Miller's Miniature Horses Presents...


By: Carolyn Miller

Silver dapple, not to be confused with dappled gray, is also known as Prateado Rodado and is found in the Shetland Pony having dilute properties similar to, but not exactly a dun. Because of its relationship to the chestnut many call this a silver dappled chestnut. Some authorities further believe that the silver dapple gene many in some way be related to the dominant gene D, which causes both the eumelanin (black or brown) and the phaeomelanin (yellow or red) to be restricted to one side of the hair shaft, this restriction causing a visible dilution in appearance.

The color first believed to have occurred in Trot #31 born 1886 described a "Fawn" dappled with white mane and tail. The first documented notation of this color, most likely a new color mutation, was noted in 1897 in Trot's grandson the Stallion, Chestnut #3572 standing 41" and born May 14, 1897. Trot's daughter and first registered Shetland of the dappled chestnut color, Keitberger #1752 was a dark cream with white mane and tail, no dapples crossed to the black stallion Prince of Wales who threw the colt "Chestnut". Chestnut is credited as the foundation site of all silver dapples. The breeder of the Legendary Chestnut was Mr. Charles Bunn, and when he first presented Chestnut to the public he was besieged with orders for this new and dynamic color. Chestnut was the sire of Jack Frost #5734 and grandsire of Jap #5513 by Fascination #4094, both being sold to Mr. Alfred Vanderbilt. Chestnut was the great grandsire of Orluff #11892 the foundation of the "Crescent" family. Prince of Wales, the sire of Chestnut goes back to Tom Thumb #170 and Princess Alice #158, they being of English Shetland descent back to the Marquis of Londonderry. In 1899 the Londonderry Stud was disbursed at public auction where the Ladies Estella and Dorothea Hope purchased many of the best mares and stallion including Bretta En #811, a famous prize winning mare and her father Odin En #32 a foundation sire to many of the South Park bloodlines of the Hope Sisters. Odin lived to the age of 24 and his very famous sire “Jack” of the Londonderry stud lived to age 30.


Part of the Hope Sister, South Park Breeding Program was a careful line breeding of miniatures of various colors including broken (pinto) and blue roan. The identification of these miniatures was by affix in names such as the F's for the "Fairy" line of Miniatures. i.e. Fairy Light, Fairy Blue Train. In 1927 Lady Dorothea passed away and in 1952 Lady Estella passed away at age 92. The Ladies entrusted their Shetland and miniature program to the guidance of their grandniece, the late Lady Joan Gore-Langton.

The South Park breeding was a trademark for coloring be it a 38" harness pony or an under 34" miniature. Their legendary foundation mare, "Hoplemuroma" was a roan, with virtually all the miniature roans going back to her in some manner. Other characteristics included the white socks many with a narrow white flash on the belly (sabino?) (Kay Payne found & sent me a Print of Hoplemuroma) Lady Joan Gore- Langton carried on the program for nearly 29 years and in 1989 she purchased Ron of North Wells, a small black stallion of Marshwood lines. A homebred chestnut colt, Fairy Bacchus, proved a wonderful cross with the daughters of Ron, providing the foundation of today’s collection of colors. Lady Joan Gore-Langdon passed away suddenly April of '89 and a great loss to the miniature and Shetland world.

Now as the history of the silver dappled gene is connected to the ancestry of the Shetland, so it is suggested that the Shetland may very well be connected with many of the grey Arabs, often called Mustangs and presented to the islands in 1837 onwards by the late General Bolivar to Sir Arthur Nicholson of the Fetlar Pony. Another Arab was introduced and an Orkney Garron cross was used, the early product standing 11 to 13 hands. In retrospect, now add careful line -breeding and careful selection of the smallest to the smallest as in the South Park Program and "voila", miniature.... But, that is yet another story... going back to the European families of Royalty.


I have used every source I can find from the geneticists on the silver dapple gene and as many have differing views, I will note the different symbols used for the silver dapple gene by them. I also have included those that we here at the Miller's Minis have proven to be true by our own breeding experiences and observations.

Equine Genetics and Selection Procedures published by Equine Research, Inc, designates silver dapple as a symbol at the "S" locus.

D. Phillip Sponenberg and Bonnie V. Beaver in the book, Horse Color, as well as our own Barbara Naviaux, once chairman of the AMHA Genetics Committee, believe the silver dapple gene designated as "Z".

