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Team Etalon Discovers New White Gene in Auction Filly

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

Meet RWS Silken Merada, a six-month-old filly who's white coat caught the eye of her now owner, Laura Hoelscher, sending her to the 2020 Raymond Sutton Quarter Horse Production Sale Internet Auction. Check out footage of the filly below.

Laura Hoelscher attended an auction recently in search for one specific foal: a 6-month-old filly with a "palomino" and white coat. Laura is an avid horsewoman and owner, managing Whiskey Canyon Ranch where her family breeds, raises, and trains Paint horses. She has had dozens of her own horses DNA tested through Etalon Diagnostics to identify coat colors and patterns, diseases, and more. So, she knew something was up years ago when she laid her eyes on the filly's sire, Cookin Merada from Raymond Sutton Ranch.

Laura had been following Cookin Merada for years - a widely-known cow horse who's earnings have nearly topped $100,000 and APHA three-time world champion in reined cowhorse, a world champion and reserve world champion in reining. Most interestingly, however, is Cookin Merada's unique white markings. Cookin Merada should have been a sorrel with minimal white - a star on his head, perhaps; a sock or two. His sire is a solid sorrel with a cutting pedigree, and his dam also bears the solid color of her cutting ancestors. Cookin Merada is, to put it mildly, colorful; bearing a bald face and white splashed up his legs all the way to his chest and belly.

Laura, a horsewoman with a brain for coat colors and genetics, watched as Cookin Merada sired horses with similar mysterious white markings. She kept an eye on his foals in hopes of owning one herself some day to find out what was really going on beneath the surface. When she saw an ad for one of Cookin Merada's foals to be sold an an online auction, and an all-white filly at that, Laura couldn't let her pass her by. She placed a bid and soon found herself to be the owner of a, genetically-speaking, mystery white foal. As soon as she had a chance, she pulled a hair sample from the filly and sent it off to Etalon Diagnostics' lab in California. Laura didn't mention a word of her speculation that the filly's white coat might be something out of the ordinary, and left it up to Team Etalon researchers to get to the bottom of things.

After a week or so, the filly's results came back:

AA, ee (2 Red variants and no Black variants), CR/n (one Cream variant detected which may dilute base color coat), W20/n (one W20 variant detected which may result in white markings)... so why the all-white coat?

Etalon researchers noticed that the genetic results compared to her description and photo didn’t seem to match. CEO Christa Lafayette immediately gave Laura a call to confirm her suspicions: the filly's DNA had led to the discovery of a NEW white gene. So if Silken Merada carries a new white gene, and Cookin Merada exhibits unique white markings, is Cookin Merada the original carrier? We'll have to wait and see...

The team is working behind the scenes to be able to provide more information on the discovery, so keep an eye out for updates and an official publication from Team Etalon. Thank you to Laura Hoelscher for trusting Team Etalon with this exciting discovery, and for allowing us to share Silken Merada's story!

Learn more about Etalon's discoveries and publications by visiting

Update January 26th, 2021:

It's confirmed! Cookin Merada is also a carrier of this newly identified white gene. While we can't release details quite yet on the nature of this new mutation, you won't want to miss them once we do. We're diving deep into this case study to learn as much as we can about the mutation and how many horses are affected. More details to come soon! -Team Etalon

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