Horses and ponies come in a variety of colors and patterns. How then do we know the color in their early years? Colors are fascinating and good to look especially when it’s a beautiful combination. There are elements and indications to know whether your foal will be this or that color. At the end of this article, we will have an idea on what color our foals will be when they become adult.
Most Common Horse Colors
Horses are awesome creatures. They are amazing, and wonderfully made! They are heart-warming. And just like shoes, they are created with creativity. They come in many colors. Just as our hair and eyes color are, horse coat colors depend on the genes.
It is no doubt that it is one of the most common coat colors because it is a base color. These horses have black points. Their mane and tail are black, the rims around their ears are black. The muzzle and legs are usually black.
It stems from the red base color. The mane and tail must have the same color as the horse’s coat color for it to be considered chestnut. Chestnut horses have no black points but can be more of a darker red or liver chestnut.
This should not be confused with a chestnut horse. Although they look quite similar, the sorrel horse is lighter than the chestnut. The mane and tail are lighter than the horse’s color coat. It can also be flaxen or blonde.
Palomino horses stand out in the crowd. The mane and tail are white and the coat color is like a cream. This color comes from the red base color. But a horse has an expressive cream dilution mutation in their genetics. It results in a beautiful color.
Another base color but harder to identify. A true black horse has no red hues to the coat color. The mane and tail are pure blacks. They have no white areas on the coat.
Another flashy color having a golden coat and black points. This color is also produced in the same way as a palomino. But the base color is bay instead of red.
These horses are unique as their coat is. Roan horses have a base color and white hairs scattered throughout the coat. Their own colors come from the three base colors – strawberry or red roan, bay roan, and blue roan. They all come from the black base color.
Although this is not common, the dun horse color is as beautiful and unique. Dun-
colored horses have a black dorsal stripe. Some have black zebra stripes down their legs. This genetic mutation can affect all base colors. The dun hue color is dependent upon the base color.
Gray horses are born with another base color. As time pass by, they lose their pigment. They are eventually a light gray or even white.
A pinto coat color does not mean that a horse is a paint breed. Because a pinto can affect any breed. This color has a base color with white patches scattered throughout the coat.
All these beautiful and unique colors come in so many variations and patterns. It would be lovely to look at if we have one of each.
Genes Determine the Color
Horses have some of the most varied coat color markings and patterns. There are dozens of combinations a new foal can have even within breeds. There are key elements that make these variations. They can actually predict the color of foals.
Predictions of coat color can be varied depending on the genetics of the parents. Any breed can be any color in theory. Some breeds tend to have certain colors and patterns as a result to selective breeding.
Indications That A Foal Will Be Gray
No gray horses start as gray, although some may show signs. Most of the time, they can be born any color. They gradually begin to show white hairs mixed with the colored throughout the body. The first signs of gray hair can usually be found on the head, particularly around the eyes. Gray is dominant. Thus, a single copy of this gene will cause a horse to turn gray. All offspring of a horse will be gray if a horse has two copies of gray. Horses with one copy of gray often keep some of the original pigment. Gray is found in many breeds.
To determine if the foal will be a gray horse, we use these criteria:
- A gray eyelash is a sign on any color
- Black skin around the eyes and muzzle on a chestnut color may show that it will turn gray.
- Foals born true black will turn gray most of the time. This is true even without a gray eyelash. Foals that will be black are “mousy” color at birth.
- A few gray hairs on the head
Color Change in a Horse
The color of the horse can possibly change during its lifetime. Sometimes you hear of surprising cases of color change in a horse. But hair color has a genetic basis. It cannot fundamentally change in the same individual. With that being said, the color phenotype and hair’s appearance can change.
The age-dependent color change is a relevant issue for horse breeders. A lot of owners try to determine the color of a horse when it is very young. But it is actually important not to hurry with such a definition. Foals are born quite pale. Sometimes with light eyes and almost pink skin. Pale body color in a foal is generally a natural protective mechanism. The mane, tail, stomach, and the lower part of the legs are pale.
Color Change Influenced by the Environment
Hair color depends also on climate and weather conditions. Horses tend to show noticeable changes of color through the season. It usually happens in temperate climatic zones with considerable seasonal temperature changes. The optimal time for determining the color is the beginning of summer. It is when the winter coat is shed but the horse has not yet been exposed to intense sun.
Naturally Influenced Color Change
Food rich in protein stimulates the formation of pigment. Dull color in the horse is generally a sign of a health or diet problem. For example, various parasites or lack of proper feed can cause anemia. It can also cause general weakness. It will lead to a poor hair coat.
Gray foals are born looking like a normal color and will eventually shed out gray. One good sign of whether your foal will become gray is to look at their eyes. If they start getting a gray ring of hair around their eyes, that is one of the first signs. If a horse is carrying the gray gene, he will turn gray. It is a dominant color that trumps everything except the cream gene.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!