From The Book


It occurs to me that in my last post, I linked to an outdated image of the cover of the upcoming book. I was very fortunate to be able to include several images of the manchado Polo Pony, Vasco Piskui, in the upcoming volume. The photographer, Alice Gipps, had such wonderful, clear images of this rare pattern that I had to put him on the cover. An image of his other side, as well as a view that shows the topline origin of this pattern, will appear inside the book.

Lining up high-quality images for the book is the focus of my work at the moment. I want to take full advantage of the color printing, as well as use the opportunity to present horses of unusual colors in the most flattering way possible.


This is probably the longest this blog has gone without a new post, and I want to thank all the readers who have stuck with me. I have not dropped off the face of the earth, but I have gotten sucked into alternate universe of preparing a book for press. I had hoped to continue posting here at least intermittently through that process, but juggling the demands of the book and the studio have consuming most of my time. If I am going to make my summer deadline for the new book, I am going to have to put the blog on hiatus for the next month or two.


The upside is that the book that will come out this summer, Equine Tapestry: An Introduction to Colors and Patterns, has grown in scope. I originally intended it as the wished-for color version of the first volume, or more accurately, a color version of the first half which talks about the different colors and patterns. (The second half, which covers the individual breeds, had primarily black and white historical photos.) I also thought I could take the opportunity to expand some of the sections on the oddities, most of which were just mentioned in passing. I was particularly interested in expanding the entries on belton patterning, since I have come to believe there is more than one kind, as well as the various kinds of mismarks and somatic mutations. And of course, I could use more photos since color opened up the possibility to communicate so much more information. This opened the way for the “mission creep” that turned the original Equine Tapestry into a four-volume set! Well, now five volumes, since this new book is a supplement to the series.

It started with the belton patterning, and the fact that the outlines I used in Volume 1 were not really suited to showing the patterning. I needed a horse with a more clearly turned head to show the full face. I also thought that if I was going to do that, I might as well finish up the revised pony outline, too. The pony used in Volume 1 proved problematic because I drew him with long hair, making him a poor choice for any illustrations that communicated information about pattern outlines – which is most of them. So new outlines were drawn.


The new outlines encouraged me to think about gaps in the information in the original book, and before I knew it I had plans for more charts, and a longer wish-list of photos to include – and much less time for managing the blog or even my personal correspondence.

My goal for the next few weeks is to draw some lines on the scope of this new book so I can accurately assess my publication deadlines. Once I have that done, I’ll better know when the blog is likely to go back online. I will still be posting intermittently on the blog’s Facebook page, since I can usually do that fairly quickly. (I am an avid user of my personal Facebook page, since that allows me to keep some contact with friends and family even in the most obsessive stages of book writing.) Rest assured, though, that it only seems like I am being silent! And once the book is put to bed, I will be chatting here again.


I finished sculpting this tile just as I began work on the first volume of Equine Tapestry. Little did I know that its title, “Inspire”, would be so appropriate for the next phase of my life. In the process of writing and publishing the book, I have learned so much, and met so many interesting people, that it would be hard not to be inspired! With that in mind, I wanted to give at least a bit of an update on what will be happening on the horse color side of things in 2013.

My original plan, once the first book was published, was to go back to the studio and finish the many projects that were set aside to focus on the book. I did not count on the fact that once out there, the book – and this blog – might take me in new directions. I am still working on finding the right balance between researching, writing and studio work. And amidst all this, the technology on the publishing side of things has been changing. I am far more accustomed to planning according to the pace at which ceramic technology changes – which is to say, not much at all! – than that of electronic publishing. Some of the limitations that determined my choices when I began work on Volume I are no longer there, while some of the other avenues that seemed so promising have proven to be less than they seemed. As a result, some of my publishing plans have changed.

Good News on Color Printing

The most common comment I received about Volume I was that people wished it was in color. When I began the project, my original printer offered color, but I was extremely disappointed in the quality and consistency of their color. Proofs that should have immediately been caught as being unacceptably off were common, while the cost was high enough to place the book out of the range for many readers. Issues with cost and print quality caused me to switch to a second printer which (at that time) did not offer full-color books as an option. While I would have liked to publish the book in color, the lack of it was designed into the book. Because so much of the book was about historical animals, many of the images were black and white from the start. I was confident that for the front matter, which had the color descriptions, I could select photos that translated well enough in black and white.

