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Laura Behning
75 Glass Spring Rd.
Covington, GA 30014
770-385-1240
morgans@mindspring.com

Frame overo is a pinto pattern characterized by dark legs, a blaze or bald face, and white spotting on the sides of the horse, "framed" by the base color. Some individuals have leg white, but that is probably from carrying another pattern gene along with frame. Frame can be present on any base color. As with other patterns of white, there are varying degrees of expression, from a blaze face as the only white marking to nearly white all over. Frame is lethal when homozygous; such individuals die shortly after birth due to an incomplete digestive tract and are referred to as "Lethal White" foals. Responsible breeders never mate two frame overos together for this reason. Frame is a dominant gene, so a frame overo will have at least one frame overo parent.

The 1959 stallion War Paint (Chief Justin Morgan X Painted Girl) was a famous frame overo Morgan who has descendants in the AMHA Registry today. It is possible, due to the nature of the overo genes to "hide" in minimally expressed forms on certain individuals, that some of his "solid" colored descendants may carry the frame overo gene. War Paint sired 6 registered Morgans- 2 geldings, and the buckskin mare Miss Tigee, black mare La Mancha, palomino mare H-Paly, and chestnut mare Ogallala Woman. It is also possible that frame could be hiding in relatives of Sky Walker AB, pictured below, through individuals related to her dam, Q Tawny (this is the same line present in the palominos behind the Goldtree prefixed horses, and also one of the silver lines). In September 2013, Sky Walker AB's maternal half sister, LAS Future de Oro, tested positive for frame, proving the gene may still be present in other individuals from this line.

If Q Tawny, her dam Tia, or War Paint is your horse's pedigree, test it through UC Davis for Overo/Lethal White (OLWS, a test for determining if a horse carries frame overo or not, to insure such horses are not bred together, possibly producing a lethal white foal). If your horse tests positive, let us know- we'd love to feature it here on this site! In addition, War Paint's frame overo/sabino dam, Painted Girl, also has descendants today through her other offspring. These should also be tested for OLWS.

For much more information on War Paint, the frame gene, and which Morgans should be tested for frame, you can read this article originally published in the Summer 2005 issue of the Rainbow Morgan Horse Association newsletter.

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SKY'S BLU (Black Tuxedo Topic Man X Sky Walker AB), 2003 buckskin frame mare (unregistered, but purebred) bred by Fred and Karen Beck of Angola IN. This filly was the first foal produced by her palomino frame dam (pictured below). This foal and her dam are the only known AMHA registered frame overo Morgans. The suspected color line behind this filly and her dam is coming through Q Tawny. There may be other frame overos from these lines out there, perhaps so minimally marked (blaze face only) that they pass as "solids". A Lethal White Overo test from UC Davis (essentially a test for the presence of the frame gene) would identify such suspected frame overos. First photo courtesy of Barbara Fogel; second and third photos by Nancy Castle. Sadly, this mare has not been registered.


The late SKY WALKER AB (Moreeda Andrew, almost full Lippitt, x Q Tawny, a palomino mare of Cross Ranch breeding) 1982 palomino frame overo mare. Her first filly is pictured above. Owned by Karen and Fred Beck of Angola, Indiana. First photo courtesy of Fred and Karen Beck; second photo by Nancy Castle. You can read more about Sky Walker AB here.

Sky Walker AB is out of Q Tawny (Merry Madison x Tia, Chingadero x Yellow Girl). Both Chingadero and Yellow Girl have MANY descendants today and seemingly no frame there. Sky Walker AB's sire was the almost completely Lippitt stallion Moreeda Andrew - the one non-Lippitt line in his pedigree is way back, to Archie O. No frame overo there. Is it possible that Tia was either not actually by Chingadero, or not out of Yellow Girl, and that instead there is War Paint or a relative of his there somewhere? Was War Paint the actual sire of Tia? Or another possibility- War Paint's dam, Painted Girl, is not listed as having had a foal in 1965- but she DID have one in 1964 and 1966. So did she simply skip a year, or is she the real dam of Tia? Remember this was pre-blood typing, and the horses were all on the same ranch. Tia was foaled in 1965. War Paint's last registered foals were foaled in 1964, but he was not sold from the Cross Ranch to John Coates until 1968.