S. Berge, a geneticist quoted in the imported book, Hair Colour in the Horse, by R. Geurts states a symbol Ds (D-gene or Ccr allele s for (Silvery).... We now work with several different symbols as proposed by varying geneticists, with some differences in opinion on affects of the silver dapple gene. The silver dapple "S" works on the eumelanin to dilute black and brown to silver or chocolate. The "S" on phenomelanin dilutes the yellow or red as in sorrel and chestnuts to a cream or almost palomino coloring, many times misstated as dappled palomino. The blacks, bays and livers are many times accompanied by a dark "mask" on the face. The heterozygous form of Ss appears more dramatic and striking on the black than the homozygous for SS since SS lightens the coat contrast more. These homozygote chestnut and sorrels appear as palominos, but in fact, hold the silver dapple gene.

The Ds theory is much the same but now add in an interaction with the G factor or Gray and we have yet a new variant color to the silver dapple known as white-born-white, grey-white. The two genes Ds and G in combination account for an accelerated strong grey, many times present at birth, where foals go whiter quicker than the normal greying process. In this silver dapple chestnut, light eyes, hazel eyes and also blue eyes can occur. Ds being a factor almost dominant.

Our modern day authority, D. Phillip Sponenberg designates the "Z" allele for silver dapple. He equates the gene in his book. "Horse Color" much like the roan in that you have Silver Dapple Blacks, Silver Dapple Bays, Silver Dapple Chestnuts etc. Winter and foal coats tend to be lighter shedding out in the summer to the silver dapple coloring. Also note that many silver dapple manes and tails are mistaken for "Flaxen", when in closer checking if you part the mane to the roots, the characteristic silvering will show, even on the chestnut and sorrel holding the silver dapple gene. (I have found this also true in my herd.)

Barbara Naviaux published an article in the Miniature, Hose World of Oct/Nov '91". Her article for AMHA reflects Sponenberg, however, she states that the silver dapple gene only acts upon and affects eumelanin (black) and any area of the horse that might have red are unaffected by the Z allele. I personally differ in opinion here in that my own breeding experience has shown affect of all colors where the silver dapple gene is expressed. I also have noted that many times the base color as in roan, appears as a solid. So what appears to be a chestnut may in effect be a genotype silver dapple. As stated, two chestnuts should not produce a bay, however it is entirely possible that two silver dapple genotypes appearing as two chestnut phenotypes can in actuality be silver dapple bays and their offspring can be solid bay in appearance.

Can you imagine what happens when you now combine other colors such as pinto and appy?....


Both Appy and Silver Dapple are "patterning" colors... and in '92, Kay Payne of Four Winds Studio gave me her Appaloosa Stud Books to study. Imagine my surprise to find that many of the old appy breeders used silver dapple to cross with their appaloosa coloring. Remember now that silver dapple is not a progressive graying color gene but is highly static so it will not gray out the appy coloring. In fact only when silver dapple is joined with the Grey gene do we get the accelerated white.

Kay Payne having bred her Granny mare to Appy experienced first hand the pulling of the appy color from her silver dapple granny. Whereas, my silver dapple black stallion, (Noted as gray on the registration) pulled a silver dapple colt with liver chestnut spots very visible within the first six months of foaling. These spots seemed to accumulate with age. The mare was noted as a strawberry roan, but I knew appy must be hidden somewhere, so with further research I found that the roaning now noticed over the rump, was probably a characteristic passed down from her Grand Dam who is noted as a black, but does however have mottling on the muzzle. Our foal coat with liver spots was checked by Kay Payne in disbelief as he also had mottling around his eyelids and under his tail. The outcome of this theory is, you many not use gray, but certainly attempt appy crosses with silver dapples.


