors until Hollywood Dunnit and Shining Spark exploded on the show circuit. Now there are so many variations of yellow out in the show pen it’s just about boring.
I’m OK with it though. Because if the pretty colored horses are winning in AQHA, NRCHA or NCHA events it’s because of their ability, not because of the amount of zebra stripes on their legs or frosting in their manes. The color is just a bonus.
From my experience if you’re going to ride a flashy colored horse in the pen you had better have a good performer. It’s the equivalent of riding with spotted “hair on” chaps or a sparkly shirt. You’re going to draw the judge’s eye.
If you are competing on a pretty colored horse in the NRCHA, NCHA, or AQHA and can’t get anything done, then be prepared for some derisively raised eyebrows and an awkward silence or two from your peers. They’ll suspect you either can’t ride the hot colored, well bred horse you’re riding or you just bought color, not talent.
QH breeders long spurned paint or app coloring. Too much white meant a poor quality horse; until Miss White Trash proved reverse color prejudice was as foolish as breeding for nothing but grullas.
I’ve heard an interesting story about long time Colorado horse breeder, Hank Wiescamp, who was long considered the undisputed king of the linebreeders.
According to the Wiescamp website, by “utilizing the AQHA stallion Skipper W as the cornerstone of his program, Wiescamp linebred a ‘family’ of Quarter Horses that were so easily distinguishable by coloring and type that they are more often described as ‘Wiescamp horses’ than as members of any single breed. Although most often associated with his legendary lines of Palominos and Quarter Horses, Wiescamp founded equally well-known families of Paint Horses and Appaloosas.”
The story, legend or rumor, whichever you prefer to call it, is that Weiscamp didn’t believe in limiting the salability of his horses by having them not meet breed standards. Skipper W threw a lot of color. He could be crossed with a variety of mares and often produce the color of the mare he was crossed with.
As with any color, it didn’t always show up when desired, and sometimes it appeared when it was the last thing needed. The tale I was told said there were three pastures for weanlings at the Wiescamp ranch, one for quarter Horses, one for Paints and one for Apps.
Since this Skipper W line was begun before DNA testing it wasn’t difficult for Wiescamp to dodge the color limitations by breeding for paints and apps too. When a cross with a paint turned out a solid colored foal it was weaned and turned out in the quarter horse pasture.
Crop out paint? No problem, turn the baby out into the paint pasture.
Because he would keep and breed back his best mares, eventually he could have solids, apps or paints show up in any of his crosses.
He simply matched papers to color and kept his colorful program going strong.
Is this story true? Hell, I don’t know. I love the concept though.
To Wiescamp, color meant nothing more than a pretty addition to a bloodline he believed in. He wasn’t about to lose out on a quality prospect because it had a white sock above the knee and a splash of white on its side.
He was breeding for performance and bloodline and kept up with the color people wanted. I think its how all breeding should be conducted.
I’m more than happy AQHA changed the color rules and now accept all colors of horses with the correct blood lines into the registry. Because I firmly believe color is just that, color. It doesn’t make or break a breed, which should be genetically developed to improve performance, not enhance a sparkly coat. A horse of any color should be able to prove it’s breeding through talent, not color.
So what happens when we breed specifically for color?
There is an ongoing research project going on in Russia with black/silver foxes. Originally the foxes were part of a fur farm. Foxes with large white markings were bred to each other to produce more interesting color patterns.
The changes in the foxes that came with breeding for color made the base for a study which continues today.
The foxes began wagging their tails and bonding with humans. They retained their puppy-like behavior even as they reached maturity. They became bigger boned, their hair grew longer and they definitely became spotted.
If you think about this from a wild fox’s perspective, these foxes not only insulted their culture by turning into Border Collies, they lost the ability to grow up. They had so much white on them they would be a danger to themselves and other foxes by losing their natural camouflage and glowing in the dark. Their great size would have them crashing through the brush and leaving big old monster tracks shoved deep in the mud.
So essentially, the foxes had become big, stupid, evolutionary disasters, by only breeding for color.
Another solid example is the white tiger. Obviously, a blue eyed white tiger is not going to last long in the jungle. There was a reason they were rarely found, because everybody, from hunters to prey, could spot them a mile away.
Starving white tigers make an easy target for hunters on Safari. Even the worst shot could nail a glowing white tiger digging through the garbage. Once a couple of magicians in Las Vegas got ahold of them and began a breeding program there were white tigers all over the place.
Already genetically weak, illness from frail bones, cancer, blindness, mental instability and awful deformities began to appear, all from breeding for color.Check out this poor guy. He looks like a Puggle gone bad.
Wiescamp was breeding two types of horses besides his Quarter Horses, Paints and Appaloosas, which are known for their coat markings.
I think of paints as a color and apps as a breed. Appaloosas were originally carefully bred horses with good feet, sparse manes and tails and amazing endurance and athletic ability. The desired spotted coat showed up sometimes in the tough little war horse developed by the Nez Perce.
Meriwether Lewis wrote the following of the Nez Perce's horses, in his diary on Feb. 15, 1806, "Their horses appear to be of an excellent race; they are lofty, eligantly [sic] formed, active and durable…SOME of these horses are pided with large spots of white irregularly scattered and intermixed with black, brown, bey [sic] or some other dark color."
As Merriwether noted, the Nez Perce horse was bred for talent, the cool colors were just a bonus, not something that was bred for. I agree, I think of Apps as a definite breed.
Now we can get to Paints. The American Paint Horse Association was developed to find a registry for quarter horses rejected by AQHA for having too much color. Essentially I have always considered Paints a colored Quarter Horse. I had a friend who owned a grade paint mare back in the 1970’s. Her mare was accepted by the then fledgling APHA registry because she had stock horse attributes and the right color. This tells me the Paint has been bred for color, not performance, so is not a breed.
Research shows the Tobiano (white body with spots) is a "pattern", like a zebra or a giraffe, with the white most often crossing the spine. Overo (solid body with white spots) can be pictured as a solid colored horse with areas of color missing, and white most often does not cross the spine. This would make it seem the Tobiano could be a breed, while the Overo would be a color.
My boss told me she feels the Tobiano is closer to being a breed than the Overo.
“The Toby tends to be heavier boned, coarser headed and prone to staying sound,” she told me. “The Overo is more like your typical Quarter Horse. It seems to me the Toby is close to being an actual breed.”
A little research on the APHA website tells me the Tobiano is common in pony breeds, some draft breeds, and even occurs in some of the warmblood breeds. So I would think the color influence would simply be the result of adding horses of various breeds into the APHA which carry the Tobiano gene.
The Ovwero coloring shows up in mainly Spanish bred horses. This gives some credence to her thoughts, except it is more about where the color appears than the color designating a breed in itself.
So why do so many breeds of horses limit their accepted colors to browns, blacks and reds? I have read lots of reasons; the most important for me would be what happened to those poor foxes. You can buy them as pets now for goodness sakes.
Grays are notorious for developing anal tumors, white markings can get sunburned, I’ve seen more than one Paint absolutely fried. Appies have vision problems and all of the brightly colored breeds stand out in a crowd. Not a good thing in the middle of the herd when the wolves are closing in.
Although the reason the zebra is striped is because when they run in a herd it’s almost impossible for a lion to distinguish one from the other. Maybe that’s why APHA pleasure classes are so dang slow. It helps the judge pick them out from all the other spots.
I’m sure there are some arguments coming about the genetic problems which come from line breeding, and there are some good ones, but that’s an argument for another day.
Here’s some of the horses I define by color or breed.
Appaloosa – Breed
Palomino – Color
It’s good to be back.