This post first appeared on August 13, 2012
The above image of a belton patterned face is from the contents page of the most recent Paint Horse Journal. I didn’t notice the title until I scanned it so I could add it to my research files. It certainly does seem that lately there is a horse with this type of patterning “in every issue”!
The horse pictured is the Paint stallion Hes Stylin. He is a good example of the type of belton ticking that seems to be linked with the presence of the frame pattern. Like the pattern in some dogs, this type of dark ticking concentrates more heavily on the face, where the spots are more numerous and generally larger than on the body.
Since making the initial few posts about what I called belton patterning (for lack of a better term, since “ticking” already means white hairs in the coat), many people have sent pictures and links to horses with these kinds of markings. I have also begun noticing the less dramatic versions that I had previously overlooked. The more I see of ticked horses, the more I believe that this particular type is probably linked to frame. That doesn’t explain a horse like Vision Morinda, or the more heavily cat-tracked tobianos, so I suspect there is more than one cause of dark spots on markings or patterns. The frame overos with belton patterning, though, seem to have a pretty consistent look.
The spots are very round, and often have more colored skin than colored hair, which gives many of them a ghosted or haloed appearance. This type of effect is noticeable on the cluster of spots close to Hes Stylin’s left eye.
The white patterning on the body does not really show a lot of these round spots, though most have had some. I’ll return to Gump, the first horse I posted, to show both sides of his pattern. The round spots on his face contrast quite markedly with the ragged nature of his pattern. The link to Hes Stylin (above) shows a full-body picture, and he has the same kind of contrast between the torn outline of his pattern and the regularity of the spots.
I apologize that I don’t have a better photo of Gump’s left side. I try to get conformation shots of both sides on patterned horses, but sometimes the opportunity never presents itself. It’s not a flattering picture, but that left shot does show how much clear white there is on the body pattern relative the the spotting on the face.
Gump does have some belton spots on his lower legs, though they are not as pronounced as on his face. Most dogs that have this type of belton pattern have bolder spotting on the lower legs as well as the face. The image of this English Setter puppy (also courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) illustrates that effect, though the underlying black-and-tan pattern makes her feet look paler because the base color there is tan.
Because frame overos do not typically have a lot of white on the lower legs, it is hard to know if the spots would concentrate there or not. In fact, many of the examples I have encountered or have been sent have no white on the legs at all. Here is a mare I photographed at a fun show last fall. A different photo of her appears in the book to illustrate the frame pattern in what is probably its pure form.
Her legs are all dark, but here is her face. The spots are not nearly as pronounced on her as on Gump and Hes Stylin, but that seems to be true of most of the chestnuts with these types of spots.
What is interesting is that this mare also has what looks like a large occluding spot above her right eye. For that matter, it is possible to think of the patch over her eye, and the one across her muzzle, as occluding spots. If you look at Hes Stylin up at the top of the post, he has a similar set of patches above his eye, too. A similar spot is present on this Paint cross mare, Hechzeba, shared by Audrey Crosby McLellan of ACC Photography.
She is tested positive for frame, but has no body white (or leg white) to show any further spotting.
Audrey also sent a link to pictures of her own mare, AC’s Painted Lace, who was also tested to carry the frame pattern. Notice how she has a patch over the eye and on her nose that are quite similar to the earlier mare.
In photos it looks like Lacey has some spotting inside her socks, but even her face spotting is more subdued than some of the others. It may be that is due to other white patterning, since some white patterns (like some forms of sabino) are known to amplify the white on the horse at the expense of colored areas. It also might be that this particular kind of spotting is just concentrated on the face. Until there are more examples with leg white, it is hard to know for sure. And even then, it is hard to know if the factor that put the white on the legs (where it is usually missing on frames) might not also erase the spots there. That may be what happened with Hes Stylin, since he has what appear to be unspotted legs.
(Hes Stylin is also interesting in that his is the combination of frame with another pattern that is most often mistaken for tovero. Although the dark areas fall in such a way that it is an easy mistake to make, his sire is an unmarked Quarter Horse (Kids Classic Style) and his dam is a overo mare (Shesa Scotch Bar Doll) from a long line of overos.)