By Laura Crum
OK, I have a silly confession. I have been guilty of buying several horses because I liked their color. And not buying other horses because I didn’t like their color. Recently I’ve been emailing back and forth with Janet Huntington about our favorite colors when it comes to horses, and it made me realize just how strong my predjudices are.
I know that to some people this won’t seem silly at all. There are folks all over the place who feel perfectly justified in selecting a horse based on color. Heck, there are whole breeds that are based solely on color. That’s fine, I guess. But I was raised with cowboys who were fond of saying they didn’t care what color a horse was as long as he could get the job done (though I noticed these same cowboys forbade me to buy a leopard Appaloosa when I was fifteen—based only on not wanting that loudly spotted horse on the ranch). Still, I was taught from the git go to look first at what a horse could get done as a cowhorse or rope horse, second at his confirmation, in the sense of soundness and athletic ability, and only last at whether he was pretty or not (and I was always told that the only point to a pretty head or a pretty color was resale value). It was sort of a sin in the crowd I ran with to admit that you wanted a pretty horse, or a horse of a certain color. You were supposed to want a good horse, and a sound horse, and the hell with color and pretty.
To some degree, I still believe this, so have had a hard time admitting that I do have predjudices when it comes to color. But its true. If you ask my favorite color I have no trouble responding. Bright bay. A bright sparkly red bay.
The first bright bay I bought was Burt, a horse I owned for thirty years. He died Dec 2007 at thirty five years old, and I did buy him partly because I love that color. He turned out to be a good horse and a wise choice, but hey, I didn’t know that when I fell in love with him and offered to buy him (I’d never ridden him or seen him ridden—I just liked his looks). So you can see what a sucker I am for bright bays.
I’m also a sucker for horses with a big blaze, of almost any color, including paint horses. My beloved horse Gunner also happens to be a bay (I’ve owned a lot of bays, naturally), but his big blaze was what caught my eye. In Gunner’s case, though, I can say that I bought him after being his trainer for six months, and I knew what a nice horse I was choosing.
I’ve always liked roans, particularly strawberry roans, but I’ve never owned one. And I’ve always liked palominos. So when a horse that fit my needs as a trail horse turned up for sale a little over a year ago and he happened to be a shiny gold palomino, what do you suppose was the clincher?
That bright gold color, of course. And I have to say, I’ve enjoyed Sunny’s color very much ever since I’ve owned him. It cheers me up just to see him standing in the corral.
Now, those are my favorite colors. On the other hand, I’ve never been crazy about grays—everybody else’s favorite color—though I will admit that my boarder, Twister, was a pretty attractive gray when he arrived at my barn five years ago. But he’s a lot whiter now, as is the nature of dapple grays.
Neither do I care for black or dark brown horses, though I’ve ridden some good ones. But the one color I actively avoided was sorrel, particularly a light orange-y sorrel, a color that is really common in the cowhorse bred QHs I’ve always owned. If I was looking for a horse and just the right one happened along and he was a sorrel, I’d find a reason not to like him. Until Henry.
When I was desperately looking for a horse to replace Toby, my son’s pony, who died Oct 07 of cancer, the one horse I knew of who would truly fit the bill was Henry. I wasn’t even sure if Henry’s owner would sell him—I was reduced to begging, playing the pity card, and offering more money than Henry was worth to clinch the deal. Obviously, I wasn’t going to let a little sorrel color stand in my way. And the funny thing is, Henry’s deep copper red is really growing on me. He’s not a washy light-colored sorrel, he’s fire-red, like the bright bays I love. OK, he doesn’t have those striking black points. But he has brilliant red sparkles in the sun.
Anyway, one of the things I’m learning as I get older and a little freer of my conditioning (hopefully), is that its OK to pick a horse partly because you like his looks. My little palomino gelding makes me smile every time I see his bright gold shape in the corral. Maybe that’s silly, but its true. I don’t think I’m ever going to become someone who buys the “wrong” horse for my needs because I fall in love with his looks or color, though. I value Sunny most of all for his reliability as a trail horse and his confident nature (see my two previous posts).
Anybody else have any favorite colors they’d like to share?