How Did That Happen?

When Jaime Snider saw Sly Playgirl’s 2017 Smooth As A Cat foal for the first time, he thought there had to be some mistake.

“I came home from the [National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA)] Super Stakes and saw it. I’m not going to lie, I thought it was the wrong baby,” Snider said of the colt that was born in April to a recipient mare. “I thought there was no way that ‘Grace’ [Sly Playgirl] could have something like that, but I guess she did.”

Howie is white, except for parts of his ears and mane. • Courtesy of Jaime Snider

His reaction wasn’t surprising. The colt is predominantly white, with a classic “medicine hat” sorrel marking over his ears and poll. He looks more like a Paint Horse than the product of selective breeding of generations of registered American Quarter Horses.

Snider quickly sent in hair samples for genetic testing. The results came back a few weeks later – the colt’s parentage was verified, and the secret to his flashy color was found in his genes.

“We pulled hair on that colt the first day he was born and we just got it back last week. It’s what they call a splash gene,” Snider said. “I guess Smooth As A Cat and the colt’s grandma [Taquitas Playgirl] have that gene.”

Smooth As A Cat

According to Animal Genetics, a worldwide genetic testing laboratory, every horse has a base color, which can be black, bay or red. Pattern genes modify the color of the horse by deleting color, which results in white markings. There are four variations of the splashed white gene, which, according to the University of California Davis website, “is a variable white spotting pattern characterized primarily by extremely large blaze, extended white markings in legs, variable white spotting on belly, and often blue eyes.”

The description fits the look Smooth As A Cat – a chestnut with a blaze and two hind socks – stamps on many of his foals.

“There have been some colts that have had a lot of white,” Smooth As A Cat’s breeder, Tommy Manion, said of the stallion’s offspring. “Almost all of them have blaze faces and two or more white legs, and Smooth As A Cat throws a lot of frosty color in their flanks and a coon tail. But I’ve never seen one like this. One thing about it, if he’s good, they’ll remember him!”

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Sly Playgirl and former owner Luis De Armas • Photo by Megan Parks Photography

On the colt’s maternal side, Grace – a nearly solid sorrel mare – has a white spot on her hock.

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Sly Playgirl’s hock marking • Photo by Megan Parks Photography

Grace’s half-sibling, Taquitas Playgirl’s 2017 foal by Smooth As A Cat, sports a big white spot on her hip. Snider also has Grace’s 3-year-old by Dual Smart Rey, and it has small white spots all over its body. Grace has already had a couple of foals by Smooth As A Cat, none of which are as loud-colored as “Howie.”

Taquitas Playgirl’s 2017 foal by Smooth As A Cat • Courtesy of Jaime Snider
Sly Smart Girl, a 2014 mare by Dual Smart Rey and out of Sly Playgirl, sports some small white body spots. • Courtesy of Jaime Snider

“He’s got red ears and a red mane. His skin is normal. He’s healthy and everything; he’s just white,” Snider said of the colt. “My kids named him. In the movie ‘Benchwarmers,’ there’s a kid who is scared of the sun and he’s real white. His name is Howie. So they thought that would be a good thing to name him.”

When the time comes, Snider will also need a registered name for the flashy colt. On Monday, May 1, a representative of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) told Quarter Horse News that, because his sire and dam are registered American Quarter Horses, the colt is eligible for regular registration as long as his parentage is verified through genetic testing. Once registered, his papers will carry the designation “excessive white.”

Howie’s unique coloring is certainly attracting attention in the cutting world. Since Snider posted the colt’s photo to Facebook, his phone has been ringing off the hook with people asking questions.

“I’ve had a lot of calls about him, for sure,” Snider said, adding that one of the most common questions he gets is if the colt is an albino – he is not. “You watch him in the pasture, and besides being white, he’s as normal as can be. He’s a pretty colt. It’s hard to look by that white stuff, but he is a nice-looking colt.”

Sly Playgirl’s oldest foal, 2013 mare Sly Reygirl (by Dual Rey), has already made more than $40,000 this year as an Open finalist at the Abilene Spectacular, The Ike Derby, Bonanza Cutting, Arbuckle Mountain Futurity and The Cattlemen’s Derby. With Lloyd Cox riding for owner Rocking L Cutting Horses, Sly Reygirl won the Derby Novice Open at The Ike.

Sly Playgirl was owned throughout her show career by Luis De Armas, of Rocking L Cutting Horses. She earned $343,307 and had 11 registered foals before De Armas consigned her to the NCHA Futurity Preferred Breeders Sale in December. There, Gary Rosenbach’s Rose Valley Ranch bought Sly Playgirl for $800,000.

Howie’s rare coloring is the talk of the cutting industry. • Courtesy of Jaime Snider

“There’s damn sure not any like him, that’s for sure, especially out of a mare like that, who won that much,” said Snider, who owns Howie. “It’s kind of special and it’s kind of weird. But there are not very many out of a mare that was that good, that are that special. He’s one of a kind.”