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The Myth of the Gray Horse
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The Myth of the Gray Horse

Gray horses have always been a fascination and magnificent phenomena for me to watch at the races. I have always found myself betting on them and it is amazing how many times they came in first over the finish line. Perhaps it is because they are rare in a crowd of bays, chestnuts, and browns or because they stand out with such a definite uniqueness. As I read through the reams of information on them, I didn't find it surprising to find the following myth that was perpetuated about them in the past.

For half a century, renowned as one of most accomplished breeders in history, Federico Tesio, wrote many books on the subject of breeding. His works are considered must-reads for ambitious horse breeders. His idea that grays were diseased was not argued or disputed because of his years of experience. This made the gray horse become an extremely rare sight in the horse racing community for many years.

Being set apart from other horses, the gray-only races prompted the beginning of the race at Newmarket in the UK, The Grey Horse Handicap, which ran for the first time in the early 2000's. It has grown in popularity ever since.

Gray hair is both a sign of an aging horse and also means the pigment has not reached the hair for whatever reason. These handsome horses get their coloring because of two things, a varying amount of black and white hairs and their black skin.

An oddity of the gray horse is that eight out of 10 horses past the age of 15 will develop melanomas, either internally or externally. Most will be benign. About 25% of those will develop into the more serious spreading type of a cancer.

Through the years, grays have shown their ability as racers. Take for instance such greats as Native Dancer who won 21 races out of 22, Skip Away who set 10 track records, and Lady's Secret who was daughter of Secretariat and a member of the Racing Hall of Fame.

These handsome animals have shown themselves to be strong and healthy competitors. Myths are interesting to read about but the truth is also as intriguing to uncover and understand.

 

Image: Flickr.com

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  1. Julie Sinclair
    Very interesting. - voted
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    1. Eve Sherrill York
      Eve Sherrill York
      Thank you so much.
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  2. Thundersmist
    Thundersmist
    I've NEVER met a color I didn't like! BUT.....GRAY Horses take my heart every time....I've had 3 Grays and known several through out my life....GOOD horses, every one of them. However....melanomas were an issue. Just like fair hair / skin people prone to melanoma....it's just skin condition!
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    1. Eve Sherrill York
      Eve Sherrill York
      Sounds about right, huh?
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      1. Thundersmist
        Thundersmist
        Yes, unfortunately. Bianca my mare, had melanomas under her tail for more than half her life. In operable because of the tissue that was and would be further compromised if we'd done so. They were slow growing and caused her no threat other wise. Except when they were actively growing they itched like crazy for her. Her daughter, Ice, had a sarcoid up behind her left ear. Freeze treatments and some kind of natural immune stimulation took care of that....I miss my equines. But circumstances have changed drastically n it's no longer possible to have my own anymore.....but boy do I have many many amazing memories of the joys, hardships, love and broken hearts and fulfilled dreams they brought to my life and to those who shared in it with me.....
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        1. Eve Sherrill York
          Eve Sherrill York
          Sounds like you should write a book.
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          1. Thundersmist
            Thundersmist
            You're sweet, thank you. I'll bet all of here could write a book...
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            1. Eve Sherrill York
              Eve Sherrill York
              Let me know if you do. I'd love to read it.
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              1. Thundersmist
                Thundersmist
                I will...thanks for the encouragement!
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  3. Lila Cox
    In the past I grew up with Standard Breds. Always loved horses and enjoyed riding when I could. Always bet money in a race for a Grey horse. Alot of the older horsemen would say they were faster. Sometimes it was true. I'm to old to have horses and my knees have had work on them so I have to keep dreaming of horse-back riding.
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    1. Eve Sherrill York
      Eve Sherrill York
      Age is a bummer. But, like you said, we can dream.
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  4. Judesmine
    Trio was not wrong about grays being diseased if they are prone to melanomas.
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    1. Eve Sherrill York
      Eve Sherrill York
      That is true. Good care is always important.
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      1. Thundersmist
        Thundersmist
        I would think it's more a genetic issue vs a disease per say...jmho...
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        1. Eve Sherrill York
          Eve Sherrill York
          True.
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