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Can A 15 Year-Old Horse Change Color?

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  • Can A 15 Year-Old Horse Change Color?

    Okay, I am not sure I can explain this sufficiently, but I am going to try. I own a 15 year-old PB Arab gelding. I have owned him since he was 8 years-old.

    He is a bay. He has a white star and that is it. He has some roaning/frosting on both front knees (some white hairs and some light brown hairs mixed together), which is more apparent during the summer and much less so when he has is winter coat.

    Although I board, I am at the barn almost every day. I am careful with grooming and I like to have my hands on him so I can notice things.

    I get to the barn this morning, and head over to halter him. I see what I think is a smear of dust/dirt on his off side, back near his flank. I grab a brush to clean him up a little before turning him out and I can't believe my eyes when I find that what I thought was a smear of dirt is in fact a swath of white hair.

    It looks like he rubbed up against a wall with wet paint. But it isn't paint. His hair has turned white, and it happened pretty much over night. This was not there on Thursday!

    Here is a link to a picture I took this morning:

    This is the strangest thing. There is no flaky skin. No irritation. Just white hair. And it looks so even!

    Any ideas?

  • #2
    Could be contact with some sort of chemical that has caused the hair to bleach out.


    • Original Poster

      Yeah, I had that thought, too. I asked the BO if there had been any work around the property that might have used a bleach product. She said no. I showed her my horse at that point and asked if she had any idea what could have happened.

      This is just the weirdest thing. It sure looks like he rubbed up against something, doesn't it? Each hair is white. Evenly, and completely white. All the way from the tip to the skin (which is still black).


      • #4
        That's a big one-- but it does happen. We have a a very dark bay yearling that came in with a noticeable white splotch one day this summer-- just barely in time to edit his Jockey Club papers.


        • Original Poster

          Can it happen to an older horse? Noodle is 15 years old, and he has never had a color change. His winter coat comes in darker, but that is it.


          • #6
            We have on that got a big roan spot on his belly when he was probably 12. And he is getting "roanier" (not sure that is even a word) every year. He is 15 now and we have had him since he was 9 or 10. His tail was pretty much blonde when we got him and how it's mostly silver...so I'm gonna go with yes they can change color!
            I'm not a CPA.


            • Original Poster

              Here is a full body shot of Noodle, taken at the same time that I took the photo of the white swath. Looking at this picture, do you think he could actually be turning into a roan?


              I want him to stay the handsome bay he has always been! I waited over thirty years to get my handsome bay!


              • #8
                In the last photo he appears to be a wild bay? Low and light black markings on legs...

                Wonder if wild bays don't follow the rules as pertains to keeping color? I'll ask a color expert I know...
                Last edited by Melelio; Sep. 10, 2011, 09:50 PM.
                "As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use."- William James

                Proud member of the Wheat Loss Clique.


                • #9
                  My guess is that your horse carries the rabicano gene. Arabians and Tbreds can carry the rabicano gene which causes areas of roaning. My bay Anglo-Arab mare is a minimal rabicano with white hairs running throughout her coat. Her Tbred dam had the same coat, plus a skunk tail and roaning of her white markings. They did become more apparent as she aged. Since your horse already had roaning on his legs, that would make the most sense to me as it's the time of year that his coat is changing anyway.


                  • #10
                    Yes, i've heard of it on a few horses, all arabians incidently. And if i remember all were rabicano and chestnut, but i'm sure it happens on bays too.
                    "Sadly, some people's greatest skill, is being an idiot". (facebook profile pic I saw).


                    • #11
                      My QH/TB gelding has the same thing happen a couple years ago. He's 19 now and I've had him for 9 years but this happened when he was 16 or 17. It was pretty much overnight, like yours, and looked just like that but he's a chestnut. He also has a little bit of roaning on his lower front legs (which he's always had) and then got the patch of roan on his rump. He hasn't gotten another since then, but has gotten quite a few full white spots randomly and overnight. I have no idea why it happens but I think it gives him character!


