Flaxen


ShquestaStand

 

Although silver tails – Gulastra’s Plume from the previous post – are perhaps better known, bay Arabians appear to have a range of flaxen or silver mixtures in their manes or tails. This Arabian mare, Shquesta, has another combination that I have seen in at least one other Arabian. Her mane has a mixture of silver hairs. From the distance in this photo, it might be mistaken for sun-fading. Up close it is more obvious that a small percentage of her mane grows in silver.

Shquesta4

 

Although her tail is normal, the white hairs are not limited to her mane. They are also present on her pasterns. The hairs are more pronounced on the hind feet than the front, though they are present on all four legs. The photo to the left was taken in the late fall, and the one to the right was taken in the summer. She has no other white markings.

Shquesta is in her teens. In the six years I have known her, the portion of white hairs have not changed by any noticeable amount.

Shquesta5

 

The other Arabian I had seen with this same kind of mane silvering was the Courthouse Stud stallion Benjamin (by Champurrado). I had only seen him in old black and white photos, but the silvering was always visible. What I had not noticed, until I met Shquesta and pulled out those old pictures, was that he also appears to have silver pasterns on his unmarked forelegs.

Shquesta and Benjamin are pretty subtle. There have been bay Arabians with silver manes and tails that are far more pronounced. Most recently these have included the mare MP Festival. Her sire Stival has a flaxen mane, though it is less pronounced than here. She is probably the most dramatic of the flaxen bay Arabians.

MP Festival is what most people would call a wild bay. That is, a bay with very reduced black at the points. In the last post the question was raised whether or not the pony with the silver tail was just a wild bay. That is a very good question. Just what is the relationship between these flaxen points and wild bay? Certainly if silver is ruled out, flaxen manes on bays are much more common in breeds where wild bay is seen. Yet some horses like Shquesta do not really look like obvious wild bays. And there are also bays with reduced black on the legs that have a fully black mane and tail. Shquesta does not have deeply pigmented black legs of the kind that some bay horses have, but they are more filled in than what most would call wild bay. But where does the line get drawn?

Is this elderly Arabian, Omi, a wild bay?

Omi1

Notice that his lower legs turn silvery at the heels in the back, and just above the fetlocks in the front, much like many wild bays do. Yet his mane and tail are completely, deeply black. (All the white hairs on his face and neck are from age – he is in his mid-t0-late twenties here.)

Omi3

 

Compare the points on Omi to those of the Miniature Horse, Thumper. He is an appaloosa, so the silvering on Thumper is unrelated to his shade of bay, but Thumper is an excellent example of what the points on an unquestionable wild bay look like.

ThumperWild

 

Here is a close-up of his legs that show the limited nature of the black on his legs.

ThumperWild2

 

So the question is, “What is the full range of black points on a wild bay? What is the upper limit for the black on the points?” Of course, it would be helpful if there was a test for wild bay, as there is for brown. Being able to rule wild bay in or out would be helpful in assessing the relationship between it and flaxen manes and tails.

 

Although bay horses with the silver dilution look a lot like a bay horse with a flaxen mane and tail, not all bay horses that have lighter manes and tails are necessarily red silvers. There are other reasons a bay horse may have a lighter mane or tail. The next few posts will show some of these red silver mimics.

The first of these is what Arabian breeders often call a Gulastra Plume. The trait takes its name from the Arabian stallion Gulastra. Gulastra himself was a chestnut with a self-colored tail, but flaxen tails were said it was common on his bay descendants. Like a lot of color variations named for specific horses, the “founder” is not necessarily the horse responsible for the original mutation. It is more accurate to say they brought attention to the trait. So not all horses with a Gulastra Plume are descendants of Gulastra. Some have no known Arabian blood at all, like the stout pony at the top of this post.

In other breeds, it is sometimes called silvertail. Compared to an ordinary bay tail, the tail does look silver, but the lighter hairs often have a warm, flaxen tone rather than a cool, silvery one. Some silver-tailed bays – like this guy – have reduced black points on the legs, and flaxen hairs on the lower parts of the leg are not uncommon. This can make them even more likely to be mistaken for a bay silver, but the dark tones on the points are truly black and not a diluted chocolate. It is also possible to find silver tails on bays that have fully black points, though the reduced black seems to be more common.

Most horses with a Gulastra Plume do not have significantly lighter manes. This guy has a few white hairs interspersed in what is an otherwise fully black mane. From a distance, his mane looked black. Were he a silver (even an older silver), I would expect to see some hint of flaxen at least at the forelock.

Here is a comparison shot of this guy’s tail (to the far right) and two of the previously posted red silvers. Notice how the variegation is a bit different with  the two types of tails. Silver dilute tails shift in tone in a way that reminds me of ombré textiles (and the current human hair trend of the same name), whereas the Gulastra Plume is more of a mixture of the two colors.

 

That said, there may well be quite a bit of variation in the tails of horses with a Gulastra Plume. To my knowledge, it has not been formally studied, and as the posts over the next few days will show, the situation with flaxen and silver manes and tails on bays is not entirely clear. It is quite possible that there are multiple factors producing similar results. For that reason, it is often the color of the legs (chocolate rather than black) that is often more reliable when trying to identify bay silvers.