A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Horse Training made easy

Sadly, I don't have any tips or tricks to training horses the easy way.  The title refers to my horses making it easy on me! 

This is Velvet.  She's a lovely ApHC mare I have for sale.  I really like Velvet, but sadly, she has babies her size, which is about 14.3.  Sport Horse buyers want horses a bit closer to 16 hands, so.... she's been removed from the breeding program.

Now, when I bought Velvet, it was to be a brood mare.  Poor girl had been starved, but had excellent babies in the past, and seemed like a great match.  Her previous owners had trained her to ride supposedly, but, as I loaded Velvet into the trailer to take her home, I was told, "Oh, and she's a bucker".

Heavily pregnant, extremely thin, I had no reason to test her bucking habits.  After she promptly delivered a lovely tobiano colt (for those who read the genetics, yeah, that means someone bred a Paint/Pinto to this Appaloosa mare) I bred her to my stallion.  The resulting filly.... stunning!  And short. 

So, at this point, I know Velvet needs to find her a home while she's in the prime of her life.  She's 12.  To give her the best chance possible, that means she needs to be a good saddle horse.  Needless to say, it's time to train her.  And training we've been doing.

Member that bucking thing?  Yeah, haven't seen it yet.  Now, she did lay down on Kris once, but in Velvet's defense that was sheer ignorance.  Velvet's not Kris's!  Velvet didn't know that she wasn't supposed to.  She figured it out pretty quick though, and I haven't had her try that again either.

When Velvet gets scared or confused, she stops.  Stops and stands.  I don't know about any one else, but I LIKE that response to fear!  No bolting, no bucking, and she just needs some love and pampering, and she's good to go again.  So big mean scarry bucker turned into "please tell me I'm good and I'll do anything you ask".  How easy is that?

Then there's Melody.  She's a Spot baby, and actually the first foal born into my breeding program (by a few days).  Melody is 4 now, and has just started her saddle training (yeah, I was slacking).

When I first put my weight on this girl, she acted like "what took you so long".  Today, she kept up the great behavior.  I haven't had a bad ride on this girl yet!  I'm shocked, and so thrilled!  She's eager to please, willing to go, and just LOVES working.  She won't tell me when she's getting tired, she just keeps on truckin.  She's sensible, she isn't spooky, and she has some lovely gaits.  her walk.... mmm.... it's a perfect 10. 

I mean check her out in the picture, see how she looks nice and level?  She's not.  She's rump high right now, about to grow a wee bit more, but she just lifts her shoulder so naturally.  I just dropped this girl's price, and I'm really having to tell myself right now that I can't keep them all.  WOW, I love the way she's training up.  Like she's been doing it for ever.

And my last ride of the day was Amber.  Yeah, such a great name for an Amber Champagne horse, but somehow it fits her perfectly.  Amber is one of my few quarter horses.  For those into such things, her registered name is Crystal Lynx, and pretty heavy on the foundation breeding, even though she doesn't look it.  You'd swear there was some TB up close in this girl.

Well, today was Amber's second ride.  Ever.  We started out with a handler - my mom - on the end of that big red lead rope there.   After a few minutes I felt confident, and decided to take a spin with out the "training wheels" and Amber stepped up to the task.  Now, she did have to think long and hard about that command to take the first step.  With a handler, she had been moving off the ground person's movement, and not really thinking about the leg aid to walk. 

So, I tapped tapped tapped, then tapped harder.  Nothing!  Ok, no biggie.  She wasn't spooking, she wasn't upset, she was just confused.  I got a few steps from snapping my fingers, but the clicking and kissing, and using verbal comands resulted in ...... nothing.  Finally I started tapping her rump, and just kept increasing pressure while saying "walk".  Around the level of a spank, she took a step.

Yep, smiles and sunshine for her, and she just loved it!  After that, she started learning so fast it almost made my head spin.  Within 10 minutes she had good solid walk/halt transitions, halt/back, and halt/walk transitions!  That's like a few days worth of learning for most horses!  And good clean transitions!

It doesn't get much easier then that.  Well, except for all the tap tap tapping I had to do to keep encouraging the greenies.  But if that's the most I had to worry about, while riding 3 horses, back to back, that have less then 10 rides on each?  Yeah.... it was a GREAT day.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Sneak Peak at My Mother's Amazing Art

Ok, I'm probably really really biased, because well, she's my mom.  On the other hand, I've taken enough art classes during my stint as an art major in college to know that she really is very talented.  So, mom is now selling her work, and like any good horse person, it's easy to figure out her favourite subject.

Here's a sneak peak at her art.  Many of these are still works in progress, quite a few of them are still wet, so they don't photograph easily.  And I'm using this chance to perfect my ability to get some decent pictures of her art before she lists it for sale.  Ok, and I'm bragging a bit, and I know she reads my blog....

Personally, I'm having a hard time deciding which is my favourite!  I really like the one of O (last one), but I'm also in love with the picture of Rico as an adult (#3).  Probably that's because those are real horses that I have known.

So what do y'all think?  Which one is your favourite? (Click on picture for larger image)

Any any tips on taking pictures of paintings is always appreciated!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why is it that I can never get pictures?

Seems like there's a bunch of new things going on lately.  I have decided to offer training to outside horses, I have begun advertising seriously for boarding clients, and my very talented mother has been painting.

Now, my mother's favourite subject is, of course, horses.  She's incredibly talented, and works in oils, watercolors, and acrylics, although oil paint is her favourite.  I think, but could be wrong, that she does pencil, ink and pastels as well.  Sadly, I have none of her talent.  I'll be bragging about her stuff here.  I am just warning you ahead of time... it's that good.

Me, now I've been having so much fun training all these horses lately, and with the fall weather cooling things off (and income cooling off as well) I've decided to offer training services to outside horses.  I'm good at training horses.  Yeah, a bit arrogant, but it's the one thing my talent lies in.  I didn't get mom's ability to paint!  I've trained oodles of horses, but the vast majority have been horses I own.  My problem with training for clients has always been that not all horses fit into the same type of training schedule.  I don't like pushing a young or fretful horse faster then it is ready to go, because its owner thinks that 30 days should have it riding like a 20 year old packer.  It dawned on me recently, that I don't have to.  I'm not forced to accept the horse.  I'm not forced to push a horse faster then it's able to.  I CAN train outside horses and still sleep at night.  And well, I really love that feeling of the first ride on a horse.

So, because of all this, I've been updating my website.  And, as always, I start updating, and realize that I need PICTURES!  Eesh.  I'm so bad about getting pictures.  I have a phone that takes pretty decent pictures.  I have a fancy dancy camera that takes super nice pictures.  And yet... I really don't have a lot of pictures.

I read y'all blogs all the time (when I can sneak it in!) and I'm dieing to know how you remember to keep the camera on you, AND use it to take pictures.  I'd love to hear your tips and tricks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Appaloosa colors and outcrossing

I can't recall now who asked it, but someone made the comment about outcrossing appaloosas resulting in losing the color in the breed.  I have heard this all the time, and every one thinks there should be a simple answer to it.  So, I'll give it to ya....


Now, pardon me while I completely enjoy dorking out on how it works....

As we talked about before, Appaloosa color has 3 main components: LP, pattern genes, and enhancer/supressor genes.  If you don't mix all of those right, you don't get flashy color.

A horse with LP only, no dominant pattern genes (because they still have the gene, just the alleles there are all recessive patn) and enhancer/supressors that have no pattern to work on, those horses are pretty boring color wise.  Here's an example:
Yep, that horse is LP/lp.  Her sire was LPLP and her dam lplp, so I'm positive she's a heterozygote.  She will roan with time, but she has no pattern genes to give her a normal appaloosa type blanket or leopard pattern.

