This post first appeared on December 3, 2012
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.
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.
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?
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-to-late twenties here.)
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.
Here is a close-up of his legs that show the limited nature of the black on his legs.
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. Being able to rule wild bay in or out would be helpful in assessing the relationship between it and flaxen manes and tails.