Two years ago, 11. June 2015 a filly foal was born by our breeding stallion Verano Lee v.d. Zandkamp (Pybe v. St de Toekomst – Nora Lee v.d. Zandkamp – Itt v.d. Zandkamp) and Jenniefer (By Dalton v.d. Voorstraat – Furunäs Paljette – Dulex). She was definitely a black foal, though very light grey in colour. First I did not think it was anything special as before Nenya we had had only a few black Shetland foals, Thorin (same sire), Elenya (same dam), Gwaihir (same sire) and Mithrim (same sire). They all varied in colour, with Thorin and Gwaihir having the same distribution of colour in their coat as Nenya, darker blanket on the back and light bellies and legs. However, of course we noticed she was exceptionally light compared to earlier foals, and it only took a few days when also the milk chocolate colour tinge started to show properly. Two weeks later Caradhras was born and he was also like no one else we had, black as night from the start, so there they were, two foals totally from the opposite sides of the colour range of black foals.
This is Nenya the day she was born. Sadly the shade of her colour seems from day one be impossible to capture on a photo. It is too light, too dark, too brown, too black and she specific colour seem not to show. However, now with the knowledge I have of her colour, I see that already from day 1 she showed the milk chocolate tinge. Something to notice is also the light coloured eyelashes, light eyes and lighter colours around her eyes, like pangare – but on black.
Examples of other black foals we had before Nenya. On the left Gwaihir Ax (same sire, dam Skattens Sissy), clearly lighter colour and lighter colour under belly. On the right Elenya Ax, Nenya’s big sister by Humledals McRattan and same dam Jenniefer, much lighter under belly than Gwaihir.
Thorin Ax was our first Shetland foal and as yoou can see in these photos taken the day he was born, he was quite light in colour too and had blue eyes (no cream gene present), which I was told, some black Shetland foals have and that they go dark in time, as they did.
So we were used to have different kind of black foals. Of course now, when I have spent two years of researching this subject, I have noticed that it maybe is more common that black Shetland foals are much darker, like Caradhras Ax here, especially after looking at hundreds of black Dutch foals:
Caradhras Ax, a ”normal” black foal
When Caradras was born the difference in colour was striking, Nenya is here 9 days old and here the milk chocolate tinge can be seen. If you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it is not there it is just that as we now, people see colours differently and that I truly have confirmed with Nenya – some see immediately what I mean while other don’t see it. If you look carefully at this photo it is also a perfect example of showing that Nenya’s dam Jenniefer had a brown tinge to her coat too, compared with to Skattens Sissy on the right.
Different light conditions also makes a huge difference in how Nenya’s colour is presented in photos. In sun the chocolate colour shows, while in cloudy weather she looks more grey. In stable she is more milk chocolate. And in any light, the right colour seems impossible to capture on photo.
Here Nenya is a week old. Things to notice: colouring in head is not even, it consist of, should I say, fifty shades of grey. Eyelashes are light in colour. On the photo on the right you can spot her nickname Pilkku = spot. She had this totally black pigmentation spot on the left hind leg (on the right the small dot is a fly). As it was so strange she had this clearly black spot, she became ”Pilkku” or Dotty in English 🙂
So, days and weeks past and for everyday she looked more and more odd. I had two different friends visiting when she was around 1-2 months and both asked if I’m sure that she is not mushroom. I was, as mushroom does not show on black and as you can tell from the colour when she was born, black she was. Though, of course I knew exactly that everything in her matches to mushroom – on black base. Very light colour when born, the tinge of colour, the impossibility to capture it on a photo and varying of the shade in different light. Later on, also the light tips of the coat hair and of course, simply her colour. But mushroom does not show on black, they said.
Next thing was to take a look at her pedigree. Sire Verano has several hits to possible mushroomlines, he has for example Kismet v. Bunswaard a few times in his pedigree. I found out that Winston L.H. have mushroom foals (closest confirmed carrier) and later Verano’s breeder have told that his sire Pybe have mushroom foals (not confirmed). So Verano might very well be a mushroom carrier, that would not surprise me.
However, when looking at the dam’s side it became tricky. Dam’s sire Dalton v.d. Voorstraat ”could not be more black” and is also from so common lines widely used in Holland that any strange black foals would have been noticed years ago. So I took a look at the maternal line and of course it took not long to find out that there was something interesting Dulex, sire of grand dam. When we bought our first Shetland Okana, someone told me it is common in Shetlands that blacks do not always look like black but more like dark bay and that there is a lot of misregistrations in Finland due to it, that they are registered as bay though they are in fact black genetically. Okana was one of them, she had Dulex twice and Firth Bracken once. So taking a quick look at some ponies that I remembered being more like dark bays, I was not surprised to find Dulex or his sire Ulex v. Mariapeel in the pedigrees, also often ponies from mushroomlines like Firth Bracken. Could it really be that mushroom does show on some blacks? As we can also all agree that there must be black Shetlands which could be mushroom from both sides, but still look like normal dark black ponies. And if mushroom really would show on some black ponies, what does make it show?