Now THIS boy (Quagga's last foal, and the last horse bred by Siggrid Ricco, my mentor) is much more fun to look at:

And it's mainly because of those pesky pattern genes.  Sadly, pattern won't show up on its own.  And these lovely polka dots require both a dominant and a recessive copy of LP to show up.  I also have to point out here, that this guy is a half brother to the mare in the first image of this blog (Chestnut mare being lunged).  She's rather poorly colored, and Siri here.... WOW!

Here's a horse with a similar pattern, but that is homozygous for LP:

Again, pretty boring to look at, eh?  So you can see how the prettiest patterns need a bit of everything to make them so bold and exciting.

Well, when you breed to appaloosa colored horses, you can see their pattern (little a meaning those that show the appy patterns, regardless of breed).  That makes things a lot easier.  Sadly, if you keep breeding color to color, you increase your chances of getting the last type of horse, the homozygous dominant LP horse (fewspots or snowcaps).  So, the best way to get lovely loud colors is to breed fewspots to solids, then you're guarenteed of at least the ideal alleles at one locus: LP/lp.

But, because we can't see pattern genes on solid horses, it's so hard to know what you're getting from the solid mares.  We really have 2 options, get lucky, or research the hell out of it.  I like option #2, if you couldn't tell.

Now, statistically speaking, horses from appaloosa ancestry, especially Appaloosas and Knabstruppers, tend to carry the pattern genes.  It's very very rare to see a Knabstrupper that is just a roan (like the chestnut filly I showed).  This is because Knabstruppers were bred for leopards for quite a while, and it tends to be a very common pattern gene for them.  Appaloosas on the other hand, have a much wider range of pattern genes, and many tend to have a lot more dominant pattern genes (blankets, leopards, and everything in between).

And while normally I don't get into ApHC politics, that doesn't mean I don't keep up with them.  I just feel that because I'm not currently an ApHC member, I really don't have the right to talk.  My main focus is on another LP color breed, the Sugarbush Draft Horse.  But, the ApHC allows horses to be bred to Arabians, Thoroughbreds, and Quarter Horses, and the resulting foal is a purebred Appaloosa.

This is scientifically acceptable as a "purebred" which is hard for a lot of people to understand.  But the scientific definition is really pretty boring.  It's a select group of individuals that when bred within the definitions produces a predictable result.  That's it.  If you can cross Clydesdales to Thoroughbreds, and get the same thing everytime, or within the same range, then you have a scientific purebred animal.  Whether you like that type of breeding or not, does not refute that it's a "breed".

Now, when talking about color though, you have to consider the ramifications of breeding to that outside group of genes.  I'll use my breed, so as not to ofend any one, because the idea is the same.

With Sugarbush Drafts, we have so few horses left, and most of them are from the same bloodlines.  In order to breed IN color, we have to breed way back on the percentage of draft blood.  A single generation of crossing back to a light horse results in many generations of breeding to get back to the ideal size/weight.  But, if we breed only to draft horses for genetic influence, we will likely lose the color the breed was known for.

Here's why:

Percherons tend to be one of the favourite crosses for the Sugarbush Draft horse (I think it's the black).  Now, until there's a genetic test this is only a theory, but it appears that Percherons only have recessive pattern genes.  Foals from a Percheron parent tend to have a 50% production of offspring with pattern.  Since they can only be at most LP/lp from a Percheron parent (since Percherons are always lplp) this means 1 in every 4 foals will have the ideal color.  That's a 75% "not what I want" rate.  Remember, I'm only speaking about color here, not advocating for breeding purely for color.

Now, Belgians seems to have some minor pattern genes.  Lacy blankets, maybe even small blankets.  Of course, Belgians also tend to have some face and leg white, which we talked about before can do double duty as a pattern.

Clydesdales though, they are weird.  All that white on their faces and legs... but the pattern results are much lower then expected.  Clydesdales HAVE pattern genes, but they also have a LOT of suppressor genes.  This means that a foal with a minor pattern could have it suppressed down to nothing.

Here's an example:

Resulting foal:
She has a nice bit of white face and leg markings, but almost no blanket to speak of.  And her sire throws a nice blanket on most of his babies, up to a very large, almost leopard sized blanket.  Something is suppressing her pattern expression.

I have yet to do studies on Shires, or the other drafts, so I won't go into them.

Now, if a Sugarbush person wants pattern genes, they can easily go back to breeds that are known to carry them.  Andalusians/PRE are one of the best.  Shocked?  You shouldn't be, because they are the line that started the whole thing.  The appaloosa color is directly descended from the Spanish Horse, which over time because the Pura Raza Espanola, known in the USA as the Andalusian.  Other breeds with good pattern genes are Lusitano, many of the Pasos, Halflingers and Norikers.  Sadly, Norikers are rarely seen outside Austria.

If I could only get my hands on a few Norikers.......*daydreams*

But, anyways...My point is, that breeding to these pattern rich breeds, you can likely increase the color by outcrossing.  On the other hand, if you breed to a breed of horse that is not known for pattern genes, you will simply be guarenteeing yourself a recessive allele that can and will be passed on to future generations.

Now, keep in mind that when we breed horses we are selecting for genes that we can see.  Want a lovely head, then you select for those genes by breeding the good heads, and gelding the ugly heads.  Want more size, then select for it.  But since pattern genes can't be seen without LP, they are rarely bred for in most solid breeds.  Warmbloods, Thoroughbreds, Arabians, drafts... think of all the breeds of horses that do NOT have appaloosa color, and all of those breeds could, or could not, have pattern genes.  No one breed for them because you can't see them.

Interestingly, Quarter Horses are notorious for not having pattern genes.  Great examples of this are the "surprise" appaloosa offspring that result from 2 Quarter Horse parents.  These horses are proof that LP has been passed down through the generations, with so little pattern or such limited roaning, that it was overlooked.

I often hear the logic that because appaloosa colored Quarter Horses do show up, that they must have a lot of color production ability.  Sadly, that's not how it works.  Because the color lays "hidden" for so long, and LP is a dominant gene that can't hide on its own, it actually proves just how unlikely it is to get a pattern gene from that breed.  If pattern genes were everywhere, then those "surprise" appaloosa marked Quarter Horses would be popping up in the vast majority of the LP carrier's foals.  Instead the LP is passed along for generation after generation with no one the wiser.

In other words, a stallion with LP hiding in something like roan, would have a HUGE amount of appaloosa marked foals.  A mare with LP hiding out would be known for dropping appaloosa marked foals.  So it would be a known line of "crop out breeders" for many generations back.

Check out this mare:
Just don't look at her condition, that was shortly after I got her, and she's kinda icky looking.  But, how many people would look at her and scream Appaloosa?  Interestingly, this mare is LPLP patnpatn, or a homozygous roan.  Every foal she has will inherit some type of appaloosa patterning.  The fewspot colt shown above as an example of boring homozygous appaloosa patterns, is her foal.  And here's Dee recently:
Yeah, not a whole heck of a lot of roaning!  Ever heard of a "frosty roan"?  Now, just imagine her color was hidden under classic roaning!  It would go unnoticed for generations!

But, she's a perfect example of a horse with no pattern.  Until she was bred to a stallion with some serious pattern genes to pass on, her foals would never get pattern.  It doesn't just appear from nowhere.

On the flip side, here's a mare with a leopard pattern gene:

How many of you can see any signs of leopard?  (yes it's a trick question, this mare is lplp so a true solid).  But, this mare is of leopard to leopard breeding.  The chances that she did NOT get a leopard pattern gene is only 25%.  If you get crazy with the math, and look at the chances of inheritance of her parents, it's very likely that she's PATN1PATN1, or homozygous for leopard pattern.