What I did not take into account was that the book, although written to talk about color in the context of breed history, would be the most current in a field that has been rapidly changing. The front matter, “Color Descriptions”, was just supposed to get readers on the same page so that when the different breeds were discussed, the colors mentioned would make sense. What many readers relayed to me was that the front half of the book was like a book within a book. It was also this portion of the book that the lack of color was most keenly noticed.

That was on my mind this past fall, when I found a printer that could provide full color at a reasonable price. At first I intended to just reissue Volume I in full color, but as I worked on the redesign, it really struck me how the compromises I made for the material to work in black and white no longer applied. Images that I had left out because they did not provide real information without color could be included. The temptation to include whole spreads of color images was there. Only now my limitation was not the lack of color, but the new printer’s page limits. And so a new idea took shape: a color supplement to the series.


So work is underway for Equine Tapestry: An Introduction to Colors and Patterns. This will be an expanded version of the front half of Volume I, with more detailed information, particularly on some of combination colors and the lesser-known variations that are either left out or only covered in passing in the first book. It will also be more extensively illustrated with full-color photos and illustrations.


The target is to have the new book available in the spring of 2013. Until I have a final page count, I will not have a price, but my goal is to keep it around $35.00.

What About the Kindle Version?

As many of you know, my original plan to work around the color problem was to release the book for the Kindle. Original tests done using my own Kindle made this seem like the most promising solution. Unfortunately I have never been able to repeat those same results since those early tests. I ran up against serious degradation of the photos and the captions, even though this was not an issue when I had tested them several months prior. Because all the translation is done through Amazon, and not in-house, I was at a loss for what caused the change. On the heels of that issue came the warning that Amazon had a surcharge for downloading image-intensive books that was passed along to authors. What seemed like an easy answer was less appealing than it originally appeared, especially given that there was going to be a significant learning curve for me to translate the book. As a result, the electronic version was placed on hold, at least for the time being.

That is not to say there will not eventually be an electronic version. I have been given some good leads on how to sell PDF downloads directly from my own site, which many have inquired about in the past. I have also been experimenting with the Apple-based iBooks as well, though I am not sure how widespread devices like the iPad are among potential readers. At the moment electronic formats are taking a back seat to getting files ready for traditional print, but if I can find a system that works for both me and for readers, I will move forward with it.

Other Projects

One of the most surprising aspects of writing the book is how often I am now asked to write. I still think of myself as a potter who likes to talk about horse color, and not truly a writer, even though I have been writing on and off for various publications for decades now. Those requests have gotten a lot more frequent in the last year, which in part explains the gaps of silence here on the blog. Even a prolific chatterer like me only has so much they can say, even about their favorite subject, on any given day! I hope to integrate these projects a little more seamlessly into my other commitments over the next year, though I suspect these interruptions will continue to some extent. I will link to published pieces as they arise.

One thing I hope to improve on the blog is a more timely response to submissions. At the top of this list is the Splashed White Project, which migrated over to my website, but has not yet been fully launched. I will also be working my way through my shamefully backlogged inbox, so if you get a reply after waiting forever, you will know why.

In the meantime, I wish all of you a happy – and colorful! – New Year!

My husband says there is a saying in product development that there always comes a time when you have to shoot the designer, or the product will never make it to the marketplace. It probably says a lot about his good sense that he waited to mention this until after I approved the final proof – one of a seemingly endless successions of “final” proofs – of the book. There is no question that the designer on this project (that would be me) should have been shot some time ago!

But it is done. As I type this, I am waiting for confirmation that Amazon has begun to stock it. It is already available for order from my own website, which has recently been revamped. Now when you visit, you’ll get a splash page that asks if you are looking for information on the pottery or horse color. Clicking on the Horse Color link will take you to information about horse color, and from there to a page where you can order the print version of the book. (The Kindle version is still in the works.)

