Sunday, November 30, 2008

Images From Spring on the Last Day of November

Left to right: Altamiro, Belina, Fada, Bella and Animado

For the past two days I've been sorting through my iPhoto library looking for suitable images to send along with hair root samples I've collected for the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of California, Davis. UCDavis has been researching equine hair coat colors and has not yet been able to identify the specific mutation responsible for the dun color. The scientists as UCDavis are looking at Iberian breeds to help unravel this puzzle, and have requested samples from Altamiro, Animado, Fada and Interessado to assist them in their efforts.

Between the early winter weather (with snow falling just about every day--a barn sure would be handy at times!) and my desire to make the hair plucking experience as non-invasive as possible, it has taken me several weeks to acquire the 20-30 hairs per horse that the researchers are looking for. At first, my task was compounded as I tried to select hair from manes and tails with a pair of tweezers. This worked well enough on Altamiro's mature hair, but not so easy a thing for the finer and more slippery foal hair. I found that if I simply gathered about five or ten hairs together while I was itching the tail dock, I could easily tug out the selected amount with my fingers with no irritation to my wee equine companion. Fada, especially seemed to enjoy these rather vigorous itches and it was very easy to get hair samples from her as she would just lean into the feel, arch her neck and wriggle her lip. The boys, though, while enjoying getting their tails itched, also wanted to nibble on my clothes or shoulder basket, making it a little trickier to get the job done.

At any rate, I came across some photos which I don't believe I have yet shared in this blog. With it very wintery outside, I thought it might be nice to smell the green of spring through the viewing of these photos.

This is Fada's first day of life and she is exploring her new world with the careful protection of first time mother, Belina. When I viewed this photo again the other day, I had tears in my eyes it seemed so tender a scene, with Belina looking especially beautiful.

Belina and Fada

This next one shows Belina about three weeks before delivering Fada. She is harassing Altamiro about some thing as they and Bella wander through the Hidden Meadow.
Belina, Altamiro and Bella

This next one shows Ciente looking at the camera with Belina and Altamiro in the back, with Belina still looking a bit peeved about something.
Altamiro, Belina and Ciente

Here is another photo from Fada's first day. I had forgotten just how tiny she was then!
Belina, Fada and Altamiro

A bit later in the season, we have a tranquil moment with Fada laying down, Belina dozing while standing and Animado (all shed out and looking sleek!) hanging out with them in a field of wildflowers.Fada, Belina and Animado

Here's one with Altamiro and Ciente grazing together.
Altamiro and Ciente

This one is probably from summer, but I like this matched pose and the view we get of the toplines of Animado and Bella.Animado and Bella

It's difficult to believe that we've gone through the month of November already. When I look at these photos from earlier in the year, it doesn't seem possible so much time has passed. And when I look out the window now and see all our snow, I think it will be a long, long time before I see spring green again!


eva said...

Hi Lynne,

I am glad you are able to contribute to the scientific quest for understanding the primitive gene.

To me it seems akin to a chameleon gene. When i see your horses in different weather or against the backdrop of seasonal changes, it always seems they are morphing their coat color to fit their environment. Add the effect of the light and you'll never have any two spots on these horse that is exactly the same color.

I find this ability of the primitive horse to blend into its environment fascinating. You latest pictures in the snow (email) makes them look like the color of weathered, bleached wood.

Keep us posted what the scientists find about the "dun" gene.

Lynne Gerard said...

Hi Eva,
The variations of these grulla dun horses is quite something and very chameleon-like, I agree. Sometimes it seems as if they are always changing depending on where they are in their environment and what the quality of light is.

It's curious to me that some modern day Andalusians and Lusitanos are born with the primitive dun color, replete with all the usual markings, but typically turn grey after shedding out their foal coat.

The entire field of color genetics is filled with curiosities.

Thanks for your comments, Eva. I'll be sure to share whatever information UCD shares with me after they've run their tests.