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Frame overo is a pinto pattern characterized by dark legs, a blaze or bald face, and white spotting on the sides of the horse, "framed" by the base color. Some individuals have leg white, but that may be from carrying another pattern gene along with frame. Frame can be present on any base color. As with other patterns of white, there are varying degrees of expression, from a blaze face as the only white marking to nearly white all over. Frame is lethal when homozygous; such individuals die shortly after birth due to an incomplete digestive tract and are referred to as "Lethal White" foals. Responsible breeders never mate two frame overos together for this reason. Frame is a dominant gene, so a frame overo will have at least one frame overo parent.

The 1959 stallion War Paint (Chief Justin Morgan X Painted Girl) was a famous frame overo Morgan who has descendants in the AMHA Registry today. It is possible, due to the nature of the overo genes to "hide" in minimally expressed forms on certain individuals, that some of his "solid" colored descendants may carry the frame overo gene. War Paint sired 6 registered Morgans- 2 geldings, and the buckskin mare Miss Tigee, black mare La Mancha, palomino mare H-Paly, and chestnut mare Ogallala Woman. It is also possible that frame could be hiding in relatives of Sky Walker AB, pictured below, through individuals related to her dam, Q Tawny (this is the same line present in the palominos behind the Goldtree prefixed horses, and also one of the silver lines). In September 2013, Sky Walker AB's maternal half sister, LAS Future de Oro, tested positive for frame, proving the gene may still be present in other individuals from this line.

If Q Tawny, her dam Tia, or War Paint is your horse's pedigree, test it through UC Davis for Overo/Lethal White (OLWS, a test for determining if a horse carries frame overo or not, to insure such horses are not bred together, possibly producing a lethal white foal). If your horse tests positive, let us know- we'd love to feature it here on this site! In addition, War Paint's frame overo/sabino dam, Painted Girl, also has descendants today through her other offspring. These should also be tested for OLWS.

For much more information on War Paint, the frame gene, and which Morgans should be tested for frame, you can read this article originally published in the Summer 2005 issue of the Rainbow Morgan Horse Association newsletter.

Click on any picture to enlarge


GOD'S GLORIOUS SKY (Black Tuxedo Topic Man X Sky Walker AB), 2003 buckskin frame mare owned by Tiffany and Jason Ellis, Sturgis, MI. This filly was the only foal produced by her palomino frame dam (pictured below). The suspected color line behind this filly and her dam is coming through Q Tawny. There may be other frame overos from these lines out there, perhaps so minimally marked (blaze face only) that they pass as "solids". A Lethal White Overo test from UC Davis (a test for the presence of the frame gene) would identify such suspected frame overos. First photo courtesy of Barbara Fogel; second and third photos by Nancy Castle.


The late SKY WALKER AB (Moreeda Andrew, almost full Lippitt, x Q Tawny, a palomino mare of Cross Ranch breeding) 1982 palomino frame overo mare. Her first filly is pictured above. Owned by Karen and Fred Beck of Angola, Indiana. First photo courtesy of Fred and Karen Beck; second photo by Nancy Castle. You can read more about Sky Walker AB here.

Sky Walker AB is out of Q Tawny (Merry Madison x Tia, Chingadero x Yellow Girl). Both Chingadero and Yellow Girl have MANY descendants today and seemingly no frame there. Sky Walker AB's sire was the almost completely Lippitt stallion Moreeda Andrew - the one non-Lippitt line in his pedigree is way back, to Archie O. No frame overo there. Is it possible that Tia was either not actually by Chingadero, or not out of Yellow Girl, and that instead there is War Paint or a relative of his there somewhere? Was War Paint the actual sire of Tia? Or another possibility- War Paint's dam, Painted Girl, is not listed as having had a foal in 1965- but she DID have one in 1964 and 1966. So did she simply skip a year, or is she the real dam of Tia? Remember this was pre-blood typing, and the horses were all on the same ranch. Tia was foaled in 1965. War Paint's last registered foals were foaled in 1964, but he was not sold from the Cross Ranch to John Coates until 1968.


LAS FUTURE DE ORO (Heathermoor Dynaquiz x Q Tawny), f. 1989, who is noted in the registry as having a "connected star/strip/lower lip white, both hind stockings and front pastern white, small irregular scar on her lower right abdomen".  I've long suspected that frame existed in the breed other than in just the 3 examples we knew of (War Paint, Sky Walker Ab and her unregistered daughter Sky's Blu), most likely from related lines tracing to Cross Ranch stock. Over the years I've tracked down relatives of these 3 horses. Future was high on my "suspect list" due to being registered a having a small irregular scar on the belly. A belly scar was often the description used when a Morgan foal was born with natural belly white in the days of the White Rule (1962-1996). It allowed these foals to be registered, albeit using (pardon the pun) a little white lie. Since Future had an obviously frame half sister, I thought she might be frame as well. 

Previous attempts to contact the mare's owners went unanswered. In 2013 while in the process of researching for another article, I tried again. To my surprise I heard back from the farm manager, who sent me a bunch of pictures of the mare and even better, a hair sample! I had her tested and sure enough, it came back positive for one copy of frame!

Future had one registered Morgan daughter, Star Sabrina de Oro (f. 1996, deceased), a cremello who is listed as having a connected star and strip and "two scars on both sides of neck" (this mare was injured as a young foal, so her scars were actually from that). Future's dam, Q Tawny, and her dam Tia (the most likely frame source in the pedigree), are also behind some of the silvers in our breed as well as Loretta Brown's Goldtree Morgans. PLEASE, if you have related Morgans from these lines, GET THEM TESTED for LWO (Lethal White Overo, the test for frame). Please email me if you discover your Morgan carries frame, and send photos- we'd love to feature him or her here! Perhaps the frame gene can still be saved in our breed! Photos of Future courtesy/copyright of her owners, IIWP.

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Laura Behning | 75 Glass Spring Rd.| Covington, GA 30014 | 770-385-1240 | morgans@mindspring.com

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