Jet flight, space travel,
microchips, the Internet, heart bypasses, shots for chicken pox!
Science has taken rapid strides forward in the past sixty
sciences have also noted considerable progress, especially in
the areas of disease prevention and control.
The ubiquitous Coggins test was unknown even thirty years
One area of equine research that once lagged behind has
now come to the forefront because of the economic impact coat
color serves in determining the market value of horses.
This new genetic research demands an end to the
differences in nomenclature once accepted by various breed
On page 36, Vol.1 of the first
TWHBEA Register published, nine color choices are listed for
horses eligible for the new registry.
These were: sorrel,
chestnut, black, roan (red, strawberry, chestnut and blue),
white, bay, brown, grey, and yellow.
The yellow category did not distinguish the color of the
mane and tail. Bowing
to the will of science, the TWHBEA now divides golden-diluted
horses into two major groups, distinguished by the presence or
absence of pink skin and amber eyes.
Since these two groups breed quite distinctly, this
change reflects the impact of the most recent coat color
research, as well as the observations of astute breeders across
However, palominos and buckskins, along with pink-skinned
champagnes, are in the minority in terms of Tennessee Walker
coat color when compared to other distinct groups that have
predominated since before the registry’s formation.
The golden-coated walkers are a result of the dilution of
the basic coat color with another gene.
Other variations of basic sorrel, chestnut, bay and black
result from genetic packages termed patterns.
add white to the base color.
A number of patterns occur among registered Tennessee
Walkers. Grey and
tobiano have distinct listings on the application for
other two are lumped together as roan, a term used for decades.
Recent research indicates, though, that two different
genetic patterns are represented, producing distinguishable
phenotypes, (outward appearances), and more seriously, possible
reproductive problems if two individuals bearing the same roan
genetic pattern are mated together.
The true roan, as accepted by most American as well as
European breed associations, is a horse with an even
distribution of white hairs in the base coat.
The evenness of the white hairs in the pattern often
results in a horse with a very silver body that, in the black
version, is sometimes mistaken for grey.
The white hairs are not present on the head or lower
legs, or in the mane and tail, which always appear darker than
the body. White
markings, if present, are very conservative.
Roan is a dominant genetic pattern that is always
heterozygous because: if
two roans mated together produce a homozygous embryo, the foal
dies in-utero. The
most famous roan line in Tennessee Walker Horses is probably
that founded by GO BOY’S
SOUVENIER, whose roan dam “V”
was sired by the roan stallion, JOE
RUTHERFORD, whose dam was a roan mare with no
markings, MC WHORTERS NELL
X-1120, later accorded registration #441702.
Among Tennessee Walkers is a second pattern of white
hairs mixed in the base coat.
This pattern is rare among other breeds, with the
exception of the British Clydesdale.
The second pattern does not produce an even silvering of
the base coat. The
white pattern may be sprinkled in one place on the coat,
yet concentrated at another to produce small, medium-sized, or
large body spots. Spots
can also occur on the face and lower legs, not just the body.
The markings are as erratic as the roaning.
Stockings are generally high, often running up past the
knee and hock joints. Faces
generally sport a wide blaze at minimum; more often are bald.
Sometimes the markings on the head and neck, or the hocks
and rump, merge to create eye-arresting body spots that intrigue
by the very uniqueness of their patterns.
Other individuals carry rather unobtrusive belly spots
that are less noticeable. Still
other horses with the gene for this pattern show only the
evidence of two or more high stockings, a wide blaze, and a few
white hairs in the base coat.
This pattern, more common than the roan pattern among
Tennessee Walkers, has several names.
Two of the more common are
“calico roan” and “sabino”.
The sabino pattern is not a pattern of roaning at all,
but a spotting pattern, along with tobiano and overo.
Unlike the roan with its absolute heterozygosity, the
sabino occurs in a homozygous form.
The maximally expressed sabino is a white horse with the
solid color, if expressed, generally on the top of the head and
such a white horse would always produce a sabino offspring when
crossed with a solid-colored horse, or at least a foal capable
of transmitting the sabino pattern to its offspring.
From the horses designated as foundation sires and dams
of the TWHBEA Register, twelve are listed as roan.
One prominent older bloodline is represented by the
stallion given the foundation number F-25.
F-25 is described as a “roan horse, four stocking,
and spot on belly, bald”.
stallion was a classic spotted sabino.
A more popular foundation stallion, ROAN
ALLEN F-28, bred by James Brantley, is described as
“a roan horse, both hind stockings, fore socks, strip”.
ROAN ALLEN F-38
was not a roan at all, but a minimally expressed sabino.
The son retained as ROAN
ALLEN’S replacement as head sire on the Brantley
farm, BRANTLEY’S ROAN
ALLEN, JR. #350066, is described as a “roan horse,
four stockings, spot on shoulder and side, bald”.
Perhaps the influence of the third dam, a daughter of EARNHEART’S
BROOKS, contributed to the extensive spotting pattern
that BRANTLEY’S ROAN ALLEN,
When crossed with the foundation mare SALLIE
F-45, who was sired by ROAN
ALLEN F-38, BRANTLEY’S ROAN ALLEN, JR. sired the
solid white mare LILLIE WHITE
#350074, the first World Champion Aged Mare crowned at the 1939
The sabino’s were the first spotted Tennessee Walking
Horses common among the original plantation walkers whose genes
contributed to the pool of stock accepted into the infant TWHBEA
Registry in 1935. Before
a few tobiano’s received registration certificates as the
registry began, sabino’s were creating excitement under
saddle, in harness, and behind the plow.
In the 1935 Register, thirteen percent of the horses
registered were spotted sabino’s, with even more of the
non-spotted or white sabino’s accorded registration numbers.
The Tennessee Walking Horse breed features a genetic
pattern that is rare in the equine world but common in the
breed’s history. The
sabino pattern should be given the recognition that other
patterns representing a smaller percentage of the breed now
If you are an owner of sabino's, with a sabino foal to
register, or breed for this pattern as a preference, it is up to
you to voice your opinion, if you wish this distinction to be on
your foal’s registrations.
Should dozens of breeder insist that their pattern
receive the same recognition as rarer colors, their voices will
be heard! Write a
note or letter accompanying the foal’s application for
registration, send a copy of the pattern description from a
genetics book or article, and insist that your foal is not a
roan and should not be incorrectly registered as such.
Be firm in your insistence and just say “SABINO!”
TWHBEA now recognizes the pattern of sabino.
Franne Brandon stated in an email to me (Vicky Stenmo) on
1-29-01 that sabino is “now considered to be a polygenic
trait, meaning it comes out better if the solid-colored parent
has sabino in the background, sports stockings itself, etc.
Also, some solid horses appear to be dominant to sabino,
but would not be to tobiano, a dilute gene, etc.” Franne also
describes the term "heathered roaning" as:
"Heathered roaning" is what I call the effect of the
roan hairs mixed in the sabino coat. It mutes, or
lightens, the value of the base color. The Spanish word
sabino means "a lighter shade of red." In
contrast, the roan hairs of the true roan create a very silver
effect that is sometimes confused with gray."