Let me explain that.  Statistically speaking, a horse will pass a gene 50% of the time.  This is because when the gametes are formed, the DNA is divided in half, equally.  So, if a horse is LPlp, then half get LP and the other half gets lp.  If a horse is LPLP, then half get the first LP, and half get the second LP.  Clear as mud?

So, if you start to look at the big picture, her sire should have had 50% of his foals get his leopard pattern.  Her mother should have had 50% of her foals get her leopard pattern.  That's a 75% chance for a single foal to get a leopard pattern from this cross.  The numbers didn't work out that way when we looked at the foals.  So, we know that the chances of him passing the leopard pattern didn't change, but likely, the horses who couldn't SHOW that leopard pattern got the genes - the solids.  When you add in the numbers of the dam, well.... this mare is a winning lottery ticket.

So, like I said, outcrossing could very well reduce the amount of pattern, or visible color in the ApHC's gene pool.  We already know it is decreasing the pattern genetics in the Sugarbush gene pool, and are working hard to bring it back in.  Because the Sugarbush gene pool is wide open right now, we have the options of going back to breeds that will increase our chances of color, but the ApHC doesn't give their members that option.  They can only use 3 breeds, Arabians, Thoroughbreds, and Quarter Horses.  One of those breeds is proven to have limited pattern genes.

So, when asked if outcrossing will reduce color in the breed(s), the simple answer is, "Maybe".  It really depends upon what breeds you're crossing your appaloosa colored horses with.

A positive update:

I just wanted to let every one know that Boo is officially better!  He got the clear on Monday, not long after my posting, and was allowed to nibble hay.  The word was, if he drinks on his own, then he's fine.

So, he of course drank half a bucket in one sitting.  Thank you BOO!  And 2 days ahead of schedule.  So, Monday evening, I spent the day recovering.  Now today, it's time to get back to work.

So, oddly enough, I wake up, and it's simply LOVELY outside.  Nice, cool weather, a few clouds, and a bit of a breeze.  Boo is still doing good, and all of his drugs are now out of his system.  He got his first "real" meal.  I mean, it was one part alfalfa pellets to 3 parts water... but it went in his mouth, and will hopefully come out his backside with no problems.  He does have a bit of a slick hiney from all the mineral oil!

Rode Cayenne, and worked on a few basics.  She still needs to clean up her transitions, and is stiff to the left.  About half way through the ride, she started moving... off.  Not lame, but not 100%.  One of those things where she's nice and rhythmical, not favoring a leg at all, but my gut said something was up.  Tacked her down, and couldn't find a sign of anything.  Last time she did this, it was a pulled muscle in her back, so I went ahead and stretched her out, and she was obviously stiff on the left.  We'll see how she's doing in a couple of hours.  I admit, I was pushing her into the bends a bit.

THEN, I grabbed Amber.  Amber is my lovely little champagne quarter horse.  My mother put almost all of the training on her, and earlier this spring, mom tried to back her.  Sadly, Amber got spooky, and did oneof those sideways spooks as mom put weight in the saddle.  Mom said she worked through it a bit, but Amber was still pretty tense, and mom felt out of her league.  I tacked Amber up, lunged her a bit in both directions, then had Jae take the lead.

The way I start horses, is to have a handler holding a lead rope attached to a bridle under the halter.  This gives me a bit and reins, but also gives the horse a type of commands that they know and are comfortable with.  I do all the sacking out, then I lay across the saddle.  If that goes well, then we take a step or 2 with me laying across the saddle (this is where Amber lost it the last time).  After that, we just increase, until I swing a leg over, then the handler leads the horse around as I get a pony ride.  Eventually I add commands through the seat and reins, and we just work away from the handler.

This process usually takes anywhere from 1 to 10 sessions.  I always go at the horse's pace.

Well, Amber did FINE!  I admit, she did spook the first time I hopped off the saddle.  She lifted her head, and sucked in air, but never moved her feet.  By the end of the ride, I was sitting on her and even giving rein aids, but Jae still had the halter and leadrope.  I think Amber will need one or maybe 2 more sessions with a ground person, but she's doing well.

She's also simply LOVELY under tack.  I'm not a huge fan of yellow horses, but she has the whole shades of bronzes and golds that I do love.  She also has a rather nice walk.  I mean, she's no Spot baby, but definitely not bad for a quarter horse!

I really needed today.  I'm feeling in high spirits again!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Joys of Colic: Road to Recovery

So,I left off last night with us administering fluids, and Boo looking better.  I can happily say that he continued to improve.  At 4am, I arrived in the barn to find Boo laying down sternally (on his chest, head up) and calm.  He only had Banamine in his system, and looked good... all things considered.  Dumped 10 Liters more of fluids into him, and got some very nice moist poo, and tons of gas.  Wet sloppy gas.

Ya know, most people would think that's TMI, but horse people understand the joys of fluid filled guts after colic.

Now at 9am, we headed back out for his latest round of fluids.  I did grab sleep between the 4am and 9am doses, because Boo had looked so nice.  When I walked back out to the barn, I was almost anxious.  You know that feeling when you aren't sure if you'll find a horse standing up looking good, or laying down, cast, in pain, or suffering some how?  Yeah, that was me.  As I walked across the yard to the barn, I worried that I shouldn't have slept, I felt guilty that I had been so exhausted.  I just knew that I'd find a horse in serious distress because I had been selfish.  Then I rounded the corner and saw Boo....

Standing up, picking at his bedding.  He nickered at me!

There was Boo, bright eyed and bushy tailed, looking GREAT!  We dumped the last of our fluids into him, and I put in a call to the vet.  I think I might be done with treatment.  There was a large lump of poo in the stall, and multiple wet sloppy cow patties around.  His guts were so loud I could hear them from outside the stall, and he looked irritated that he didn't have any grain to eat.

I'm still not positive that we're through everything.  The vet did say that we could have a "calm before the storm" because of the size and type of impaction that he had.  I'm now ordered to keep an eye on him, and if he shows pain, give Banamine.  No more heavy drugs though... YAY!

I'm a bit in shock.  I was completely prepared for 3 days of this, and there's a chance that it will only be 24 hours?  And we're talking about Boo... you know, the horse that's short bus special?  The horse that tries to kill himself on a regular basis?

And, the cause of colic.... not drinking enough for the humidity and sweating he was doing.  Sounds just like his brother!

So!  It looks like I can get back to blogging about Appaloosa colors!  I do love appy color genetics!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Don't you love waking up to "Your horse is down"

You know how every one has that horse.  The special one, and I don't necessarily mean the perfect one?  More like the short bus kind of special?

Yeah, I have Boo.  Boo is a very eye catching Arabian, stands a whopping 14.3 hands, and was my first horse.  Technically, I picked him 2 weeks before Ash, so he's the first, even though he was only 4 months old, and Ash was 8 almost 9.  So Boo was my first horse, and Ash was my first riding horse.  I also didn't technically buy him he was my first anniversary present from my now ex-husband.  Oh... and he's a half brother to Jaz.

Yes, Jaz, my dear friend Leah's horse, that always manages to do SOMEthing.  Boo kinda has the same problem, but in a much more flamboyant way.  See, Jaz just gets hurt.  Boo gets hurt with DRAMA!

Boo's been known to choke.  He's got one hell of a scar on his front right leg from spooking as a baby, and running through a fence.  A safe fence too, but well... T posts are NOT stronger then a panicked yearling.  He looks like every girl's dream horse (if you're that arab loving type of girl that is) but he's a conformational wreck.  And he's trained to the teeth and beyond.  Novice friendly in an arena, intermediate on the trails (he rears... kinda.  It's more true to say that he loves to do a very controlled levade).