In the next few weeks, I will be doing some much-needed maintenance work on both the website and this blog. On the top of my list is moving the Splash Project page to the website. While this blog is wonderful for free-form discussion, I have more options for organizing the information on the Splash Project page with a true web page. I also plan to work on a better structure (and more consistent use of) the blog categories. With more than a year’s worth of archived posts now, the ability to find past topics of interest is even more important.

This will also help me put together a list of those topics that never were developed as intended. While the posts here tend to wander a bit, I do try to go back and finish those posts that were meant to be a set, but that hasn’t always happened. Now that the book is put to bed, I will try to tie up some of the loose ends here. I also have a really large backlog of posts that have waiting while I was finishing up the book. It has only seemed quiet here for the last few weeks!

Really I was looking at too many of these…

Those are page spreads from Color Descriptions section of the book. Here is one from the chapter on Hackneys in the Breeds section.

It has been a long process, and I have certainly learned a lot about publishing in the past year. Hopefully that will pay off in a shortened time frame for the next few volumes!

I apologize for neglecting this blog this past month. My time has been almost completely absorbed in the final production work for the book. The good news is that the book is just a few weeks away from publication, though I am almost afraid to jinx it by saying so! What time hasn’t been spent on the book has gone towards a handful of print articles. This has all meant that the blog has languished simply because I couldn’t face writing anything more.

Which is a shame because I sure haven’t lacked for things to share. While I have been quiet, all manner of interesting things have been piling up on my desk and in my inbox. One of them is the picture at the top of this blog. I truly wanted to include it in the book, but I never heard back from the Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums regarding commercial usage of the image. They do allow non-commercial use, though, so I thought I would share it here on the blog. The reason I wanted it for the book is that I have a chapter on the now-extinct Hanoverian Creams. Those were the ceremonial carriage horses that were once used by British royalty, but are now extinct. They have long held a certain fascination for horse color researchers because their exact color is not known. The other mystery is what ever became of them. It is known that some of their Continental relatives ended up in the Wulff Circus, and that a handful of the British horses ended up with Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake. This image caught my eye because the horse has the same diluted coat with the very dark mane and tail that is seen in some of the later images of the Creams. But even more interesting, the photo is part of a group associated with Lord John Sanger’s circus. There is a connection between Sanger and Tyrwhitt-Drake, so it is quite plausible that this horse was one of the Creams, or was related to them. The photos are not dated, but the range from the other photos in the set are correct for the horses that were dispersed to have still be alive. If anyone recognizes the image and can place it or date it, I’d love to hear from them!

There have also been a couple of interesting horses that have come to light in just the last few weeks. The first is another white-born Standardbred recently foaled in New Jersey. Pictures of him can be seen here. Since both is sire Art Major and dam Coochie Mama are unmarked horses, he is quite likely a new dominant white mutation. Another suspected dominant white Standardbred, Macahan Loss, was born in 2008.

The other cool new horse is a confirmed silver dilute Pura Raza Espanola (PRE). That is the mare Trajana YR. She is actually chestnut, so the color is not visible on her, but she carries the gene. If she is bred to a bay or black horse she could produce a black or red silver (bay silver). Some readers might remember a few years ago there was a PRE stallion that was rumored to have been tested as a silver, but many questions were raised about his purity and his testing status. His owner stopped replying to questions (not that I can say I blame them, given the truly unpleasant tone that many took), and it became a dead end. Hopefully this mare puts an end to the debate over whether the gene is there or not.

Speaking of the silver dilution, I was able to get some really wonderful contrast shots a few weeks ago. The opportunity to have two visually similar, but genetically different, colors side-by-side only come up on rare occasions, so I was tickled to have gotten these shots. I haven’t had time to crop and size the photos, but eventually I will have those up on the blog. And I still have to post the “English translation” for the splash research, and some much-needed updates to the Splash Project page. And there are other cool things that just need to be sorted and composed. So like I said, there is a lot to share – just not enough hours in my days at the moment!

One of the reactions I often get, when I tell people that I am working on a book about horse color, is disbelief that the subject can be covered in a black and white book. That is also one of my fears, when thinking about marketing the book. I have tried to be very clear that the book is not – and was never intended to be – printed in color. That would not work well if the book was specifically about color identification. To show the subtle difference in tone between the legs of a red silver in winter coat, and a flaxen chestnut, you really need color pictures. In fact, you need faithful reproduction of really good color photos for that to work. Horse color is a popular topic among horsemen at the moment, but it is still a niche publication. That makes it well-suited to Print-on-Demand (POD), but color reproduction in that setting is unpredictable at best.

