Another breeder suggested that I was wrong about the color of one of my foals (see picture). And then a potential buyer of the foal suggested the foal was grey. I know from color genetics that the foal isn’t grey. Responding to the breeder, though, required me to respond differently. I had to say that based on my decade’s experience with this line and my nearly two decades experience with breeding Fell Ponies, that the foal is indeed black.
I understand why the breeder questioned my judgment. When my first foal out of this line was born, I thought she was brown. In this breed, the brown color is characterized by the mealy effect on a dark background (see mare in first and second pictures), and I thought that was what I was seeing in the foal (see second picture). But as the foal aged, the lighter areas that I thought were mealy darkened. In the end, I had to ask a breeder who had experience with brown ponies what color my foal was, and she said it was definitely black. And she was right. That foal has matured into a beautiful black Fell Pony.
The foal who began these conversations now is out of a non-black mare. To most people’s eyes, she is bay, though in the Fell Pony she could be called brown with black points because she has the mealy effect on a dark background with black mane, tail, and lower legs. When this mare is bred to a black stallion, then, every foal has the chance to be black, brown, or bay. So far she has only had one non-black foal, and fortunately for me, that foal’s color was obvious from birth (see picture)!
Being a breeder of Fell Ponies can be confusing when colors other than black are bred. The confusion comes in part from the fact that there are at least two colors of black Fell Ponies: jet black and summer or fading black. Because my first two Fells were jet black and only produced jet black foals, I knew that black color well, but when a summer black joined my herd, I was in for an education. It was her first foal for me fifteen years ago that informed my opinion of the foal before me now.
In that case, both parents were black, so I knew the foal was black, because that’s how color genetics work. Nonetheless, he was very light in color, as the picture here shows. Back then I wasn’t surprised when he matured into a black pony, as the picture at 9 months old shows. Today, though, I might not be so certain, except experience is a great teacher!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2019
More stories about the joys of owning and breeding Fell Ponies can be found in my book Fell Ponies: Observations on the Breed, the Breed Standard, and Breeding, available internationally by clicking here or on the book cover.