                      • #12
                        I'd never (till now, anyway) heard about spots appearing, but I know an Arab gelding who went from a dark charcoal color to grey - and is now, in his teens, going from a light fleabitten grey back to charcoal!
                        I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show


                        • #13
                          Not an older horse, but a filly we bred was born brown with a few white hairs for a star and a bit of white flecking through her flanks. She has just turned 5, her whole face is nearly white and there is a lot more white through her coat as well. I'm not sure if this is rabicano or going grey as she is by a grey stallion. The bottom of her tail is silver too, it used to be brown.


                          • #14
                            Wow, that's a big roany spot! Is he shedding right now? I can imagine he could be rabicano and suddenly getting white flecks, and all the old bay hairs just shed out at once...

                            Not an older horse, but a filly we bred was born brown with a few white hairs for a star and a bit of white flecking through her flanks. She has just turned 5, her whole face is nearly white and there is a lot more white through her coat as well. I'm not sure if this is rabicano or going grey as she is by a grey stallion. The bottom of her tail is silver too, it used to be brown.
                            I have one of those too! My WB/arab mare is now 6 and her face markings have also been changing since she was born. She had a snip and a few white hairs on her forehead at birth. Now she has a small star and a broken stripe connecting to that snip, and getting more white by the day.
                            Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


                            • #15
                              My late Missy (the real life BES) was a sorrel QH and she got progressively more "roany" as she aged, starting from her mid teens. I got her at age 6 and at that point she had a roan stripe over her withers and some white hairs right above her tail. By 23, she had a spot similar to your boy, just not as big, on her side and lots of white hairs all over her flanks. For whatever reason the white hairs were more obvious in her winter coat than her summer coat.

                              Proudly owned by 2 chestnut mares
                              Crayola Posse: sea green
                              Mighty Rehabbers Clique


                              • #16
                                My bay Saddlebred would get random patches of white hairs, kind of like paint streaks, and birdcatcher spots that would come and go through the summer. When I got him, he had a big spot on his forehead, even though his papers said "no markings on face." I thought, huh...did I get the right papers? Or the right HORSE? LOL. It disappeared over the winter so I chalked it up to an injury that had scarred white and then healed. But as I got to know him, I realized he would get these random spots that would come and go.

                                The streaks would come and go, too. He had a white stripe on his barrel for awhile by the girth area (freaked me out when I first saw it, thought it was a girth rub!), then a patch on his rump... and he was a DARK bay, almost black, so they really stood out.


                                • Original Poster

                                  You know, after reading about rabicano, it could very well explain what is happening. My understanding of color genetics is fairly hit and miss, so I need to educate myself on chestnuts and bays, and masking genes.

                                  I had thought that he was well passed the age where something different could be expressed...but, he does have the roaning/frosting on his knees and he does have some brown hairs in his tail. So maybe the rabicano has been expressed, only very, very lightly, all along?


                                  • #18
                                    It's *probably* Rabicano. That said, I am horrible with colors.
                                    Trying a life outside of FEI tents and hotel rooms.


                                    • #19
                                      He's definitely Wild Bay, but no, they don't follow any alternative genetics of coloring LOL

                                      That's a weird spot indeed. What's the base of this guy's tail like?

                                      The surprise isn't so much its appearance, it's *fast* appearance if it really wasn't there Thursday and was there Saturday. It's possible it was growing in unnoticed under the Summer coat, and if that's the case, then yes, a fast enough shedding of the Summer coat could have exposed enough of the Winter coat.

                                      Keep documenting it over the Winter, it's interesting!
                                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                                      • #20
                                        Music (25 yo TB x QH mare) has had similar white spots starting about the same age. They come in (effectivey overnight) and go away just as abruptly witih the next change of season. Some just a few hairs, some as big as a dollar coin. Some years she has so many I get teased that she is turning into an Appaloosa. Other years she gets no spots at all.

                                        The vet thinks they MIGHT be related to an allergic reaction to certain insect bites, but he really doesn't know.

                                        chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).