What is a SOULON Tiger Horse?

A spotted mare in the background babysitting two foals, one will eventually be a blue roan, guess which one.
Happy visitors enjoying the Soulons.

These foals are modern day SOULONS and these trail riding horses are also modern day SOULONS. To cut a long story short, The Soulon Tiger Horse is the final development in today’s Tiger Horse breed. This new breed of horse started in 1992 by the Founders, Victoria and Mark Varley, is based on the pheno-type of the ancient SOULON of China, (T’Ang Dynasty 615-780) the horse you see in Oriental art, dressed in fine silk blankets and fancy braids. It was a much celebrated animal. How wonderful that we are bringing an American version to life. Here you will see the “Soul Of The Soulon,” and we invite your participation.

In the USA and after 35 suitable starter individuals had been found for cross-breeding, the Founders immediately began producing spotted, gaited foals but there was much work still to be done if the Soul of the ancient Soulon was to be revisited. A Registry named TIGRE was created in 1995 to promote and protect the emerging breed and others were invited to apply for membership and to register horses they might also have produced by using Appaloosas and gaited horses. Some Appaloosa horses exhibit middle gaits. They too were invited to join. A Tiger Horse can be a first generation mixed breed horse, a gaited Appaloosa or the result of Tiger to Tiger breeding. The earliest Foundation Appaloosas are said to contain gaited individuals, but not every entry met with the new breed’s standards. Still, one has to start somewhere and spots and middle gaits were a good place to start while all the while breeding “up” and weeding out the unwanted genetics.

As the Founders horses began to emerge with certain desirable characteristics, standards were drawn up to encourage others to follow a prescribed formula. Gradually more and more of the ancient Soulon type began to emerge and the chartered course, back in time, was set.

Now you may ask; “What is a Tiger Horse?” Tigre, The Tiger Horse breed’s web site fully addresses that question. Briefly it is a horse with Appaloosa spots and middle gaits, and taking on more and more characteristics of the ancient but extinct SOULONS of China where middle gaits were also encouraged. Middle gaits are addressed elsewhere. There are three or four middle gaits. ie, diagonal, lateral, and some are perfectly square. No horse is more comfortable to ride than a nicely gaited one. This characteristic is most important to us, but our Registry supports more than just middle gaits. We welcome and respect the solid colored horses that are sometimes born to our more colorful registered individuals, as well as those that did not inherit gait. All are useful in breed enhancements, but we don’t accept just any horse.

(below left) These are first generation Tiger Horses. Not yet SOULONS, their profiles were influenced by Arabians or Missouri Fox Trotters. Beautifully marked and exhibiting many desirable features of our future breed like oriental shaped eyes, the whites showing like that of humans. (below right) Two excellent examples of the differences that exist between a SOULON colt (left) and the Arabian influenced filly on the right. Both are Tiger Horses. Only one is SOULON

The SOULON has a nice length of back and a powerful nicely arched neck. The head is convex not straight or concave. Both indivisuals show good length of hips and are equally balanced. A good start indeed.

Not all Tiger Horses look alike yet. Breeders who concentrate on SOULON characteristics will be more than pleased with the results. SOULON features sets our breed apart from all others. SOULONS must eventually look alike, and be easily recognized in a field, and not merely as Appaloosas or “gaited horses with Appaloosa spots.” Anyone can make that happen. Recreating the SOULON is work!

Many first generation Tiger Horses exhibit oriental shaped eyes and already exhibit SOULON characteristics. Many come through the Appaloosa horses, especially those with early foundation lineage. With a good start like this, it is easier to keep the momentum going provided breeders continue to seek out cross breeds that share similar characteristics to the desirable ones. When the whites of their eyes show it gives them an interesting expression and despite the sometimes fierce look, they are people loving horses and brave trail riders. Their bodies should measure equally, times three. ie, chests to withers, withers to hips, hips to buttocks. As the hip is the engine of any horse, they should all exhibit these dimensions. Legs should travel straight with no obvious rotation at either the shoulder or knee. Rotating limbs break down over time, and will be penalized in the Tiger Horse and SOULON show ring.Moderate “lift” is important too, as trail riding horses need to negotiate obstacles along the way.

SOULONS and Tiger Horses come in all colors, and gaits, including those with no spots at all, and provided they are born from TIGRE registered stock, we welcome the solid colored horses as they will help to keep good facial and genital pigmentation in the breed. Our climate is very different from their original lands where snow, gray skies, and long winters were the order of the day. Here they see plenty of sunshine and poor pigmentation is subject to painful sunburn. We need to breed a contemporary horse into existence compatible with the terrain in which it is being developed.We are well on our way to achieving all our goals. Several Tigre registered horses have been singled out for “Soulon Approval”. See if you own one.