It used to be when a walking horse took home the floral horse shoe, the flowers were draped over a solid black animal. On rare occasions, a chestnut or a bay walked on with the win, but those three choices were about it.
These days, even though the blacks, dark bays, chestnuts and sorrels still dominate, more attention is being given to a horse of a different color. Lots of different horses, and lots of different colors. But just what are they? How can you tell a true white and why isn't gray considered a color?
The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitor's Association lists a chart of acceptable breed colors on the website at twhbea.com, including:
BAY -- The body color ranges from light reddish brown to a deep, or "blood," reddish brown, and the "points" (ear rims, feet, mane and tail) are black.
BLACK -- Many people call their horses black when they are really dark browns, deep bays or smoky blacks. Then again, they may think a black horse is really a bay because the black coat can sunburn and turn brown. The black horse's entire body color is black, including the hair around its muzzle. The smoky black is a black horse with one cream dilution gene. The body color can vary from dark brown to almost black with brown hair in the ears.
BROWN -- The brown horse's body color is black except for lighter brown areas around the muzzle, eyes, *¬‚anks, and insides of the legs.
CHESTNUT/SORREL -- Red is red, right? Wrong. Chestnuts vary in shade from a light golden red to a dark reddish brown. The colors of the mane and tale can help ID this color. Chestnuts tend to have manes and tales of a slightly darker shade than the coat color. Sorrels are a chestnut variation where the manses and tails are flaxen, sometimes nearly white. The touch of red on the coat is what keeps a sorrel from being a palomino, and the lack of a black mane and tail keep the chestnut from being a bay.
It's like a logic puzzle for horse fans. TRUE OR FALSE: Palominos are gold. Palominos are horses. All gold horses must be palominos.
The answer is false. In fact, there is such a wide variety of "gold" horses and their variations that many have their own registries and guidelines. For Tennessee walking horses, however, the cream and gold colors officially recognized include:
PALOMINO -- The palomino horse is a chestnut with one cream gene that dilutes the body to a golden color with white mane and tail. The color can range from pale gold to a deep gold, but one way to tell the difference between palominos and the champagne and cream horses is that palominos always have dark skin.
BUCKSKIN -- How many of us grew up watching Marshal Dillon ride into the sunset on his buckskin horse? The gold colored animal with the black mane and tail is actually a bay, but it has one cream dilution gene which dilutes only body color to any shade from creamy tan to sooty brown with black mane, tail, legs and black ear rims. At least one parent must have a cream gene.
CLASSIC CHAMPAGNE -- The classic champagne is a black horse diluted by a champagne gene. The body color varies in shade from a dove color to a dark chocolate and the points are a darker shade of the same color. The foal coat color is almost black at birth and the skin is pink and as the horse ages freckles develop on the pink skin. The eye color is always blue at birth and changes to brown or hazel color. At least one parent must be champagne. Other champagne variations include amber, where the body color can vary from a golden tan body color with chocolate brown points, though the legs are often lighter than the mane and tail; amber cream, with a creamy tan body color with light to medium brown points with the legs often lighter than the mane and tail; classic cream, which is usually born a creamy off white and darkens to a rich or dark creamy color; the gold champagne can vary from pale to dark golden color with the