So, this morning, Kris sees Boo laying down.  No biggie, my horses really DO lay down a lot.  Then she looks and he's laying down again.  I think somewhere Leah was involved in all that too.  Next thing I know, I'm trying to sip my first cup of coffee (I don't function efficiently with out a full cup at least) and find a shirt that's in one piece, my button just popped off my jeans, and Kris is knocking on my back door.  I open it, and she says "you have a horse down".


I fly to throw on shoes, forget all about the shirt and button on the jeans, and rush out.  There he is, laying on his side, looking like he's positive he's dieing!  I mentally said quite a few bad words, and though "Colic".

Kris gets a halter.  I said any halter would do... and it WOULD, since Boo's rather well mannered, but of course, most of my halters are draft cross sized.  Ever seen a draft cross halter on a tiny itty bitty Arabian head?  It's amusing to say the least.

Leah made a break for the gate, and moved the colts out of our way, and I lead Boo out to give him the once over.  He wasn't throwing himself on the ground, but he was wanting to lay down.  Asked Kris to walk him, while I gathered the meds.

I love my barn buddies!

With as many horses as I have, it's a wise idea to know your meds, know how to check vital signs, and be very very good at giving all those meds as needed.  Boo got 10cc Banamine, IV, and started looking a bit better.  I grabbed the stethoscope, and checked his gut sounds.....


Now, I'd like to point out that I do a lot of rescue, and even many of my breeding stock horses were picked out from the worst conditions.  Lovely horses, great bloodlines... and starving in some field.  I prefer it like that, because I just like knowing I saved a horse.  But, because of that, I've seen some bad bad things on my place.  We've delt with tetanus, more colics then I care to count, chokes, crazy parasite issues.... you name it, I've probably had it.  Sadly, every single time I've put a stethoscope to a horse and heard nothing, it means I have a dead horse walking.

And then, as I paused in sheer terror of losing my first horse I heard.... Bluuuroooopppppp.

Ok, it wasn't much, but it was something.  A few seconds later, I heard more, and the other side was better.  I could breathe a sigh of relief.  Checked his gums, and he was pale, but with good capillary refill.  No signs of the toxicity lines either.  Another very good sign.  His temperature was off... felt cool, but he was sweating nicely, and my thermometer broke, so all I could go on was a guess.

I lunged him, letting him work out his guts, and his guts sounded a TON better.  From the tone of his guts, I was thinking a bit of an impaction, but things were still moving, and some gas.  He was slightly dehydrated so I offered him some super wet mush.

Now, many people say not to feed a colicing horse, but my vet has always said that horse soup is ok, if the horse is dehydrated.  Because I feed an alfalfa based pellet that turns to goo in water, it's less likely to cause issues, and adding all that water is often likely to solve them.  But Boo had NO interest in it.  Bad sign.

In my mind, there's 3 types of colic.  First, there's the annoying mild type.  A few cc's of Banamine, and it's all over.  Then there's the critical kind... a few cc's of banamine, and the horse isn't improving.... time for the vet!  And lastly there's the dead horse walking.   I hope to never ever see another of those in my entire life!

I do not believe in surgery for the last type.  Even the vets will tell you that it rarely works.  But for the second type, well... those are the ones you go all out for.  Of course.... I'm embarrassingly broke right now.  No funds for surgery, and my gut is saying that Boo just isn't going to get better with some oil.

So, when Boo didn't get better with Banamine, I'm thinking the worst.  Where do I whip 10 grand out of my bum?  I called Dr. G's emergency number, and it said that he was not on call this weekend. 


So, on to back up vet number 1.  Dr. Spencer.  I page him, and get an almost immediate return call.  He was in church (man do I feel bad about that) and offered to meet me at the clinic.  I put Boo in the trailer (which I had just had my mother bring over to move horses for a friend.... hmm... timing!).  Everything was hooked up and ready to go, so off we went.  And me, having all my friends over for pony Sunday.... I just went.

Sorry y'all for being rude, but I think y'all understood!

When the vet arrived, he got out and started moving quickly.  Boo was in obvious pain, and acting like he was ready to roll and thrash at any moment.  Told the vet I'd already given Banamine, and he sent us to the stocks.  Time for the "big exam".  I have to say though, that I was very impressed with his concern for the horse's feelings, and how much speed he put into helping the horse of a client he KNEW only uses him as a back up.  Talk about a good vet.

Temp, gut sounds, and the whole thing was checked all over again.  The vet gave a second pain killer to make boo feel better (Xylazine aka Rompum) and did a rectal exam.  At the end of his fingers was a lump.  A hard lump.  Impaction.

We put a gallon of mineral oil into the gelding, and he asked me about treatment.  He laid out the price tag, and I didn't flinch (it was a LOT less then I expected).  Boo's treatment.... IV fluids for 3 days.

I explained my knowledge base (pre-vet studies, only need 2 classes to apply to vet school, 4 years as a vet tech, 10 years horse experience, etc) and asked if it would be best to take him home and for me to give his fluids.  He agreed easily!  Basically, I just cut my vet bill in half by being able to do the work myself he told me.

And let me tell you, such a gentleman.  Dr. S left me to worry about my horse, and he and Jae loaded up the truck with fluids.  I think there were 6 boxes of fluids (10 Liters per box) plus any pain med I could possibly need.  We put in an IV catheter, sealed the whole thing up, and back home we headed.

The first 20 liters were rough on Boo.  Because his impaction was so far up, and at such a painful area, as it became hydrated, it would swell and enlarge causing more pain.  But, once it was hydrated, it would break up, and be passed along.  I dumped 4 big bags of saline into that horse in about an hour.  3 hours later, we dumped in 2 more.  Boo got pain meds every hour to 2 hours through out.  Boo went through periods of intense pain, followed by periods of relief.

Mostly Boo would just lay quietly, but as the pain spasms hit, he would want to roll.  Can't let him roll, because that's how they twist a gut.  Laying is ok though.  Up he went and down he went.  He promptly cast himself in his stall a few times, needing us to roll him once, and righting himself on his own the second time.

And now, I can say that Boo is looking like the worst is over.  I don't know if he'll stay looking like this, but I'm hopeful.  He's sleeping while standing, has passed manure a few times, and it appears to be a portion of the impaction (dry on the inside).  I still have to administer fluids through out the night, and most likely for the next 2 days as well.  A total of 72 hours with no more then 3 hours of sleep at a time, and likely less.

I mean, seriously... who can sleep while their horse is hurting!

It's times like these that I'm so glad I work from home, and work with horses.  I can take care of my baby.  Who cares that in about 12 hours I'll be a complete moron due to stress and lack of sleep?  I know that my friends understand completely.

I also want to thank my friends for being so supportive.  I've already gotten offers to help, to take a shift, or what ever I need.  This is why, when my friend's horses are down, I offer to care for them in return.  I know how I would feel having to head off to work, knowing that my poor baby was feeling bad, and might have problems while I was away from home.  Having a friend keep eyes on the horse, give its meds, and answer my paranoid emails/phone calls/texts all day.....that's SO worth it.

And of course.... Since I'm being all sappy.... I have to make a comment here about Jae.  Jae, my better half, is sadly under recognized for ALL he does for Iron Ridge.  When I need a needle, he's there to grab it.  When I need a shoulder, he's there to take up the slack, and let me crumble.  And he'd NEVER even THINK about not doing everything in his power for ANY horse, regardless of who owns it.  Everytime I've headed out to the barn, he's there beside me.  He rigged up an IV pulley, so we can easily raise and lower the IV bags.  He never complained, he just made it happen.  I didn't even have to ask.  He jumps in and feeds the other horses, sorts them out, and just handles things while I stare at Boo waiting for the next shoe to drop.

