A Horse of A Different Color
by Bea Kinkade
© Copyright 1999, Voice of the Tennessee Walking Horse, Lewisburg, Tennessee
Reprinted with permission from Bea Kinkade
[Comments in brackets are by the CHBOA, in light of recent discoveries and knowledge of the champagne gene]

Every once in a while, nature gives us a wonderful gift. Sometimes it's the result of years of human research and diligence . . . a new variety of rose for example. And sometimes it's just luck.

On June 19, 1969, nature gave the walking horse world such a gift. A filly was born. By Johnny Midnight and out of Mack's Golden Girl, the baby was an odd color, like sparkling amber champagne, with chocolate points and bright blue eyes that eventually turned amber. She was Champagne Lady.

In 1970 Diane Green of Summerhill Farm, Tullahoma, Tennessee, saw the 18 month old filly tied to a trailer at a horse show. Diane came running back to her mother, exclaiming, "Mother, come look - I've just seen the most beautiful, different-colored filly. You won't believe your eyes. I've never seen anything like her. And I'm going to buy her!"

The Greens had several top show horses in training, notably Delight's Magic Moment, who became the 1971 World Champion Junior Mare. Diane's mother, Kelly, though impressed with the quality, pedigree, and certainly the filly's unusual color, tried unsuccessfully to discourage the purchase. But Diane was going to have that filly!

Champagne Lady proved to be a wise investment. She was put into training with Marianne Leech and soon became well known for her blue ribbons. She won the two year old class at Montgomery, Alabama her first time in the show ring. She went on to win classes at 23 major shows, in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky. Many of you remember seeing her.

Diane was curious about her mare's color. What was it, exactly? Everyone had a guess, but no one knew for sure. So she submitted hair samples to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and later to Auburn University at Auburn, Alabama. The samples were independently tested, and through microscopic comparison and elimination both laboratories agreed that the color could not be officially classified, that they had no typing for the mare's color gene. Champagne Lady was a color unique unto herself. The experts theorized that she was a "genetic color accident," truly a horse of a different color.

Even though they could not put a name to her color, the experts could definitely state which colors she was not. She was not roan, gray, claybank, red dun, buckskin, perlino, isabella or grulla.

Champagne Lady had proved herself in the show ring, but would she pass on her great abilities when she retired to become a broodmare? Would she pass on her unusual color?

Her first foal was a black filly, Eb's Champagne Velvet. She topped the 1980 Wiser Farm Sale and went on to make a good show mare. In 1989 Velvet was bred and foaled a black stud colt. They were entered and tied seventh in the highly competitive mare and foal class at the 1990 Celebration.

Champagne Lady's second foal was a black colt by Pride Of Midnight H. F. He was injured as a weanling and had to be put down.

Meanwhile she had been bred back to Pride Of Midnight and April, 1979 delivered a black stallion, Pride's Champagne. (More about him later).

Her fourth foal was by Carbon Copy. It was a filly. A champagne-colored filly! This was the first indication that Champagne Lady could transmit her color! This filly, Champagne Copy, also made a good show horse and then was retired to be a broodmare.

Champagne Lady was proving herself as a broodmare as well as a show mare. She was producing exceptionally talented horses and was proven capable of propagating her color.

Meanwhile, the Greens had put "the greatest horse they'd ever raised," (their very words), Pride's Champagne, in training. Their hope, faith, time and belief were swept away when the two-year old colt was maliciously injured, during the night, just five days before his show ring debut.

Going against three veterinary advisors, including the insurance vet, Kelly and Diane refused to put the horse down; pleading with Dr. Prince of Winchester, Tennessee, to work with Auburn University to save him. Reluctantly, Dr. Prince agreed to try, and kept the horse for almost a year. Pride's Champagne came out of the tragedy terribly blemished and scarred for life, but alive. And miracle of miracles - he was sound!

Pride's Champagne was solid black, with a beautiful head and long neck. He was 16.2 hands and could do a perfect four-beat running walk. He was alive and well, but would never grace the show ring.

This is where the Kinkades enter the story. In 1983 my husband Jack and I bought Pride's Champagne and had him shipped to California. We had been looking for an outstanding stallion since our great Go Boy's Fancy Pants died. Pride's Champagne was exactly what we wanted. Color was definitely not a consideration. Jack and I have been in the walking horse business most of our lives. Gaits, conformation, bloodlines, and many other factors have always been more important to us than color.

