The Case of the Mysterious Spots

June 25, 2014

selfie w-carol

This is one of the Western Original’s bucking horses. I named her Christmas Carol. She is a bit of a pet of mine and, even though she took a bit of a cheap shot at me when she was about 3 months old and kicked me in the elbow, we get along well. She is one of the few bucking horses that puts up with me taking selfies. This was last summer.

(I don’t know who the smart aleck in the back giving me bunny ears is.)


Carol was born in December of 2010. Just a few days before Christmas Day. Here she is just a week old with her guardian angelbarn catlooking on.

Actually the cat was just sunning himself, but it was a cool picture.

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This is Rumbling Rita, Carol’s mom. She is a land whale! Seriously, the Western Original says she weighs about 1,650 lbs! That is 650 lbs over a good-sized riding horse!

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Last fall we took about a dozen young bucking horses to Cody to winter. I took pictures of all the horses before they left to go run on the range. Here is the shot I got of Carol. (It was for record keeping purposes and was never meant to be blog worthy, but then you never know right?)

Carol was just shy of her 3rd birthday.

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And this is what Carol looked like when we unloaded her! I seriously thought the Western Original was yanking my chain! I thought he did an old bait and switch on me. If it weren’t for the brand on her shoulder, and the fact that she came over to me like we were best buds I would never have believed this was my Carol.

Obviously she grew, and shed out, but the spots?!

I am not sure you are believing me now.

But it truly is.

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There is no irriation to suggest a rash, scar or bug bite, so after a quick reassuring visit with my vet, in which he assured me there was no spotted-toad-wart-horse-killing-virus-that-presents-itself-with-bleach-like-sprinkle-spots going around the county I turned to good old google.

chestnut birdcatcherspots

Turns out they are called Birdcatcher Spots, named after the first race horse that presented with this color pattern. As far as I can tell, from my limited research, the spots run mostly in Thoroughbred lines, but other horses can present with them as well. Every year when Carol sheds out, the pattern may be different. More spots, less spots, or they may be the same.

"Birdcatcher" with jockey up

Birdcatcher with jockey, 1858

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My sister says these are just Christmas Carol’s blinking Christmas lights. I say Carol is truly a horse of a different color.

Mean while Carol seems to be saying, “C’mon, can’t you just photoshop them out?!"

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Erin Stiver-Henson 2013