Jae has learned SO much about horses in the 5 years we've been together, it's not even funny.  He knows the difference between generic drug names.  I can ask for "Rompum" and get Xylazine, and never worry that he accidentally pulled Banamine.  I know that in a crisis, he could handle it all.  I mean, I'd never ask him to, but I know he COULD.  Sadly, when it comes to my horses, I am kind of a micro manager.  I have to be there, and be hands on, or I'm a basket case!

And it goes with out saying that through out Boo's treatment, everytime I head out to the barn, so will Jae.  Every time Jae heads out to the barn, so will I.  Once Boo is deemed fine, we'll pass out for a few days, and then jump right back into the routine as normal.

Notice I said "when" Boo is determined to be fine, not if.  While we're not out of the woods yet, I have a real good feeling about this.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Baby D is now.... Gelding D!

Today was a big day for the little man.  First the new man came and petted and loved on him.  Then he pinched him, and then the baby began to feel funny.

Daltrey went out like a light, almost passing out with only the first sedative.  Not a problem at all with his operation, except that he's such a fire breathing horse that he just didn't want to wake up.

Here's the baby, in his first moments becoming aware that he's now a gelding.  His response immediately after I snapped this picture was to lay down, and pass back out for 5 more minutes.

He's up and in his stall, looking good, and happily munching his hay.  Poco and Jaz are playing in the arena, and nanny Poco keeps calling to make sure his new baby is around.  Daltrey will whinney back, then Arden hears him (Daltrey's mom) and has to whinney.  So right now, we're getting chain reaction whinnies about every 15 minutes.  It's pretty cute.

I came close to doing a bad thing though.  I almost forgot about his wolf teeth.  Well, I actually DID forget.  Luckily, Leah and I use the same vet, and he knows both of us very well.  HE remembered.

And just for general cuteness.....
..........Baby D' drunk as a skunk.  The tech thought he was absolutely adorable, I think she would have stolen him in a heartbeat.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

In the fall of 1993, I was working as a colorguard director.  You know, those flag wavers in a marching band?  Yeah, I taught them.  Well, while walking around the mall looking for ideas for the guard's uniforms, I stopped in the pet store to take a break.

I'm not a fan of pet stores.  I am normally very opposed to purchasing pets from them because it encourages their business.  And yet, there, in their "pet me" box, was the ugliest colored mutt I have ever seen.  He was nothing but ears and paws, brown covered in black dapples, and his long tail wagging at any one that looked at him.  I stopped and petted him.  Then I held him. 

Then I was lost in those brown eyes of his.

Here I was with my first "real" job, preparing to move out into my first "real" home of my own.  I hadn't yet received my first paycheck for the new job, but I had to figure out a way to take MY dog home with me.  He looked like he would grow up to be around 75-100 pounds.  A big dog.  Not the kind of dog you can keep in an apartment!  But, he was my dog.

I could almost feel fate pulling at me.  I knew this dog would be home with me in a way that most cute puppies had never made me feel.  In a time before cell phones, I only had one option.  Beg the store owner not to sell him for 30 minutes, run home, and make a VERY convincing case to my parents.

Lets just say I drove quickly.  Very quickly.

I got home, asked my mother and father to loan me the $70 dollars for the dog.  They made all the right arguements, they tried to talk me out of it, and they told me that in a week I wouldn't even remember him.  Oh how they were wrong.

In the end, my father caved in.  He rode back to the pet store with me, only 35 minutes after I had left.  I hoped and prayed that my new puppy would still be there.  We walked into the doors, and a pair of young college aged girls were holding MY dog.  I was filled with insane jealousy and fear.  They were talking about how cute he'd be in their apartment, and how they should buy him!  I just said, "well, he'll probably be about 100 pounds you know, just look at his feet".  They put him down and moved on to the cute small dogs.  He weighed 94 pounds at 1 year old.

My dear father mean while, was trying to talk the store owner down on the price of the mutt.  Listed as a Lab/Blue Heeler cross, he wasn't worth 70 bucks!  A mutt, the type of mutt you could get for free outside Wal-mart!  The store owner dropped his price to $60.  Dad wrote the check.

So there I was, my very first dog in my arms, as happy as could be.  His records said he was born on August 31st, 1993.  I had no idea the times we'd spend together, and what a part of my life this ugly colored floppy eared mutt would become.  I learned that I couldn't stay out late, because Hobbes had to be fed.  I couldn't go on vacations with out making arrangements for his care.  When he was young, no one cleaned up after him but me.  This was my dog.  My responsibility.  My best friend.

I went to college, living in a house off campus.  There beside me was Hobbes.  My roommates fed him everything they could, and he puked half of it back up.  When school and work became hectic, I looked into a friend for him, and fell in love with Rottweilers.  I bought a cute puppy, and of course named him Calvin.  Calvin and Hobbes.

Calvin was diagnosed with a genetic defect at the age of 2, and was blind for the rest of his life. Hobbes took care of Calvin.  Hobbes quickly learned to "Go Get Calvin" and lead the poor blind dog back to the door.  We lost Calvin last year, at the age of 14.  He's buried under the big cedar tree at the back of the farm.

When my house was robbed, Hobbes bit the thief.  We never found who it was, but they wrote a lovely message on my door in marker.  When I began dating a new guy, I made sure he knew that he had to pass the "Hobbes test".  If Hobbes didn't like him, he was history.  When I got married, Hobbes was there, and when the marriage went bad, I cried in his fur.  When I kicked my ex-husband out, Hobbes got to sleep on the bed.

When I got my first horse, Hobbes was waiting in the car.  Of course, he couldn't care less about some big filthy animal, and even acknowledging that they existed was beneath his notice!  Then we began trail rides.  I'd ride Ash, with Hobbes trailing ahead of us scouting the way, and chasing any stray bunny that happened to run.  I knew he'd come back with a simple whistle, and never had to worry that he'd run out of my line of sight.  Many spring and fall days were spent romping like that.

Ash is now retired from riding.  She watches the foals grow, and mows the yard, and demands her butt to be scratched.  Hobbes made his last trip to the barn on Monday.  I had to carry him home, because he was just too tired to make the rest of the walk.  I could see the depression creep into his eyes that he couldn't do it on his own.

Through the highs and the lows, my "booby dog" has been a constant in my adult life.  Grumpy, he has marked every single dog to live in my house with a nice "reminder" bite on the nose, maintaining his leadership of the bigger dogs with a single reprimand.  Every one of them has a scar.  Just one.  After that, Hobbes had their respect.  He has tolerated kids, cats, puppies, ponies, and more, and asked for nothing more then a pay on the head, and maybe the left over milk from a bowl of cereal.

I never thought he'd live to see 15, or 16, and I hoped against hope that he'd make it to 17.  He did all of those, and more.  And in the last week, his age is finally taking its tole.  Monday he bagan having trouble getting up without help.  Tuesday he spent all day sleeping, and can't walk without help.  As of yesterday, he has no interest in getting up at all.  I had to carry him outside, so he could do his business.  Today, my dear Hobbes is being treated like a king.  Pasta for breakfast, homemade bread for lunch.  He woofs, and I bring him water, or change the blanket/pads he's laying on.  I'm not even asking him to go outside.  If he makes a mess, I will clean it.  Picking him up makes his bones ache.