So many times I have heard it said. "These Miniatures have no reasoning for their coloring". Hogwash... What we have is a NEW MUTATED GENE called the silver dapple that confuses palomino, cremello, chestnut, dapple-gray etc. My own experience in discovering the TRUE PEDIGREE to a horse I own was founded by knowing that the silver dapple gene in this horse which can only come from another silver dapple gene was not the papered parents. In fact, the horse's correct sire was a silver dapple not a chestnut as my horse appeared in color at foaling, and so the papered sire was a chestnut! As in the old rules we did not have the 42-day rule for stallions, and as the breeder of my horse had a chestnut stallion and a silver dapple stallion, this was most likely and honest mistake. However, one I'm glad I discovered by knowing color genes or I might be breeding brother and sister today with the possibilities of a DWARF! I also bred our silver dapple black stallion with mouse dun Grand Dam to a dark line back grullo sired by a palomino. Any ideas what appeared? An apricot line backed dun with silvering in the mane! I have seen Grand Parent characteristics kick in many times in pedigree study. Incidentally, the line back grullo mare was mistakenly registered BLACK! What a kettle of Fish!

Now add in yet another variable. With our Minis taking the world by storm, many of our Equine vets are very knowledgeable with standard horse colors by not necessarily with the Mini or Shetland coloring. Hence, even some professionals mis-note colors.

I have always kept my stallions within their own little bands separated not by a common fence but by two fence lines as I personally want to know what I am breeding and as my "five" stallions at present would tear each other apart. I am also personally going to blood type my stallions because patterning genes can be picked up and at present I am involved in studying the Dun, Tobiano, Overo, Cremello and Sabino and Rabicano color pattens. I will send my results onto Sponenberg along with all the GET pictures to learn more about the patterning genes held by my stallions producing medicine hats and Tovero coloring along with the splashed white and sabino patterns....
If in my own herd that I have maintained strict regulation for over eight years if I can find so many problems related to pedigrees and coloring... JUST IMAGINE.... the Pandora's box that will be opened when we blood type and microchip all our horses. I personally am not in favor of ANY foreign object in my horse, but would freeze-brand and will blood type for my own knowledge. As I am a breeder of Miniature Horses in Abbeville, S.C. and enjoy writing on Miniature history, pedigrees and color genetics, please be aware I AM NOT a geneticist. I have worked with the colors and have gained some credible knowledge. I have acquired a vast library of reference material that has come in from all over the world.

Contrary to what some believe, I am a purist who enjoys the breeding of the best to the best, but I always listen to the "OLD" breeders. I am and this article is, SUBJECT TO ERRORS AND OMMISIONS, and I believe as J.C. Williams states it will take many lifetimes to breed horses. Therefore, it is my belief there are no experts in the horse industry, we must all listen to every bit of knowledge given to us, and then store it for future reference. Instant experts do not exist and I will be learning till they bury me next to my husband and my dear friend. "Ayer’s Mini Red Questionmark". Our main herd sire, Red, who we were lucky to acquire from Mustardseed Farms via Firelight Farms and bred by the famous Mark Verhaeghe of Van't Huttenest breeding was a lucky purchase. Hopefully, we can share information and maintain friends in our Miniature Industry that are not competitive relationships so that our Miniature Industry may exist for many, many years to come.

If you have any questions or wish to share with me Pedigree, Color, Health or just plain chatter, Please contact me at I am presently working on Tovero, Overo, Medicine Hat, Sabino, and Rabicano color patterns.

This article was originally published in the September 1994 issue of the Miniature Horse Voice, is copyrighted and not to be reprinted without permission from Carolyn Miller.


At the time I wrote this article we believed the silver dapple gene was directly related to Trott #31, and most likely a color mutation. However, in the Equus magazine issue #200 published June of 1994 we find this may very well have been the first coloring to equine. This article discussed the discovery of a well-preserved carcass of the Ice Age, estimated to be 26,000 years old. Genetically both Barbara Naviaux and I could deduce from the article that this had to be a silver chestnut as the description follows: “Specimen was an adult about the size of a large pony. Its coat consisted of short, blackish-brown hair above the hoof that became chestnut farther up the leg. The horse also had along flaxen mane but lacked a colored dorsal.” (Definitely not bay, or line back, but “chocolate” or silver bay maybe?) …..Carolyn Miller 27 January 2002

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Carolyn Miller writes The Journal's column for Area III Southern Sunshine. She has had numerous feature articles written in various horse publications pertaining to the equine world including history, medical and genetic related topics. She and her husband Jerry own and operate Miller's Miniatures in Abbeville, S.C. where they care for a select herd of Miniature Horses. She is also noted for her photographs related to equine. Presently she and her husband are breeding for and studying the "frame overo" pattern and has also brought together the sabino and belly splashed patterns to produce multiple patterned horses allowing for greater percentages of the sought after colors.