We bred Pride's Champagne to 33 outside mares in the 1983/1984 season. The next year, when his foals started to arrive, I noticed several were born with dark blue eyes that later turned brown. In talking to Diane, and hearing comments from people who had seen Champagne Lady, I started to wonder if her unique color would pop up in later generations. [The champagne gene is now accepted to be a dominant gene, and can not be hidden.] I wanted to breed to palomino or cremello mares to see if Pride's Champagne carried the "champagne" color gene. These colors are not very common in walking horses, so it was hard locating mares. Finally a dark palomino mare was bred to him. The owner phoned to say the mare lost twin foals at about ten months. One was black/bay and the other was a very strange color; like nothing she'd ever seen.  [The foal could have been a buckskin, but not a champagne.]

Sometime in 1984 Diane Green called. She said she had sold all her broodmares except Champagne Lady. The mare had been bred a couple of times but hadn't foaled since 1980, when she had the filly, Champagne Copy. Like many others, I really wanted the mare but just couldn't afford her at the time. Aside from the old mare's outstanding ability, I was becoming more and more interested in trying to breed these amazing-colored horses, and nothing would have been better than owning the originator of it all.

In November 1985 a black Senator mare had a buckskin colt by Pride's Champagne. Close, but not what I was looking for. It was then I decided that I wanted a champagne-colored stallion out of old Champagne Lady or out of her daughter, Champagne Copy. I hoped to line-breed him to Pride's Champagne daughters and granddaughters. By this time, we had a great selection of these outstanding mares in our area.

About that time, the opportunity arose to send Pride's Champagne to Tennessee, to stand at public service. We knew the horse would be well cared for, and it would give him an opportunity to prove what he could produce - breeding him to some of the best mares in the heart of walking horse country. We thought he deserved that chance. And we were right. Pride's Champagne has sired many outstanding foals in Tennessee, first at William Pennington's Stable and now at Billy Gray's Sand Creek Farms in Shelbyville.

Of course, that left room at our breeding farm for another stallion. I knew just the one I wanted.

I called the TWHBEA, asking for the name of the registered owner of Champagne Copy. I hoped the mare might be producing her color. I phoned her owner, Clipper Green in Haleyville, Alabama. He told me that he had bred the mare to his stallion and just a few days before foaling, a storm came up and she was struck and killed by lightening.

An autopsy revealed she was carrying a champagne-colored filly. It was terrible news, but I gained one piece of valuable information - the color gene definitely would transmit down to Champagne Lady's third generation. Another thing I learned - Clipper Green told me he heard that Larry Massey was working a young champagne-colored stallion. If this was true, the colt had to be out of Champagne Lady!

With the death of Champagne Copy, there was only one horse in the world that I knew was the champagne color, Champagne Lady herself. If the rumor of the young stallion was true, that would make two of them.

Once again I called the Breeder's Association, asking for the new owner of Champagne Lady. I was told Wiley Bailey of Little Rock, Arkansas had bought the mare from Diane and Kelly Green.

I called Wiley. I could hardly contain my excitement when he confirmed that there was indeed a two-year-old son, the same color as the old mare. Also, Champagne Lady had a black yearling filly by her side and was in foal to the great amateur horse, Royal Senator, by Ebony's Senator. The foal was due in mid-April 1989.

The bad news was Wiley did not want to sell his two year old stallion. Knowing Champagne Lady was safe in foal, I impatiently waited until the end of April before calling Wiley for the results. Yes, she'd had a big champagne-colored colt. Great! But Wiley wouldn't think of selling him. Not so great. However, he was going to breed the mare back in a couple of months, so maybe I still had a chance to own my champagne stallion.

Alright, have you been counting? We now have three champagne-colored horses. The old mare, her now three-year old son, Champagne Night, and the newborn stud colt, by Royal Senator. Remember, we would have had five if Champagne Copy and her unborn filly had not been killed.

I could not give up the dream of owning a champagne-colored stallion. In late summer, 1989, I called Wiley again. He told me he had bred his Black Power mare to Champagne Night, and expected her to foal May 1990. I explained my strong desire to propagate this color, asking Wiley if he'd consider breeding any outside mares to his horse - preferably one of our Pride's Champagne daughters. He said yes. That was fine, but all of our mares were in California. So we pretty much let it drop.