Hobbes has always hated car rides.  He whines and cries, and worries the whole way that I'm getting ready to dump him or something.  He hates the vet clinic, and will gladly bite anyone if I am not in the room.  And yet, if he can just see or hear me, he's the perfect example of a canine citizen. When he was neutered at 6 months of age, the clinic had to call me to come in.  He refused to leave his kennel, because I had told him to stay.  The tech said that he hadn't taken a step in over an hour.  When she tried to take him out of the kennel to anesthetize him, he tried to attack her.

I opened the kennel door, and said "Hobbes, come here" and there he was, in my arms, wagging and happy.  I put a leash on him, walked him into the room I was shown, and told him to be "good" and that it was "ok".  They gave him a sedative, and I petted him as he went under.  They called me as he was waking up, and I was there to talk to him.  They marked "Owner MUST be present to handle!!!" on his chart.  I've never left him alone with a stranger since.

The vet will be here in the morning.  Hobbes won't even have to leave his home.  I've picked out the perfect spot for him to lay in his last moments.  Under the tree where he would lay and soak up the sun.  I will be preparing his favorite meal for breakfast...a whole bowl of cereal, all for him.  Jae will be preparing his grave this evening, under the cedar tree, next to Calvin.

I can't remember when I started, but I can clearly remember many talks with Hobbes about my plans to own a small horse farm.  How we would have land, and he could run and play, and never have to move (because Hobbes always hated moving to a strange place).  I swore to him that I'd have it before he was gone, and I'd only bury him on the farm of my dreams.  I have that place now.  And I plan to keep my promise.

Life won't be the same with out him.  His silly quirks:  how he wouldn't walk on wet grass, and God forbid you LOOK at him while he's eating!  At times, I think that I could treat his symptoms, and get him a bit more life, and then I realize that wouldn't be fair to him.  For over a year now, I have known that he has cancer, and I believe that it's catching up with him quickly this week.  He's still a grump, and he's still my booby-dog.  In a way, I'm glad that he's made it clear that it's time.  I don't want him to ever have to suffer. 

But I will miss him so.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Appaloosa Coat inheritance

So, we've talked about patterns now, and we talked about the LP gene.  So how does it all fit together?

Remember how we first discussed base coat color, and how all the genes stack up?  Well, appaloosa color really takes that concept to a whole new level.  The LP gene determines if there will be any appaloosa pattern.  If lplp, then the horse shows no appaloosa pattern.  I'll call this solid (even though other patterns might be present, such as pinto patterns, roaning, and such).  If the horse is LPlp then it's heterozygous, and will have some form of appaloosa coat pattern.  If the dense white area (PATN genes) is large enough, that area will have polka dots in it.  And if the horse is homozygous dominant (which is what most people mean when they say the horse is "homozygous") then the horse is LPLP, and will have some form of appaloosa coat pattern.  If the dense white area (PATN genes) are large enough, there will be few if any spots in it.

Lets look at this horse's pattern.  This is Rico.

Rico is heterozygous for LP (LPlp) and his color tells me that his genome is most likely Ee Aa.  How do I know that?

Well, Rico's sire is Ee aa, and his dam is EE Aa.  He had to inherit an E and an A from his dam (because he is bay).  His large blanket with the spots stretched out makes me think that there's a few types of enhancement going on here.  So, likely he has one copy of recessive extension (the chestnut gene) "e".  This would allow a bit more white pattern to show then if he was EE.  I can see that he has sabino (blaze and hind white socks), but his blanket tells me that as well.  Notice the lacy edges to the blanket?  That's a very common trait with sabino.  You can also see that the dots are a medium to small size.  Sabino put the white on "steroids" allowing it to really restrict the area of base coat color within the dense pattern (i.e. dots).  He obviously has one copy of agouti, which stretched out the white pattern, making the dots a significant distance apart.  Now because his sire is homozygous dominant for LP, and his dam is homozygous recessive for lp, we know that this colt is LPlp.  But even with out knowing the parents, seeing all those dots gives that away.

Here's how it works on a molecular level.  Keep in mind that in utero, all horses start out white, and pigment is layed on top of that.  The LP gene allows the pigment to clot, and this clotting action (during embryonic development) means that when the pigment begins to migrate from the spine towards the extremities (head, tail and legs) that it doesn't move like it should.

Imagine oil in water.  You can shake it up, but the oil and water still separate.  The base coat pigment does the same thing here.

Now, the difference between roans, blankets, and leopards, is that the pattern gene restricts this clotting to specific areas.  A horse with a small pattern gene ends up with the vast majority of its pigment progressing normally, and only the last bit (since it starts at the hip/spine area and moves out) gets all clotted up.  A leopard is a horse for whom all, or most of its pigment ended up clotting.

The enhancer and suppression genes basically work by making the clots more dense, and therefore smaller, or in other cases they work like magnets.  Here's what I mean by magnets.... A supressor gene could cause the pigment to be drawn to more of its own kind, like opposite poles on a magnet.  An Enhancer gene could cause the pigment to be repelled from itsself, like same poles on magnets.  I think most of us played with magnets as a kid, and enjoyed watching one push the other away.  Look at Rico's spots, and you can almost see how the dots were pushed away from each other, leaving the large white areas inbetween.

Now compare that with Crash:
Here you can see how the pigment was clumping up, even in the "solid" areas.  Crash does not have sabino, so he does not have that "opposite pole" effect.  His dots are close together, in some cases on top of each other, and his white pattern is minimal.

Now, some of those enhancers and supressors can be pattern genes on their own.  Lets look at Diva:
If you squint your eyes, and pretend like there's not a blanket, she has very similar markings to Scorch:
Their blazes are almost identical, but Diva has 2 hind white socks.  They have the same sire, and their dams are full sisters.  Scorch (bottom) is also a full brother to Rico (first bay blanket shown).  So, this is a great example of possible options from the same genetics.

As you can see, Scorch doesn't have a blanket.  Now, we know he got LP from his sire, because Spot can only pass a domiant copy of it.  And we know that they all got lp from their dams, because all of these horses are from solid mares.

So, why does Diva have a blanket, and Scorch doesn't?  It's either because Diva inherited a small pattern gene.  The same thing that gave her 2 socks instead of just one.  The other option is that Scorch just has more suppressor genes, and it completely suppressed his pattern. At this time there's no way to tell, and both are plausible options.

Now, if we look at the mothers of Diva and Scorch:
This is Jinx.  She is the mother of Diva, the cute black filly with a lacy blanket.

The sire of these girls is a bay splash white stallion.  Obviously, he was heterozygous for agouti, since Jinx is black.

Their dam was a black Clydesdale.  Both mares are 75% Clydesdale.

I had to lighten the picture a lot.  Sadly, this mare is somewhat hard to get good pictures of unless she's very sun bleached and filthy.

And this is Hex.  She is the mother of Scorch and Rico.  You can see the blaze that all 3 (Scorch, Diva, and Rico) have inherited.

By looking at these 2 girls, we know that Jinx got the sire's splash white, AND sabino, while Hex got the agouti and sabino.

It's not very obvious in this picture, but hex has a small white sock on her right hind, a moderate white sock on the left hind, and her front left is white only on the inside.

Interestingly, Diva has the same partial white front foot.

Since Clydesdales are well known to have sabino, it's a no brainer here.  What is interesting is the dramatic difference in the level of expression of sabino between Jinx and Hex.  While Jinx has passed on almost the exact markings that Hex - her sister - has.

This shows us that Jinx likely has an extra enhancing gene that allowed her sabino markings to be more dramatic then her full sisters.  We know that Jinx also has splash, so it's possible that splash + sabino has an additive effect.  Sadly, there's just not a lot of studies on these minor genes yet.

Now, one thing I'm asked about all the time, is if a horse will have offspring with MORE color then itsself.  Why, yes, it's possible.  Again this is due to all the additive genes.