I also noticed that Dulex is registered as dark bay, but if I now, almost two years later remember right when looking through all his offspring, he had not one definitely bay foal from black mares, bay where from bay mares and some foals, of course from black mares might have been registered as dark bays – but what if they were misregistered lighter blacks mistaken for bays? There were lots and lots of very interesting shade coloured ponies near Dulex relatives also, from his brothers and sisters but sadly no mushrooms nearby and if there were they were combined to a few mushroom bloodlines so that we cannot really be sure if the colour came from there and Dulex/relatives had nothing to do with it. In Finland three ”old generation” stallions have mushroom foals Opan (Sire Firth Bracken, sire of dam Ulex v. Mariapeel), Big Tico (Sire Jigge (who is same combination as Opan)) and RP-Gladiator (Firth Bracken and Dulex’s dam Kirkbride Flake on maternal line) – most likely in all of course, the mushroom comes from Firth Bracken.
Also I had by this time contacted Beth Mead at Kellas Stud, who was the first person to notice mushrooms and searching the lines and logics behind the colour, that it is recessive and shown on chestnut base. Anyone interested in mushroom and google this colour will end up on her webpage. Beth was very interested in what I was writing her about and I sent her pictures of Nenya, who had by that time gone through these colour changes:
The photo of her down right shows well how she looked quite grey in cloudy weather but on the left, milk chocolate coloured in sun.
For an colour and pedigree enthusiast there could not have been a better pen pal than Beth, it has been so interesting to read and see what Beth has come up with during all these years she has researched this subject. She has been very skeptic, I must say, of a black showing mushroom and we both agree, if it really does, it is not just that. Beth was of huge help with all her knowledge about mushrooms and ponies and breeders from the very start of the studbook, I am amazed what an amount of knowledge she has of the colours of this breed. Since we have e-mailed hudreds of photos of ponies all around Europe, compared pedigrees and searched for hints of mushroom in black and bay ponies.
We also took a good look at the ponies behind Dulex. I was interested of the two lines behind Dulex that goes to Fairy Lamp as his grand sire Helium is mentioned by Beth in mushroom pedigrees. However especially the line via sire Ulex v. Mariapeel to Spotlight of Marshwood would have been strange as Spotlight is in so many pedigrees of black ponies, there should be more nenyalikes. Then again it is known that for example Mustang v. Bunswaard has given many dark bay like blacks in Holland and he have 5 lines to Fairy Lamp via Rustic Sprite of Standen (sire of Spotlight), also a stallion in so many pedigrees… Where are all Nenyas?
The dam’s side of Dulex sire Ulex v. Mariapeel goes, sadly, to Dutch ponies and is and short story to study, non of them pop up especially in mushrooms either to help us find a connection there, so it is unlikely this part is responsible, and if it is, it would be impossible to find.
Dulex dam is one of the big mares of Swedish Shetland Pony breeding, Kirkbride Flake, the Foundation mare of family Fransson’s breeding. She is also so widely used both via straight maternal line and via her several breeding stallion son’s and many good broodmare daughters that one would think a mushroom should pop up somewhere – or strange blacks. But this line also strikes quite normal to me.
What also was problematic is that Kirkbride Flake’s sire Kirkbride Argar is registered chestnut roan, but his registered parents are not roan. His sire Littlestoke Fairy Lantern is, a bit oddly, taken to Kirkbride stud as late as at the age of 20 years and he is a plain chestnut stallion. Still there is a few roan foals registered after him at the Kirkbride stud from different mares of various colours – and that is roan foals out on non-roan mares. So the stallion which produced the roans just can not be Littlestoke Fairy Lantern. Littlestoke stud bred both roan and grey ponies, so the stallion gone to Kirkbride of course must have been roan. If it would have been Littlestoke Fairy Lantern, his colour, by the age of 20 years and after inspection, should have been registered right if he truly was roan – and even then, not even his parents where roan. This is especially strange as Beth knew Kirkbride stud has been very careful of registering the right colours, so they would have known what colour the stallion is, compared to pedigree and registration. So, how a chestnut stallion gives roan foals remains forever a mystery, all we know is that the colours and ponies do not match, which again leads to us not knowing exactly which ponies is behind Dulex from here backwards and did he have possible mushroom carrier ancestor via this bloodline.
I also of course found some odd blacks here and there, not all of them had Dulex or his realtives in the pedigree but most had. Beth also was surprised how much brownish blacks there are in Nordic countries compared to UK where blacks tend to be totally black, but of course we know that a totally black pony is considered beautiful in the UK and there also breeding towards totally black ones might have affected in the bloodlines so that paler ones have not been so desireable in breeding. In what I have understood, in UK people really strive to have very black ponies at the shows. In Nordic countries again, it comes from the few bloodlines like Dulex and his realtives, which again are widely used, these are the first Shetland bloodlines entering Nordic countries so naturally they have become common and also crossed back and forth.