But perhaps more importantly, that was not the story I wished to tell with this particular set of books. It is one I’d like to tell in the future, but these books are about the history of color in the different breeds. For that reason, a lot of the photos in the books are historical. They never were in color. In most cases, that doesn’t stop them from being useful. A silver dapple Friesian is still obviously different from the present Friesian color, even in black and white. Pattern progression and pattern variation charts, which are used extensively in the book, don’t require color either. Having written about color for decades now, often for small periodicals that did not have color capability, I knew it could work. I wasn’t really concerned about the lack of color affecting my ability to communicate the ideas in the book, but I was concerned about expectations. People expect a book about color to be in color.

For that reason I looked at a number of ways to use technology to include color images. Several people suggested including a CD-ROM with color versions of the images. That was not an option if I planned to depend on the POD company for distribution. Publishing a color PDF presented the same problem. Because I intend to return to my much-neglected ceramic work when the book is truly finished, having another company handle fulfillment was non-negotiable. I wanted readers to be able to order the book, and have it in their hands, while I sat in my studio cleaning greenware. That is where the quandary of what to do about those that really wanted color sat, at least until recently.

I didn’t have an answer for that problem, but I decided last summer that there would definitely be an e-book version. While I am at heart a paper book person, having a Kindle has made me a believer in those, too. Soon after I began typesetting the paper book, I began working on a second format so that the information in the print book (most notably the charts and illustrations) worked equally well in the electronic version. As I mentioned in this previous post (Adventures in Self-Publishing), in many ways that has proven easier than the traditional paper version.

And that brings me back to the picture at the top of this post. As I had speculated back then, a color Kindle is now a reality. Behind the paper copy proof are my original Kindle, with its black and white e-ink, and the Kindle Fire that I recently received for my birthday. The release of the Kindle Fire suddenly made a color edition not only possible, but downright easy. But perhaps even better, there is now a Kindle application for both the PC and the Mac. That’s the image on my Macintosh screen behind the two Kindles. Now you don’t even have to have a Kindle to read an e-book in that format. You can just download the free application (PC/Mac). Like the actual Kindle, and unlike a PDF file, it has the adjustable text. Here is the same page with different background settings – white, black or sepia.

The size of the text is adjustable, as is the line spacing. There are also options that aren’t found on the Fire itself. You can set the book into two columns, for instance. You can also stretch the image area to be as wide or as narrow as you like, and the text follows just like it would for a website.

It might not be a full-color book, but it appears to be a good solution until color printing becomes more reliable. So while the kinks get worked out with printing the paper book, I am working on formatting the electronic version. The only question now is which will be completed first!

(The lovely images of the buckskin Shire mare, Jolie, come from photographer Jeffrey Anderson. I was very tickled to get permission to include those and several more of her in the book.)

Illustration from the chapter on Hackneys in Equine Tapestry

I apologize that the blog has been so silent for the last few weeks. I have been consumed with work on the book for the last few weeks, and have been trying to focus on that. My planned publication date of late summer obviously passed, in part because I underestimated the technical issues I might encounter with the actual printing. That has been a big part of the problem, but I have to admit a lot of the delays are my own fault.

Mission creep – the tendency for a task, esp a military operation, to become unintentionally wider in scope than its initial objectives

If there is something that has characterized this project from the start, it has been mission creep. Believe it or not, this was supposed to be just a quickie reference guide for painters and scupltors; a handbook where they could quickly look up and see if this or that color or pattern was found in this or that breed. That grew when I decided to include as many of the lesser-known breeds as I could. Then I fell victim to my own interest in the history of breeds and their colors. Why just tell what colors breeds have, when you could also tell about what they used to have? But then I couldn’t really tell those stories without telling about how the breeds themselves were formed. Soon I was grappling with just how many volumes I would need for this, and the rest just followed.