For those who read Leah's blog, Barn Door Tagz, you probably know about her new baby, Daltrey.  That little boy is a perfect study in how everything can add up together.

Here's the little man in all his glory!
Look at all that white!  Now, his parents:
Arden, a chestnut snowcap:  ee ?a LPLP PATN?

O, a black blanket - Ee aa LPlp PATNpatn

Now, O has roaned out as he's aged, so his blanket has "grown".  You can still see the dense white area that's on his hip, which he was born with.

So, if horses can't pass a pattern gene larger then what they have, how do you explain all that white on Daltrey?  It's all about the additive effect.  Daltrey got every possible enhancer gene that he could.

Daltrey inherited his sire's blanket pattern sized PATN gene.  He inherited a dominant copy of LP from both parents, so he's homozygous (hence a solid white blanket).  He is chestnut, which will express a larger version of dad's blanket (because E is a suppressor gene).  Daltrey got his mother's splash gene, an enhancer, and his father's sabino (which is very minimally expressed on O).  Daltrey did NOT get the unnamed suppressor gene that inhibited the expression of O's face and leg markings, so this expanded his blanket size even more.

In the end, it was a perfect storm.  Daltrey got all the "crank up the white" genes, and none of the "lets put the white back in its place" genes.  Teh resulting foal was much louder then expected.  The chances of this combination happening are around 1.5% from this cross.  Want to see the math?

50% chance of being chestnut x 50% chance of being homozygous LP = 25%
x 50% chance of getting the big blanket pattern = 12.5%
x 50% chance of inheriting splash = 6.25%
x 50% chance of inheriting sabino = 3.125%
x 50% chance of not getting the sire's suppressor gene = 1.56%

So, with only a 1.56% chance of getting all those genes at the same time, it's pretty fair to say it's not likely for a foal to not inherit a pattern larger then its parent's.

And tomorrow, I will discuss the importance of the solid horse in any appaloosa color program.  I'll also touch on how outcrossing affects the genetics of it all.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

LP patterns

So, we now know that the LP gene is the first gene in appaloosa coloring, but what makes the difference between all those crazy appaloosa pattern?  It's the pattern genes.  There's a whole whack of them too (yeah, that's a technical term... whole whack).   So, lets see if I can phrase this in a way that doesn't make anyone's head hurt too bad.

The LP gene, or Leopard comPlex gene, is like a switch.  On its own, it doesn't do a whole lot.  Over time a horse with only a dominant copy of LP, and no pattern will get an appaloosa color appearance, but it could be minimal, and right now there's really no way to predict it.  But to get a horse with an obvious pattern at birth, you need to have a pattern gene... or a few.

The pattern genes aren't just for pattern.  A few examples of minor pattern genes include base color (black, bay, chestnut bases) or things like sabino, splash, and other pinto genes.  If you remember how we talked about the pinto genes and their minimal forms that show only as face and leg markings, you can see how often these genes are included in appaloosa colored horses, as well as Appaloosas (as in ApHC registered horses).

The first thing to understand about pattern genes, is that we use the symbol PATN for a domiant copy, and patn for a recessive, but this is really incorrect.  Because there are MANY pattern genes, we should not refer to them as if they are the same.  Because we don't know where they are, and what genes specifically they are, this type of language makes it much easier to converse and be understood.  Basically, it's genetics slang.

At this time, it is believed that there is a specific locus (location) for the leopard pattern.  This pattern can be directly traced from parent to child, with the only "skips" or "holes" being with solid horses.  Since we know that solid horses can't show their pattern, and that pattern is inherited independently of LP, it's concluded that those solids have the leopard pattern gene.

We call this gene PATN1.  Horses who do not have the leopard pattern gene are patn1patn1.  Most horses that DO have the leopard pattern gene are PATN1patn1, because there are just very few breeding programs that breed leopard lines to leopard lines. Right now, leopard is the only gene I know of that has been assigned its own number.  The rest of the genes are just refered to as patn or PATN.

Now, just to make it even more confusing, appaloosa patterns are not controlled only by LP and PATN.  There's also the "enhancing" and "supressing" genes.  These enhancing and supressing genes affect the way that the pattern is displayed.  From big spots to small spots, from lacy edges to crisp edges, from a lot of white between the dots to dots crammed almost on top of each other... this is all done by the enhancing and supressing genes.

Some of these enhancing and supressing genes have a small pattern effect on their own. As you can see, a lot of genes get to do "double duty" in horse color.  And I can't stress this enough, there are around 30 different genes that could make some form of white pattern at birth on an appaloosa colored horse.  Each one of those genes has a dominant and a recessive allele, and a horse can have any of the 3 combinations (homozygous dominant, heterozygous, or homozygous recessive) at that particular gene.

While a horse with at least one copy of dominant LP will always show its largest pattern, a solid horse doesn't show its pattern.  This makes it pretty much impossible to know what pattern genes a solid horse carries.  You can make educated guesses based upon the ancestors of that horse, chances of inheritance and number of progeny, and a whole lot of mind numbing math.  But seriously, who wants to do THAT?  (I love genetics, and the math really makes MY head hurt!)   So, when predicting the exact color pattern of offspring, it gets REALLY confusing!

Lets use my homozygous stallion "The Polecat" (aka Spot) as an example.  Yes, I know he has an unfortunate name.  What I wouldn't give to change it!
This is an older picture of him, so he's still thin in it.  At the time the picture was taken, I was thrilled to have him THIS fat (he came to me rather thin).  But, this is the only clean picture I seem to have of this side of him.  You can see that there are 2 polka dots on him: one by his withers, and one on his hip.  He actually has 4 dots on his entire body, but the others aren't as easy to see.  Because he's white with very few polka dots, this type of pattern is called a "fewspot".  The lack of polka dots is indicative for homozygosity of the leopard complex, or LPLP.  Spots foals will always inherit at least one copy of LP (from dad) because he doesn't have any other option to pass on.

As for patterns though, he has just about every pattern out there.  He does not have PATN1 though.  While he's almost all white, much of that is due to roaning with age.  Ol' Spot is 13 this year, and that means he's had 13 years to gain more white.  When he was younger, he looked like this:
This is Spot as a young 2 year old.  You can see the dark pattern on his head and chest.  This type of pattern is often called a "near fewspot".

A horse will show the largest pattern that they have, and you can only guess at the smaller patterns because of their parents or offspring.  Because Spot has had a LOT of offspring (24 before I purchased him) I have a really good idea of what he can throw.

From minimum to the largest:

Scorch - E? aa, LPlp patnpatn.  Yes, he really does have appaloosa characteristics, although very very few.

Tori - E? Aa LPlp PATNpatn

Melody - ee ?a LPlp PATNpatn.

If you notice the progression of base color above: Black, then bay, then chestnut.  This is the exact order of supression/enhancement that the horse's base color gives to the pattern.  In otherwords, it's likely that these 3 horses actually have the same pattern genetics, but more white is able to show with the "easier" colors.  Black is the hardest.

In Spots life, he's only every had 2 foals born with no white at birth.  Scorch, and a black filly.  I find that very interesting, as the odds say it's not likely to be such a small number.  Therefore, it's my belief that Scorch really DOES have a small pattern, but has every possible gene to suppress that pattern.  (This is just my theory, based on the numbers).  If that's true, then it would mean that Spot is homozygous for this small lacy blanket pattern.

From there, we get bigger:

Diva - E? aa LPlp PATNpatn

Crash - E? Aa LPlp PATNpatn.

Sorry, I don't have a chestnut version of this size pattern.

And Bigger..............

Nox - E? aa LPLP PATNpatn

Zire - E? Ata LPLP PATNpatn

Again, I don't have a chestnut (I only had 2 chestnut foals from Spot... what can I say, I have a ton of black based mares, my chances of chestnut are low).