So the pedigree does not reveal the secret of Nenya’s colour very easily, not even if it is mushroom related at all.
The first winter as seen in some photos above, she was quite grey in colour and any sun fading in mane was towards yellow or beige – not copper red as is quite common in black Shetlands. The ones fading towards yellow is also something I have been looking at, also any ponies that react heavily on sunlight as, though Nenya’s base colour already is strange – she also seems to react more on sunlight. In the spring as yearling she showed a very mushroomlike colour which stayed the whole summer and she just became more and more faded towards autumn. Here photos of her from the first summer:
As you can see in these photos from early to late summer as yearling, she is the same colour down to her hooves, there is no black at all in her coat. Even the dot in her hind leg (not in the photos) tuned dark brown (sunfading?). The only parts where you find black on her is in the tail and in the middle of her mane.
In autumn we participated in official foal evaluation and there we took a photo of her standing in the door to a manege and here I think is one of the best photos of her colour:
Around this time I had spent hundreds of hours online googleing ponies and following different bloodlines to find one Nenya more without any success. Many ponies which where something like her, where of course smokey black (black + cream), some even black going white or roan (in the phase where the white hair does not show) as those caught my eye with the yellowish colour in the mane. It is so important to do the homework and check and double check the pedigrees to see if found ponies are in fact for example cream.
And then, one day this opened on my computer screen – and it could not be anything else than black:
This is a print screen photo of Dezibelle from: Häststam.se
I could not belive my eyes I had found one more Nenya after all this research but suddenly there she was, a year older filly in Sweden. Dezibelle’s dam is registered as dark bay, and looks exactly like many misregistered blacks, but she does have a bay sire so without a test we can not say for sure is she faded black or bay. Dezibelle also have a faded half sister by the same sire Stormtorpets Taizon and a black mare, not as much though as Dezibelle. I sent a message to Dezibelle’s owner and breeder on Facebook and it was so nice to find out she also was interested of the strange colours of her ponies, so I have got lots of photos from her of Dezibelle in different ages, and also of the relatives. Dezibelles colour has developed exactly like Nenya’s What was interesting is that Dezibelle has Firth Bracken, a Houlland and Fairy connection in her pedigree – possible mushroom carriers, and from Nenyas pedigree only Kirkbride Flake, once. So they are not near realtives at all.
There is a third mare in Finland also of similar colour, but darker and with a more copper tinge in her mane, Jokimäen Bambi. She is tested black but her coat is totally milk chocolate coloured according to the owner and proven in photos. Bambi have a mushroom full brother.
I have also found some photos of older ponies than Nenya which have a similar coat colour but darker, time will tell when she gets older, is it the same with her. I also have recieved messages from people who have seen ponies like her years ago, some where even by Dulex but to be 100% reliable, I would need to see proper photos, which there of course is not as the ponies lived a long time ago. There was also a mini sized mare in Sweden with some proven mushroom lines.
The colour is so beautiful, I hope she stays like this… time will tell if she goes darker but now I’m pretty sure she will not be totally black 🙂 Photos taken when she was yearling, the one on the right is in autumn when she was lightest after summer and sun.
I finally ended up doing the gene tests too for Nenya last winter, though I knew the results. First we tested her base colour, which was black and with chestnut as her sire is chestnut dun, so she is Ee aa. We also tested Silver and cream which both where negative of course, Silver has not been found on purebred Shetlands in UK so far and she has no cream relatives/parents.
Later I read about UC Davis having a test for dun which also would show the previously unknown nd1 gene, which is told to fade colour and sometimes giving the horse an ealstripe without being ”properly” dun. I got REALLY excited, I could have bet that nd1 is the reason fo the pale colour and then also maybe therefore make the mushroom show on black but no, the test came back negative!
Now we just must wait for the mushroom to be found – and when we have a test, finally check if she really is a black mushroom – or is it something else? If she would be mushroom, then it would be interesting to test some other totally normal blacks from mushroom lines to see if we find mushroom blacks, which do not show it at all because that would tell us that Nenya must also have something else going on. If she is not mushroom, what on earth is it then?
If you know a pony like Nenya, you can PM me on Facebook or send e-mail to ponitalliax ÄT gmail DOT com.
The different shades of foals, both when born and when they start fading in autumn and loose their foal coat, and the shades of adult ponies gives me lots of hints of genes messing around but it is very hard to get your hand on it and say that ”there, you see, that is what I mean” and people really see colours differently. It might be the fact that the shade I am looking for is a combination of several genes, it doesn’t show unless combined to something else and therefore there are no clean lines where you can pick it up saying here you see it going from generation to generation. But what one can follow is the fact that mushroom seems to take away the red/copper colour and tinge in coat and if you look carefully, some lines seem to develop towards less red in coat gradually so that you can follow it – and still other mushroom carriers seems to be quite normal. Is there something else that makes a mushroom carrier show, that some carriers lack?
No matter what the genes are behind Nenya, she is really unique and even without her special colour a beautiful pony with lovely temperament and I love her to bits!