I also made this worse by not drawing the line on the inclusion of new material. Just when I would finalize the text, a contact for some obscure breed would surface, and I’d find myself adding back a breed that had been dropped because there was not enough information. Or a long-forgotten query would be answered, and I’d have to make room for more photos. Each addition seemed so unique, and so interesting, that it was worth the delay. Of course, I can hear those of you who know me well laughing now. It really took a peculiar blindness to my own bad habits not to see this coming.

So now I have a book with 350+ pages and a word count somewhere around 170,000 (not including the front matter or the indexes, resource lists and extensive appendixes). I haven’t counted, but I believe there are close to 200 photos and illustrations. I have all that, but I am also months behind schedule. Right now the book is still being edited by outside sources, but I have high hopes to send out a printing proof before the holidays. I am sure that the book will not be ready before then, simply because everyone slows down (myself included) as the demands of the holiday season rise. I do apologize to everyone who has waited patiently, both for the book and for my return to a normal production schedule in the studio. My hope is that despite the delays, the resulting book will be a useful reference.  I know I have learned so very much just in the writing of it!

For the most part the upcoming book is about current breeds, but there were a few extinct ones that I couldn’t resist including because they were interesting in terms of color. One of those was the Royal Creams of Hanover. They are interesting because they were a remnant of the horses bred in the pre-stud book era, and also because their coloring remains a mystery. Were they double-diluted creams, champagnes or pearls – or something else entirely? I compiled as many accounts (and images) as I could and made some guesses in the book, but in fact no one really knows what they were. I suppose that is part of their allure for color researchers!

Recently I found this photograph of the horses in a Library of Congress archive. It was shot in London in June of 1911, so this would have been just shortly before the Crown Equerry determined that the remaining horses should be disbanded. The last of the Creams were dispersed in 1921, just ten years after the photo was taken. It was too late to include it in the section on the Creams, but I can share it here.

(Photo by Tereza Huclova, provided for the upcoming book by the Kladruber Stud)

Several people have commented about the convex profiles of the Kladrubers and how they are visible even in the foals. I thought I would share this photo since it illustrates the characteristic so well. The extent of the arch varies from horse to horse, but it does seem especially pronounced in the black horses. As someone who grew up around Walking Horses when this type of head was not uncommon, I find it very appealing.

I also received a number of responses about genetic diversity and closed registries, so I thought I would include some links and reference material for those with an interest in the subject.

As Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig mentioned in her comment, I like to recommend the book Bred for Perfection by Margaret Derry.

In the book Derry explores how culture, economics and the (then new) science of genetics shaped the world of stud books and animal breeding. She doesn’t shy away from the less appealing aspects of that history – namely the close association with eugenics and social Darwinism – but she does so in a less sensationalistic way than many.

There are also a lot of resources from the dog world, in part because rigidly closed registries have long been the norm within that community. One of the best sites for articles is the Canine Diversity Project.  Among the particularly good ones are:

The Poodle and the Chocolate Cake by Dr. John Armstrong  (a really good overview of the problem)
The Price of Popularity: Popular Sires and Population Genetics
by C. A. Sharp

The dog world has also had some interesting experiments with out-crossing. Closed registries are the norm for dogs, so these have all been very controversial. Among horses relatively few breeds maintain completely closed stud books, and fewer still are willing to pay for that choice in the way that dog breeders are.

The Backcross Project  (restoring proper uric acid levels to Dalmations)
Bobtailed Boxers – Part 1
Bobtailed Boxers – Part 2
Bobtailed Boxers – Part 3
Bobtailed Boxers – Part 4
Bobtailed Boxers – Part 5
Bobtailed Boxers – Part 6
(This series is worth reading just to see how quickly a breed reverts back to type when crossed on something really different, all extensively documented in pictures.)

There was also a great post on the Terrierman blog about the importance of provenance in selling breeds.
You Can Blame Garrison Keillor’s Grandfather
The Terrierman blog has a lot of great posts about genetic diversity, though that recommendation comes with two caveats: 1) the blog is routinely sprinkled with unrelated politics that readers might or might not appreciate and 2) temperance and diplomacy are not really the style there. (He also takes exception to the color merle, which of course is not going to fly around here at the House of Blue Dogs!) Still it is consistently an interesting read, and it is worth exploring the (vast) archives there.