Now, the interesting thing, is that the base color alleles seem to be additive in their enhancing or suppression.  So, a horse that is EE would have a more supressed pattern then a horse that is Ee, and that would be more supressed then a horse that is ee.

Agouti seems to be an enhancing gene.  Again, a double dose enhances more then a single dose.  None of these horses can be double agouti though, simply because their sire is black (homozygous recessive for agouti).

Then there's the face and leg markings.  If you notice, I tend to have 3 classes of face and leg white markings.  The first has only minor face white (small blazes, or stars) with no leg white.  The second group has moderate face and leg white (larger stars/blazes, with one or 2 socks) and the last is high white (big blazes, 4 white legs).  The first group I am not positive of what they have for genetics there.  Maybe sabino?  Maybe it's a natural birthmark type of thing?

The second group has sabino in a very minimal form.  Spot has this, as do many of my mares.  You can see that Scorch and Diva both have this type of markings.  The last group are splash whites.  Most of those also have sabino (from Spot, their sire).  What can I say, I really like mares with splash white!

But, Sabino and splash are pattern enhancing genes.  Sabino tends to make the pattern all lacy around the edges, and make the polka dots really small.  Sabino is basically invading the colored area.  Often when people hear "enhancement" they thing "better".  In this case it just means more white.

Splash on the other hands enhances in a different way.  It makes the white stretch out.  Think of this like a picture drawn on a balloon.  As the balloon expands, the lines get further apart.  While sabino results in the tiny dots that so few people desire, splash simply puts the pattern on steroids.  Unfortunately, sabino is so mixed into most horse breeds, that it's almost impossible to get it out of the appaloosa pattern genetics.

I often have people ask me how to get those big monstrous polka dots.  That seems to be the most desired pattern.  Who cares how big of a blanket they have, so long as the dots are HUGE.  Well, this goes back to the sabino.  Horses with big polka dots seem to have no, or very "little" sabino (there's thought to be 8 types of sabino.... they aren't clearly defined yet, so when I say little, I mean one of the less enhancing versions).  If you breed appaloosas with little to no face or leg white, and large patterns, then you will likely end up with large polka dots.  It's really that easy.

And to show you an example of a leopard with large spots... here's Siri.  This is Q's latest foal, bred by Sigrid Ricco.  Siri is owned by Kris Hartman, in New York.

Next, I will be putting all of this together.  Unfortunately, there's just too much for a single blog post!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The LP gene

The LP gene is the main gene needed for Appaloosa coat color.  LP stands for Leopard comPlex.  It causes a few things to happen on its own:

White Sclera.  This is the white part around the eye.  In most horses they have solid dark eyes, but appaloosas (small "a" refers to color pattern, big A refers to the breed) have a human like eye.

Then there's the striped hooves.  Not all appaloosas have striped hooves.  Some have solid amber colored hooves.  Usually, but not always, the amber colored hooves are seen on horses that are homozygous for the leopard complex gene, or LPLP.

Striped hooves are not unique to appaloosas, but they are one of the many traits.  Many horses will have striped hooves on white or partially white legs, while an appaloosa will have striped hooves on a dark leg.  The second picture shows an amber hoof that's smudged with dirt.  Sadly, I never took pictures of amber hooves, so had to go looking at what I could cut out of another picture!  The amber colored hoof on a dark leg is indicative of homozygosity in this horse.  Sadly, most of my homozygous horses have 4 white legs, which would have a "white" hoof on them anyway.

Then there's mottled skin.  The same way that appaloosas have polka dotted hair patterns, they also get spotty skin.  The amount of mottling in the skin often progresses with age, just as the horse's roaning does.  This mottling is often seen around the eyes and lips, as well as the genitals.  Basically places where there's less hair.

And then, there's the progressive roaning.  Here's an example of a horse that roaned severely in just a couple of years:

Shades of Olympic (aka Shadow) as a yearling
Then, that winter she did THIS:

As a 2 year old the next spring:
And this is where she seems to have stopped.  She looks almost identical to this as a 4 year old. ANd yes, a lot of people ask me why my white horse is named "Shadow".

But the most important thing to know about the LP gene, is that it "lights up" the appaloosa patterns.  LP is an incompletely dominant gene.  This means that with 2 recessive copies (lplp) you get a solid horse, or non appaloosa horse (paints and pintos are lplp).  With one dominant copy and one recessive (heterozygous or LPlp) you will get polka dots in the coat.  This is the type of patterning most people think of when they think "appaloosa".  And with 2 dominant copies you will get a horse with no or very few dots in their white pattern.  These are called snowcaps when there is only a white area on the rump/torso, and fewspots or near fewspots where there's white on over 80% of the horse's body.


Lets see if this helps:

This little guy is a bay blanket.  E? Aa LPlp

He is heterozygous for LP (LPlp) so has polka dots in his "dense white area". 

And this is a snowcap:
Notice how this filly has the same size area of white as the colt above?  The difference is that this one doesn't have polka dots in that area, so there's more visible white.

This area is called the "dense white patterning" or a variation thereof (dense white pattern, dense pattern area, etc).

This filly is homozygous for LP, or LPLP.  And yet both of these horses would be considered to have the same "pattern" but a different 'zygosity.

And of course, a horse with 2 recessive lp alleles would look like this:
A normal solid colored horse.  Kiva, shown above, is a great example of what the LP gene does.  Many people assume that because she's solid, she's just like any other horse.  But OH NO!  Kiva there carries a leopard pattern gene.  If she had inherited just one copy of LP, she would have looked like this:
But, without the LP, she looks just like any other seal bay horse.  (That's one of Kiva's ancestors by the way, Stonewall Rebel). The important thing for breeders to know, is that a horse like Kiva can pass on that leopard pattern gene when crossed with a horse carrying at least one copy of dominant leopard complex (LP).

Ok, I think that sentence made MY head hurt.  Lets use pictures instead!

Kiva - E? Ata, lplp, PATN1? (I'll get to the pattern genes later, just trust me for now).  We know that Kiva's parents were both leopards, therefore we know that they both have at least one copy of PATN1.  Kiva could be homozygous for it (PATN1PATN1).

So, if you bred her to a horse with no pattern at birth... such as my lovely Scorch....
Scorch is E? aa LPlp patnpatn.  In other words, he's a solid roan.  Scorch was born with the appy eye, the mottled skin, and has striped hooves.  He's getting a few white hairs, but not a whole lot!

They could produce a foal that looks like this:
Who is really "Formula One Fandango" by my good friend Carrie at Formula One Farms.  Yes, he's an Appaloosa not a Stonewall Sport Horse, but I'm hoping you get the idea.

So, those solid mares from loud pedigrees are rather important in keeping the color alive in the LP breeds.  So often they are thought of as a "waste" or a junk horse, when in fact they have some of the most important genes out there.

If you keep breeding horses with "recognizable" appaloosa patterns back to each other, eventually the recessive lp gene will be lost.  There are many examples of breeding out recessive alleles due to a desired appearance.

Cleveland Bay horses are always bay.  It's extremely rare to find a horse that carries the recessive agouti allele "a".  Friesians require a black coat color for registration.  Before DNA testing, almost all of the stallions were homozygous for Extension of Black (EE).  Today, stallions must be genetically proven to be homozygous in order to be approved for breeding.  You will only find the recessive extension allele "e" in the mares, or stallons that are not accepted as breeding stock.  Soon, it will go away completely.

In appaloosa colored horses, if we breed out the recessive lp gene, we completely change the appearance of the horse.  All horses would end up looking like this:

And I don't know about you, but solid white is BORING!