I asked him how the weanling stallion was doing. He told me the colt was really nice, moved right, and was very big. He expected to wean him in a couple of weeks.

Months passed, and I kept thinking of Wiley's offer to breed one of our mares. I pondered the prospects of getting the color I wanted, and weighed that against the shipping and boarding expenses. Should we do it or not?

All the time I was trying to choose the right Champagne Lady granddaughter for my project. I finally decided on a beautiful black mare whose bloodlines go 11 times to Merry Legs F-4 and nine times to Hunter's Allen F-10. Besides, she had a prophetic name, Champagne Chance.

What the heck, I decided, Let's just do it! In early Spring 1990, we shipped her to Champagne Night, now a four-year old in training in Tennessee.

Wiley and I talked once or twice after the mare arrived. At one point, he stated, "I don't believe Champagne Lady is in foal. I was sad about that news, but we just visited about the horses and didn't speak of buying or selling. We had become very good "phone friends" after all this time.

Tuesday night, April 10, 1990, I picked up the phone and called Wiley. We talked for a minute or two. "Well, I've got good news," he said, "Champagne Lady's vet-checked to foal in August."

"How wonderful," I congratulated him, then simply asked, "Wiley, when are you going to sell me her yearling colt?"

He sort of laughed, "You really want him, don't you?" (I don't recall answering him.) "Well, " he continued, "I guess I'll just sell him to you." (My heart leaped.)

"Well, I guess I'll just buy him," I answered. The deal was struck! Just before we hung up, I asked, "Wiley, do you know what his name is? "Well, sure," he answered, "it's Champagne Senator, or Senator Champ . . ."
I interrupted him. "No, it is Champagne Look. I named him last year when he was born." Wiley laughed as we hung up.

Champagne Look and Bea KinkadeFor a month I wondered if I was daft. I'm a very conservative person, and bought a very expensive horse, sight unseen, primarily because of his color. By the time Champagne Look walked out of Clark Ford's trailer at our stable in Elk Grove, California on May 10, the whole neighborhood was anxious to see what sort of creature was responsible for Aunt Bea's "temporary insanity."

No one was disappointed. The tall, strong colt boldly marched down the ramp and crowned himself king of his new domain. I had barely let out my first long sigh of relief - the colt was a dandy, well put together, great long stride, and a great disposition according to Clark, who had just spent several days on the road with him - when the questions started about his color.

Some people who knew the colt was coming phoned to ask, "What color is he?" Others who had come to see for themselves would look right at him and ask, "Well, what color is he?" The only answer we had is "He's champagne-color." One lady had called to say how exciting it was to have this young stallion on the West Coast. She said, "I saw Champagne Lady show many times, I've never forgotten her color, and you can't describe it either, but if you ever see it - you never forget it." Now we could see what she was talking about.

In a few days, I called Wiley to report on the colt's safe arrival, and how pleased we were with him. Wiley had great news. His Black Power mare had just had a champagne-colored stud colt (by Champagne Night). Now there were four Champagne horses! With the prospect of Champagne Lady's next foal and our own mare safe in foal to Champagne Night, it looked like we might be on the way.

August 1990, there came some bad news from Wiley. Within days of foaling, old Champagne Lady had died. What a shock and a loss! She wasn't autopsied, so we'd never know what color foal she was about to deliver. Her death made one less champagne-colored horse. There were only three again.

Champagne Shades SVF, by Champagne LookEverything was falling into place in our breeding program, however. Champagne Look grew fast, and in the fall of 1990 we accepted two outside mares to be bred, a brown Super Stock mare and a gray Sun Dust mare. We had several others scheduled for spring breeding. Breeding mares to Look brought all the wonderful anticipation kids experience at Christmas. As soon as the mare was checked in foal, we'd all start wondering what was inside her. And we still wondered what color we were dealing with. Everyone had a theory. They would come, go over Look like Sherlock Holmes looking for clues, and you could almost see the question mark start to form over their heads. Look loved the attention. They all brought cameras. Look loved to pose. The photos did not reproduce the color well, however. Sometimes it came out lavender, sometimes gold, and sometimes even greenish! And the coat was not just a weird color, it was a weird texture, too. Even in the dead of winter Look was slick and shiny. And he was not kept blanketed or even in a stall.