There is also the BBC program “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” which one of the comments referenced. To say that the program ignited a firestorm would be an understatement, and in parts it is certainly sensationalized. Still, what it portrays is happening, and perhaps something like this was the only thing that would push people to look at the issues involved. Since it aired, studies have been conducted and some preliminary actions taken by the British Kennel Club.

So what does that have to do with horses? To some extent horses and horse breeds are in better shape because they have not had a uniform culture of closed registries. Still where there are small populations and closed breeding programs, the same kinds of issues arise. Here is a discussion of the Friesian stud book policy on genetic disorders. This statement shows the very real parallel with the problems facing the dog world:

For this reason, the KFPS believes that carrier stallions should remain in the breeding pool. In addition, it should also be possible to approve young carrier stallions on the condition that they possess extra qualities. If we do not implement this policy, 1 in 3 young stallions will automatically be rejected on the basis of DNA testing.

One in three. And what are they carrying? Dwarfism. Twelve of the current stud book stallions are carries of dwarfism. Hydrocephalic Foals. Sixteen of the current stud book stallions are carriers of hydrocephalism. The effective breeding population is too small, and the defective genes so widespread that culling the carriers would probably narrow the gene pool enough that new defects would appear. That is what has happened in many dog breeds. It is exactly what should concern horse breeders, particularly those working with rare breeds with limited populations.

That is why many rare horse breeds have actually relaxed their color restrictions. They may still have strongly worded preferences for colors or markings, but off-colored or mismarked horses are not automatically removed in many breeds. Ironically, one of the breeds that does do this is the Friesian, which does not allow chestnut carriers as breeding stallions. This puts the registry in the awful position of permitting damaging defects if the horse is otherwise “of good quality”, but banning something as inconsequential as color no matter how nice the horse. As with dog breeders, this kind of disconnect with simple animal welfare undermines the assertion that purebred breeders are guided by a higher standard of ethics than “backyard” breeders.

Were it possible to expand the gene pool, culling could be accomplished without raising the inbreeding level to still more dangerous levels. Even without outright culling of carriers, introducing an outcross line can dilute the overall incidence of the defective gene. The fact that there are animals breeders out there who will choose “purity of blood” over solving serious health issues is something that deserves more attention. It isn’t a particularly comfortable discussion for a lot of breeders, and it points to the need for a very different mindset when it comes to breed stewardship, but it is one I personally feel must happen.

My original purpose for the upcoming set of books was the explore the history of color in the different breeds. I did have another motive, though. It is impossible to tell the story of those colors without also telling the story of the breeds themselves, so in many ways the books are as much about breed history as they are about color. The idea of “breed” – and the related concept of “purity” – is often misunderstood. As anyone unfortunate enough to get me started on that topic is aware, I believe this situation harms animals. Purity of blood should never trump health.

That brings me to the horses pictured in this post. In writing the books, I have reached out to various registries and breeders for photographs. One of the most generous responses came from the Kladruber Stud in the Czech Republic. Countless pictures filled my inbox, many far more suited to a coffee table picture book than my more modest project.

Kladrubers are the last of a type of horse once known as galakarossiers, or ceremonial carriage horses. Kladruby nad Labem where they are bred is among the oldest of the European royal studs, having been established in 1560. The farm is currently on the Tenative List for UNESCO’s World Cultural Monuments.

Like most of the old European carriage breeds, the Kladruber is endangered. In writing the books, one of my hopes was to raise awareness of some of these little-known breeds. But in the case of the Kladruber, they also serve as a model for intelligent preservation of rare animals. There are two “breeds” of Kladruber, the Old White and the Old Black breed. This is in keeping with how color stood in for breed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, by the way. The black variety was almost destroyed in the early twentieth century, with only one surviving stallion line and four purebred mares. Those directing the restoration made the decision to outcross to maintain the genetic health of the population, while still preserving the historical baroque type.

This wasn’t actually as radical as it might seem to those used to equating breed with purity. It was how Kladrubers were originally bred. It is how horses have historically been bred the world over. It is my hope that by telling the stories of these different breeds, more people realize that diversity and not absolute purity is really what is traditional.

And if that opens some minds to the less common colors out there, that wouldn’t hurt my feelings either!

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