LAS FUTURE DE ORO (Heathermoor Dynaquiz x Q Tawny), f. 1989, who is noted in the registry as having a "connected star/strip/lower lip white, both hind stockings and front pastern white, small irregular scar on her lower right abdomen".  I've long suspected that frame existed in the breed other than in just the 3 examples we knew of (War Paint, Sky Walker Ab and her unregistered daughter Sky's Blu), most likely from related lines tracing to Cross Ranch stock. Over the years I've tracked down relatives of these 3 horses. Future was high on my "suspect list" due to being registered a having a small irregular scar on the belly. A belly scar was often the description used when a Morgan foal was born with natural belly white in the days of the White Rule (1962-1996). It allowed these foals to be registered, albeit using (pardon the pun) a little white lie. Most belly spots are sabino markings, but given that Future had an obviously frame half sister, I thought she might be frame as well. 

Previous attempts to contact the mare's owners went unanswered. Recently, in the process of researching for another article, I tried again. To my surprise I heard back from the farm manager, who sent me a bunch of pictures of the mare and even better, a hair sample! I had her tested and sure enough, it came back positive for one copy of frame!

Future is now 24, and her only foal is deceased, so there will not likely be any more frames from her, but there are relatives out there. Future had one registered Morgan daughter, Star Sabrina de Oro (f. 1996, deceased), a cremello who is listed as having a connected star and strip and "two scars on both sides of neck" (this mare was injured as a young foal, so her scars are actually from that). Future's dam, Q Tawny, and her dam Tia (the most likely frame source in the pedigree), are also behind some of the silvers in our breed as well as Loretta Brown's Goldtree Morgans. PLEASE, if you have Morgans from these lines, GET THEM TESTED for LWO (Lethal White Overo, the test for frame- only 2 copies are lethal folks, in foals only, so don't let the name scare you). Please email me if you discover your Morgan carries frame, and send photos- we'd love to feature him or her here! Photos of Future courtesy/copyright of her owners, IIWP.



Rabicano is a pattern of white hairs sometimes confused with roan. It consists of white hairs interspersed in a faintly brindled pattern along the flank area, belly and up between the front legs. It also causes a "coon tail" of white banding at the tailhead. Rabicano horses can have such minimal expressions of the pattern that it is missed. The rabicano gene is dominant, so rabicano horses will have at least one rabicano parent.

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KATHARINE SERENITY (UVM Tennyson X Run Brook Tiffany), 1994 brown rabicano mare owned by Buffy Tarr. The photo on the right shows a classic expression of the rabicano "coon tail" or "squaw tail". Photos by Erin White.


ANCAN ALLIANCE OF DANGER (Fiddler's Blackriver X Ancan Lil Miss Dangerous), 1997 chestnut rabicano mare owned by Judith Kuntz. Photos by Debbie Uecker-Keough.


DIA H SNOW GOOSE (DJB Yukon Jack X Dia H Dark Sprite), 1999 flaxen chestnut rabicano mare, shown here with her 2003 bay Morab filly, RGR Dance of Joy. Notice how the roaning starts on "Glory's" underside in the flank area, and becomes faint brindling along her sides. She has the white hairs at the top of the tailhead, aka "coon tail" or "squaw tail", that are typical of rabicano as well. Photo courtesy of Susanna Schaenzer.



Roan is a pattern of white hairs over the horse's body, mixed in with the base color hairs. The points and head remain the base color. As with all the patterns of white, there are degrees of expression, so that some roans are nearly white on the body while others remain fairly dark. Roan is dominant, so all roans have at least one roan parent.

In Morgans, there are two known sources for roan, the 1964 chestnut roan mare Doll Rose (out of the roan mare Rosemont), and the 1940 chestnut roan mare Torchy (out of a roan, X registered daughter of Mansfield). Doll Rose's only surviving roan offspring is represented the blue roan gelding Caduceus Herod, pictured below. Torchy's line comes down to us through the Double J prefixed horses, and at the present time her only known surviving roan descendant is the 1985 bay roan mare Viv LaMae (Double J Apollo X Carlyle LaMae). As a result the roan gene may, unfortunately, be extinct in our breed.

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CADUCEUS HEROD (Wyoming Flyhawk X Doll Rose), 1987 blue roan gelding owned by Barbara Putnam of N. Liberty, Iowa. Herod was Reserve Champion at Third Level and fourth at Second Level in the 1996 USDF All-Breeds Awards. Herod and an aged bay roan mare, Viv Lamae, are the only known true dark-headed roans in the breed.



