by Colleen Yarger, George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Library Collections
“Huh, well that’s different…”
I noted in the early hours of a Monday morning in the dark and empty Library’s main reading room. When I made this statement, I was transferring files from the Patricia Williams MacVeagh Photo Collection to Internet Archive, and a photo capturing rider Beth Cantrell and her horse, Foolish Chance, going over a jump had just finished uploading.
Over the course of my life, I have seen tens of thousands of horses: in life, in illustration, and in photographs. But I wasn’t prepared for this.
Take a look for yourself:
Do you see it? That face. What a captivating and beguiling face!
Racking my brain, I conjured a mental image of the page in my childhood horse book that detailed markings for a horse’s face. I began listing them off one by one in my head…Snip… Star… Stripe… Blaze… And…then I faltered, realizing I was at a loss for words, not because I forgot something, but rather I never learned a name for a coat-colored patch of hairs in the middle of a blaze.
Fortuitously, the Library boasts an exceptionally large collection of equine books. A quick search of its holdings produced two that appeared to contain the amount of satisfying detail I was craving on the subject horse coloring:
- Jeanette Gower, Horse Color Explained: A Breeder’s Perspective (North Pomfret, Vermont, 1999).
- D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, Equine Color Genetics (Iowa State University Press, 1996).
A mystery! Even a pintsized one is a thrilling challenge. With a couple of steps, I reached the light control panel, punching the buttons that bring the dark Library to life.
Striding past the rows, I simultaneously recite the cataloguing in my head, A is for Art… B is for Equine…and for a brief moment, I allow the gravity of a digression about the length of time I would need to read all of the books to take hold. But I must not get distracted! Reining in my thoughts from the acknowledgment of the sheer magnitude of latent sporting knowledge contained in these books back to the present… the B 10s, here we are!
Plucking the titles off the shelf, I return to my chair, settling in and preparing myself to become an informational sponge, intent on absorbing the feast of facts and stories these covers contain.
Amongst the best Jeopardy facts, such as male horses typically have more white markings than females, and rear legs are more marked than forelegs, was a diagram that elaborated upon more types of white markings than my childhood book (see below). Unfortunately, the diagram did not go so far as to classify what Foolish Chance bears.
Perhaps broadening my scope from white markings to the larger topic of broken color in a horse’s appearance would produce an answer? I began delving into chapters discussing tobiano, sabino, overo, and paint. Since Foolish Chance has a chinspot, the horse is a carrier of sabino genes, in which spots do occur.
However, this territory on spots becomes a little murky. The word “spot” becomes used interchangeably to refer to patches that are a horse’s coat color as well as those that are white. Nevertheless, this may be the best explanation for Foolish Chance’s unique facial characteristics.
I am keen to continue enhancing my understanding of horse coloring and markings and I would like to close this blog with a request. Since I have only just begun this journey, if you have any recommendations for sources, please reach out to me and let me know. The books here are a tremendous resource, but our greatest assets are our members and the community.
Thank you in advance and I look forward to hearing from you!