Finally, when our vet, Dr. Stephen Leonard, came to check some horses, he said, "I've been talking to my associates about Look, and we want you to call Dr. Ann Bowling at the University of California at Davis. She's a nationally-recognized geneticist who is an authority on equine color, and we believe she should see Look."

Champagne Honeybee, by Champagne LookI thanked him, but I wanted to wait until after our mare, who was in foal to Look's brother, gave birth in mid May. It would give Dr. Bowling that much more to work with. I believed with all my heart and soul that the mare would have a champagne-colored foal.

In early May, the vet came back to draw blood for typing Look. "What color is he?" he asked. "What color do I enter for the record?"

"Just write 'champagne-color'," I answered.

"Didn't you call Dr. Bowling?"

"No, our mare is only 10 days from foaling," I explained. "Patience, Doctor, patience. We're not breeding mice, you know! We just have to wait."

On May 15th at 4:30 a. m. our mare delivered her long-awaited package. It was just what I wanted for Christmas in May . . . a big champagne-colored filly! I'll spare you all the details and excitement of her birth, except to say there's no mistaking a champagne foal. It's born champagne-colored, with pink skin and bright blue eyes. Mother and daughter were fine. Daylight came. I looked at the filly and said, "Touché!" So we named her "Champagne Touche." And wrote "champagne-color" on her registration application. This baby brought the number of champagne-colored horses back up to four again.

By August there were seven outside mares in foal to Look. I had been keeping good records on them, documenting the color of the mare and the color of her ancestors as far back as we could. When it looked like everything was under control, I called Dr. Bowling and gave her a brief explanation. She made an appointment for August 10, 1991, to come and examine the horses.

Champagne Suede, by Champagne LookThe next couple of days were full of anticipation. Would she say, "Oh, that's an isabella." Or, "Yes, you see these diluted buckskins once in a while." A thousand possibilities ran through my mind.

Dr. Ann and her husband Mike (who is the photographer of the duo, and is a geneticist knowledgeable in equine colors as well) finally arrived. My heart pounding, I led Look out. The moment of truth.

No one spoke. Dr. Bowling was carrying a pad and pen as she walked around the horse. Then she and Mike started discussing him, she making notes, he taking photos. I answered their questions when asked. Dr. Ann collected hair samples and continued to exchange comments with Mike.

Their examination and evaluation with Look took about 40 minutes, then they turned their attention to Touche. I explained her startling blue eyes at birth. Almost 3 months old now, the filly's eyes now appeared more amber-green.
I led Touche over to Look. Mike took more pictures and they both agreed the horses were the same color.

When we returned to the house, I showed them the records I was keeping. I told them about Diane Green giving Champagne Lady's hair samples to the two universities, and the lack of an answer. Several times Dr. Bowling said, "I'm not going on record yet" . . . or "I'm not ready to go on record. . . "
The suggestion was made that this color might be a diluted black. Dr. Bowling had seen a color very similar to this in a grade Icelandic pony. We all had a good laugh when Mike asked her, "Ann, what color did they call that?"
"I don't know," she smiled, "I don't speak Icelandic."

I was left with instructions to keep up the documentation, try breeding to sorrels, chestnuts, palomino and cremellos, and to keep them informed when the foals came. A decision could not be made until Look has 25 or 30 foals.
So the question is still "What color is that horse?" And my answer is still "champagne-color." I sincerely believe we are on the edge of documenting a new color in American horse breeds.

As of today, Look has three foals on the ground. They are all champagne-colored, and they are out of 3 different colored mares - chestnut, brown and light sorrel. Look's brother Champagne Night has sired 1 more - there are now 8 champagne-colored horses in the world.

It all started June 19, 1969, when Champagne Lady was born. A genetic color accident? Maybe nature's attempt to keep Tennessee Walking Horses a colorful breed. And the best part about this color is that it comes wrapped around descendants of a grand old show mare that exhibited all the best characteristics of our breed.
[It is now known that Mack's Golden Girl H., Champagne Lady's dam, was a gold champagne and that the champagne gene has been in existence for much longer than was originally thought.]

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