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Friday inspirations 2

A bay tobiano draft cross mare with color on her head, chest, flanks and tail tip

Although I said to expect randomness in the Friday Inspiration posts, this week’s group of horses does have a theme. My feature photo is a tobiano Draft cross mare. Although I do not know if she has been tested, my hunch is that she is heterozygous for tobiano. I would also expect her to test negative for any other pattern. This is what I think of as a stereotypical example of tobiano. 

The horses I have shared below are each, in their own way, not typical tobianos. (Boldfaced titles link to the clearest available image of the horse)

Síða frá Sauðárkróki

Cover of the book "Alte Zuchtlinien" showing the Icelandic mare Sida

No group of unusual tobianos would be complete without this influential mare. I can also share her image since she is pictured on the cover of a German book on Icelandic bloodlines. (Clicking on the image will take you to where you can order a copy.)

The first time I saw a picture of Síða, I was struck by how closely her pattern resembled a frame overo. She had a daughter and a son with classic tobiano patterns, both from solid black sires, so it was clear what she was. I assumed her pattern “slipped” to one side. If you imagine the white that usually appears along the topline of a moderately marked tobiano and slide it down the left side of the horse, you would get something like this. Later, when I found a picture of her right side, I could see that the pattern isn’t shifted to the side as much as it originates from the underside (rather than the topline) of the horse. Meanwhile, she seems to be entirely missing some of the white on her legs. 

There is an article about her in this document (page 6). There is another image of the pattern on her right side. (The text is in German.)

The other breed where this upside-down origin for tobiano is common is the Shetland Pony. In my second book, I wrote about how tobiano is often minimized, skewed, or otherwise altered in Shetland and Shetland-related breeds. These images come from an illustration from that section of the book.

illustration of three ponies (left and right sides) that have skewed tobiano patterns

The three images in the graphic are all Shetland Ponies. (The missing fourth image from the graphic was the pattern on Síða.) With more extensive white on the body, all three appear to have a patch of color that centers on the back. That is unusual because the back is one of the places where white on a tobiano originates. The points of origin are areas where the horse is most likely to be white.

The next pony in this group shows what that can look like when the white patterning is even more extensive.

Butterstor Joey

(Butterstor Elliott – Butterstor Alice, South Sands Jackanapes)

Clearly, the white isn’t originating on the back because other than the head and tail tip, that’s the only large area of color. It is not a case of the color slipping because Joey’s left side is similar to the right. 

The small, irregular patches are most likely a sign he is homozygous. Although sabino-type patterns can boost the white and break up the patches on a tobiano, those types of mutations seem largely absent in the (British) Shetland Pony. His dark face suggests that would be unlikely even if it were possible. Atypical homozygous spotting is another quirk found in Shetlands, though it is not exclusive to them.

Halstock X-Man 

Tobiano patterns can be visualized as large, overlapping ovals. The outline of the pattern – absent influence from sabino – is more or less rounded. This guy didn’t get that memo. His pattern has multiple pointy bits over the loins. His other side is similar, with the added quirk of disconnected patch over his right leg. Here is a different angle on that front leg. 

If you look at Síða and the ponies in the illustration, these topline patches often come to a pronounced point around the area where the hair growing backward along the barrel meets the hair growing up and outward from the flank. That seems a consistent feature in this type of skewed tobiano patterning. 

There is another breed with a large number of unusual tobianos: the Mangalarga. Minimizing or skewing the pattern can mean a horse no longer has the four white legs considered typical for tobiano. However, what happens in the Mangalargas is different. There, dark-footed tobianos usually have classic patterns – or classic sabino-influenced patterns – with what looks like a reversed leg marking. Markings like this have occurred in other breeds on rare occasions. What makes the Mangalargas remarkable is how often it happens; the horses here are just a few examples.

Vaticano do AEJ

A popular theory for reversed markings (among online commentators, at least) is that they signify a “suppressed” pattern. This stallion is an excellent illustration of why that is unlikely to be the case. His tobiano pattern has been boosted by a sabino pattern, which is typical of the breed. (The link to his dam, Cherokee Jedi, is worth checking out as an example of how the form of sabino present in Mangalargas interacts with tobiano.)

La Fitte do PEC

(Eufrates do PEC – Carrara VAT, Amigo JO)

Mangalargas with reversed markings usually have a colored sock or stocking on a hind leg. Every now and again, they have reversed markings on both hind legs. This young horse is the first I have seen with one on the front and one on the opposite hind.

Ouro da Araxá

(Topázio JMJ x Ética da Tarlim, Prêmio do Otnacer)

As this colt shows, reversed leg markings can be found on Mangalargas with sabino patterns. Because the typical tobiano has four white (or mostly white) legs, it is easier to see reversed markings for what they are. On non-tobianos, a reversed marking might cover white markings entirely, making it look like the horse had an unmarked leg. In the case of sabinos, what is left of a white leg marking might look like the disconnected knee or stifle patches that occur in that pattern. Here is a good example of a horse with a patch on a hind leg that could be either. However, the large number of horses marked like Ouro suggest that the cause for reversed leg markings in Mangalargas is separate from the tobiano pattern.

Breeder’s website (with more sabinos with reversed markings)


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