Friday, July 13, 2007

Horse of a Different Color

Brego, to my great dismay, is brown. Those familiar with the Percheron breed will know that brown, or "bay" to horse purists, is not common. In fact, it's downright spooky. So either Brego is a freak of nature, more so than we originally thought anyway, or there is some factor which is causing his black hair to turn brown.

Determining if Brego is a bay Percheron is more than just satisfying my vanity, because, I admit it, I want a gorgeous black horse with flowing mane and tail. No where in my childhood dreams, did I say: I want a ratty, burnt looking horse with split ends and a tail nubbin.

The truth is, if Brego is meant to be black, then there's some environmental factors at play which is changing his color, and some of those factors could be related to nutrition. And that's a serious topic. If Brego is deficient in something, so much so that it makes him bleach out, then I need to investigate.

The first step is determining if he is, indeed, a freakish bay Percheron or if he's supposed to be black. I sent a sample of his mane hair off to be tested and in no time, I had my answer. When tested for the Agouti factor which dictates the "bay gene", Brego came up empty. In other words, he was "aa" which means "Only recessive allele detected. Black pigment distributed uniformly. The basic color of the horse will be black in the absence of other modifying genes."

So he's supposed to be black... whew. So why then is he brown?

There are lots of reasons for sun bleaching:

  1. Copper deficiency
  2. He has a fading gene which there aren't tests for yet
  3. Too much Texas sun
  4. Sweat stuck in his coat breaks down the hair faster
I spoke to my vet about a copper deficiency and she feels it is unlikely, but I can run the blood test if I want.

Since he is pastured in Central Texas, there's not a whole lot I can do prevent sun damage. My only hope is to make his coat so healthy it can resist the damaging rays. The only thing I have been doing is to make sure to hose him down completely after working to remove as much sweat as possible. I might also try adding paprika to his diet in the fall, to see if that improves next spring's coat. Another option is to clothe him in a fly sheet for UV protection. These are all things I need to consider if I want the beautiful black horse of my dreams... although he is kind of cute as a bay.

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