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Friday inspirations 4

a bay heavy draft horse with a flaxen mane
Bonair, bay Swedish Ardennes used for breeding Polish Coldbloods.

When I began work on the first Equine Tapestry books, I was humbled by how people generously shared information about their breeds. One of those people was Mateusz Kaca. Not only did Mateusz have encyclopedic knowledge of the Zimnokrwista (Polish Coldblood), but he also shared his extensive photo collection. That is how I learned about the stallion featured in today’s post, Bonair.

With his flaxen mane, many would mistake Bonair for a bay silver. It would not be an unreasonable assumption. Silver is present in quite a few heavy draft breeds. What makes draft breeds challenging when identifying silver is that they also have colors that mimic silver. One of those colors is a version of bay where the mane has pronounced flaxen highlights.

Two breeds used in the formation of the Zimnokwiste were the North Swedish Horse (Nordsvensk Brukshäst) and the Swedish Ardennes. The color variation is not uncommon in either of those, so it seems likely they were the source for it in the Polish horses. Bonair, who is licensed for breeding Coldbloods in Poland, is a Swedish Ardennes.

I’ll start this week’s group with a similar North Swedish stallion.

(Remember that clicking on the title for each horse takes you to a linked image.)

Hårleman 2037

(Vind 1942 - Hannha 22665, Norne 1851)

The North Swedish Horse’s long, natural mane and tail show off this type of coloring. It also makes it easier to see how the flaxen is coming from the guard hairs of the mane and the tail. This is different from a silver bay, where the roots of the mane tend to be darker than the tips. It is more similar to the “frosting” seen on duns. I suspect that the dramatic bi-color effect on Fjords comes from the fact that they may be this type of bay under the dun coloring.

Information page (has an image of his other side and his pedigree)

Video (shows the mane and tail very clearly)

His flaxen-maned son, Sånny 2136.

The Swedish Ardennes have another color that can be confused with bay silver. Unlike the previous horses that are genetically bay but have flaxen manes, these horses are genetically chestnut but have black-shaded legs. Although many sooty chestnuts have darker knees and sometimes even heels, the black hairs on these horses more closely mimic the shading seen on wild bays or bay duns.

Rutger 11810

(Whiskey 11728 – Ramona 115777, Armon 11458)

The image linked in the title shows this horse with dark, mottled legs reminiscent of the legs of a bay silver. In the picture on his information page (below), he looks more uniformly dark with a silvery mane. Sooty horses tend to darken with age.

Younger (looking more typically flaxen chestnut)

Another image (he looks more like a dark bay in this image, and his flaxen mane is visible)

Another breed where this type of sooty chestnut can be seen is the Silesian Noriker (Slezský Norik). In addition to producing dark-legged chestnuts, some of the horses from these lines end up with a dappling pattern that mimics silver dapple. Usually, this kind of all-over, vivid dappling is rare in genetically red horses unless they also have the cream dilution. This particular shade of chestnut seems to be the exception.

1061 Brynet

(2367 Brys – 69/225 Cora, 2412 Gonet)

This horse’s sire, Brys, is very similar in color to Rutger (the Ardennes posted above). This type of sootiness seems to be passed down consistently among his descendants.

His paternal half-brother, 2952 Brys Slezský (very similar in color to Rutger)

A half-sister to his dam, 24/247 Gospe, showing silvery black mottled lower legs

Queen’s Nicole

This New Forest mare has a sire that is very similar in color to the two dark-legged draft stallions in this group. With her palomino coloring, the concentration of the black hairs on the lower legs is much easier to see. Another unusual thing about her – and her sire – is that their sootiness is apparent when they are young. Although sootiness tends to develop with age, a sooty horse can start out dark. (Note there are no greys among the three most immediate generations of her pedigree.)

I will round out this group with two bay silvers that illustrate how thinking of the color as “bay with a flaxen mane and tail” can be misleading.

Sebbetåas Silba

If you click on the link in the title, you’ll see that the lower legs on this Nordland mare are only slightly different in color from the rest of her body. You can see from the way her forelock parts that her mane has the “blonde with dark roots” effect that is typical of silver bay. Her points also have a chocolate cast, which differs from the sooty horses’ cooler, silvery tone.  

Breeder’s page (with many photos showing seasonal and age variations)

It makes sense that some bay silvers only have a subtle difference in the color of their legs when you see the range of what is possible in black silvers. Because the legs are black, that color is diluted, just as it would be on the whole horse if it were black. Not only do individual black silvers vary in how dark they are, but they often change with the seasons.

Here is a black silver Miniature mare, Ellie, in her summer coat.

a dark chocolate silver dappled Miniature Horse in summer coat

This is the same mare in winter. Notice how pale her legs are in this photo.

the same mare as a the previous image in heavy winter coat, pale cream in color with more subtle dapples

Lauvdalens Mjølner

The previous mare had very little contrast in her main linked image. In the title image for this Nordland stallion, the legs are significantly paler than the body. If you transfer the color on Ellie’s legs – which are genetically black! – to this stallion, you can see why.

This is how bay silvers can be mistaken for flaxen chestnut. If you look again at Mjølner’s title picture, the best way to see “bay” for him is to look at the countershading on his face. It is subtle, but the difference between bay and chestnut is visible on the face.

in the foreground is the face of a bay silver pony, while in the background is a red chestnut mare. The two are almost the same shade of red, but the bay silver has black countershading on the face

In addition to including horses with notable colors on Friday, I’ve tried to link to horses from less familiar breeds. Or at least less familiar to most American readers! I have had requests that I include further information on the breeds. One of my favorite ways to learn about a breed is to find approved stallion lists or catalogs. With that in mind, if you’d like to see more of the Nordland breed, here is the 2023 Stallion Catalog.

1 Comment

No Name
No Name
Jun 09

"It is more similar to the “frosting” seen on duns. I suspect that the dramatic bi-color effect on Fjords comes from the fact that they may be this type of bay under the dun coloring" For me it's "simply" pangaré/mealy that do that on the mane. Fjord have it too so it's the same "genes" and the same effect for me. Not frosting like Buckskin.

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