Flaxen is a modifying gene that affects chestnut horses' red manes and tails, turning them lighter than the body color. Some flaxen horses have silver-gray manes and tails instead of the more typical pale yellow or off-white shades of flaxen; this effect is thought to be caused by the sooty modifier acting on the flaxen hairs, effectively "dirtying" their color. Light flaxen chestnut horses can be mistaken for palomino, and dark flaxen chestnut horses can be mistaken for sooty palomino or silver dapple. Flaxen can "hide" on black based horses, as they do not have red manes and tails to show the effects of flaxen. Not much is known about the inheritance of flaxen, but it is thought to be recessive.

Flaxen is extremely widespread in the Morgan breed. Probably the most famous flaxens are those from Jubilee King lines, such as those bred by The Quietude Stud. Other prolific flaxen lines include those from The Airacobra (and his son Beamington), Trophy, and old government lines such as the Devan horses and Fleetwing.

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BATTERSEA ORLEAN (Caduceus Nicholas x Battersea Jolie) 1998 flaxen chestnut mare owned and ridden by Ric Walker. Pictured with them is the dark bay or brown mare NVS Mi Sonnetta (NVS Midas x Noble Ladylark) f. 2002, ridden by Jo Johnson. Photo taken August 2013, on a mountaintop trail ride overlooking the Yampa Valley of NW Colorado.


CHANDLERCREEK CHANCEYGIRL (Thunder Michelangelo x FP Sunday Morning Coffee) 2008 flaxen chestnut mare owned by Karen Nolte, Chandler Creek Morgans.


HYLEE'S GOING BIG TIME (Serenity Flight Time x Poincianna), 1991 flaxen chestnut gelding owned by Kim Jaeger.


ELK CREEK HOT TAMALE (Herald Square x Burlington Farms Brandy), 2006 flaxen chestnut mare owned by Angie Riemersma.


WINTERGREEN SHAMAN (HVK Santana x Wintergreen Token), 1999 flaxen chestnut stallion owned by Wintergreen Morgans. Shaman is a good example of a flaxen chestnut that could be mistaken for a silver dapple. Only a close examination of his pedigree, which is not from silver lines, and observation of subtle differences such as the red streak in his tail (typical of flaxens) and lack of darker leg points help to determine his actual color.


Blaine Janssen with his 2002 flaxen chestnut sabino gelding MOCOMO CHROME CLASSIC (Old Ways Bimbeau x Adiel's Yennah Babe).


ROSERIDGE FOOL'S GOLD (HVK Warlock x Chandel Fortunaire), 1986 flaxen chestnut gelding owned by Lisa Bryant of Andover, KS. You can see how he got his name! Many light flaxen chestnut horses are good palomino mimics.


JAZZTIME SOCIETY PAGE (Shiloh Bold Command X Frosty Blue), 2003 flaxen chestnut mare owned by Nancy Jewel, Jazztime Morgans, WA.


RUSTIC V'S LUCKY STRIKE (Maple Blaze X River Downs Pearl), 1996 flaxen chestnut gelding. Flaxen horses can have more flaxen in the mane than in the tail, and vice versa. This gelding has a flaxen mane, but no obvious expression of flaxen at all in his tail. Photo courtesy of Ann Priddy.


LSR TANQUERAY STERLING (LSR Canadian Whiskey X D Patricia), 1992 flaxen chestnut mare owned by Darrell Charlton; photo by Elaine Hickman.


HEAVEN'S ANGEL (Dia H Major Boy X Heaven's Girl), 1990 flaxen black chestnut mare (was suspected silver dapple, but tested via UC Davis' Red Factor Test as a chestnut) and her 2000 palomino colt by Belfair Kruggerrand, COWLITZ VALLEY YUKON GOLD. Both horses owned by Lona Diemert, Packwood WA.


WHF WHISTLE JACKET (Beamington X UC Duchess), 1982 flaxen liver chestnut stallion owned by Jane Lea Hicks, Conroe TX. I am often asked about this stallion being a possible silver dapple, but he is not. Flaxen liver chestnuts can look similar to some silver dapples, but genetically a silver dapple has a black or bay base coat, not a chestnut one. Base coat color can be scientifically proven with a simple DNA test called the Red Factor test.
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