Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Little Palomino Plug

By Laura Crum

Some of you may remember that I wrote awhile back about my new horse, a little (14.3) grade palomino gelding I bought about a year ago now to ride the trails with my son. (See my post “The New Horse”, May 08) Now this horse is not the least bit fancy. He looks a little out of place in my corrals, which (other than Sunny) are occupied by some pretty nicely bred Quarter Horses. Sunny looks like a cross between a pony and a QH. Or maybe a miniature draft horse. He’s coarse, and a bit clunky to ride. I have no idea how he’s bred; he was bought by a horse trader in a sale in El Paso, and was said to have come from old Mexico. I was told he was about eight to ten years old. The vet said he was somewhere between twelve and fifteen. It figures. I was neither surprised nor bothered by this info. Par for the course in the horse trading world.

Sunny is not a particularly well broke horse. He’ll walk, trot, lope around an arena in his clunky way, and do a passable stop. He carries his head low and rock steady—its just his natural head carriage. He does not have much rein on him; I frequently resort to direct reining him when I mean business about the fact that he is to go where I point him. You can rope on him, but he’s too slow and clumsy to be much good at it. His gaits are nothing to brag about, though he is sure-footed outside. He makes an effort (almost every ride) to see if he can be the boss. He isn’t dangerous; he just tries his rider in small ways. The vague gesture at a nip or kick, the small crowhop, the half-hearted attempt at balking. He spooks once in a great while, though overall he’s not a spooky horse. Fortunately he’s too clunky to spook as effectively as my old cutting horse, Gunner, and since I spent ten years riding one that can really move, I’m not threatened by Sunny’s boogers. I may have to grab the horn, but I stay on (cursing the little shit). Sunny never gets away with dominating me. I win every round. But he doesn’t give up. He’s a persistant critter.

At this point, you may be wondering what I see in the horse. Believe me, at times I wonder this, too. However, Sunny does have some virtues. In fact, he has exactly the attributes I need right now in a mount. Sunny is a reliable trail horse. Okay, I just got back from a two hour ride and he made two sudden, 90 degree, swinging gate spooks, one at a green tarp and one at a hostile stump. But overall, he’s very steady on the trail. The spooks are the exception, not the rule. And once he’s had his little jump, he goes right on, quiet and calm. He’s been on a lot of trail rides in his life; he’ll go anywhere. Nothing bothers him. Not crossing busy roads, not wading in the surf, not going solo through the wild woods, not deer leaping out of the trees under his nose. He does not jig. He’s surefooted and a trooper climbing hills. He’s slow but steady on any steep descent. He will stand like a park bench under any circumstances, if I decide to stop for awhile. And he gives my son’s bomb proof trail horse, Henry, a quiet, reliable lead.

Since the one thing I was looking for when I bought Sunny is a solid, reliable trail horse to ride with my son, I’m quite satisfied with my purchase. Sunny didn’t cost much and he’s sound. I run him and Henry barefoot and they do fine (saves me a bundle). Sunny’s an easy keeper, too—always a good trait in a horse. And I actually enjoy his ornery little personality. He’s a smart horse, and I like smart horses. His attempts to dominate me amuse me. And when I decide I’m gonna teach him something (like how to take his wormer like a gentleman) he learns fast. Though I have to get the point across with a certain degree of firmness. Yep, little old Sunshine and I are on the same page.

But here’s the real truth. I have a hard time admitting this, but I like this horse partly because he’s so darn cute. I don’t mean fancy, well-bred cute. I mean little girl’s dream pony cute. Sort of giant stuffed animal cute. Everybody reacts to the horse this way,. Experienced horse people, tough old team ropers, one and all get a grin when they look at Sunny, and want to pet him. Little girls mob him. I rode by the local boarding stable on my way to the trails and a teenage girl came running out of the barn screaming, “That’s the cutest horse I ever saw!”. A middle-aged lady stopped me and begged to give the darling palomino a carrot. And I smile every single morning when I walk down the hill to feed the horses and see his bright gold shape in the corrral. Sunny is just that cute.

I never had a palomino before and I am constantly surprised by how much I enjoy his color. What is it with that bright gold shiny coat. He even sparkles in the sunshine in the winter, despite the fact that I don’t blanket and he’s hairy. I just enjoy looking at the side of his neck while I ride.

So here’s the deal. Its all very well for me to go on and on about how cute the horse is, but it just so happens that I took Sunny for a ride through the hills this afternoon (it was 70 degrees and sunny—weatherwise—here by California’s Monterey Bay) and for once someone was there to take photos as I got ready to go. The local newspaper occasionally decides I am worth a story (local mystery author with horses), and they sent a reporter and photographer out today. And now you can see for yourself. Below are a couple of photos of me and my little palomino plug. Is he not every little girl’s dream come true? And can you see why he makes me smile, little recalcitrant mule that he is?

The photos are courtesy of Shmuel Thayler, photographer for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Thanks, Shmuel.



Laura said...

Oh - nice guy! He sounds like my dream horse! What's not to like about a nice colour as well?

His personality reminds me a fair bit of the pony I had as a kid - an appy/welsh pony cross. She wasn't much of anything, but she was reliable and had a great (stubborn) personality...

2horseygirls said...

What a handsome guy! He reminds me of one of the geldings at my barn, who was just sold to one of the girls on the drill team. Gambi used to be a lesson horse, which was interesting, because he had a very literal personality. If you pointed him at the wall, he would walk into the wall if you didn't remember to turn him. And Gambi was all about being pretty. I swear he would actually try to stand on one foot if it was muddy out so he didn't get dirty.

Gotta love the palominos! :)

mugwump said...

I have told you before how cute I think Sunny is. I still do. I'm proud of the little fart too. He is smart enough to be a good, sevicable horse and still wants to test. So it keeps him interesting. This will keep you enjoying him. Call me nuts, but I love it when the solid "Steady Eddies" have enough gumption to throw out a crow hop once in awhile.

Anonymous said...

Mugwump, you are so right. Sunny's little quirks, which I don't find threatening, are what make him fun. I'm just embarrassed that I'm such a sucker for his color. I always saw myself as the sort of horseperson who was "above" that. I liked a horse for what he could do, didn't care if he was homely. My horses have all been bay or brown. So now that I've sort of stumbled into owning a palomino, I am constantly amazed at how much I enjoy what he looks like. Coarse little, cold-blooded critter that he is (!)

And thanks, Laura and 2horseygirls. I'm glad you think he's cute, too. Maybe I'm not such a sucker after all.

Martha Seaman McKee said...

He's Adorable, with a capital A.
And I gotta admit, I'm a sucker for buckskins and palominos, one of each myself.

mugwump said...

I worked and trained for many years for a foundation, color breeder (Go ahead, laugh yourself silly Fugly)
I bought a horse from them. The only bay their stud ever threw.
Then, many years later, I ended up with my yellow mare.I bought her because she had the breeding I was looking for.
She shines like a gold coin. She has a dainty Arab head. She is a reincarnation of Barbie, make that Princess Barbie.
I have to admit, I love it. She makes me feel like Roy Rogers. Sometimes I catch myself just staring at her, she's so lovely. So I get it.
The Big K told me once, "If you're going to show a horse that looks like that you had better be good, cause she sure draws the eye." Sigh.
BTW, I bred my bay mare a few years go. Now my two horses to enter old lady hood with are my deep gold palomino and a buttermilk buckskin.

Leslie said...

Oh, yeah, Sunny lives up to his name! He has that cute factor going for him. Kind of like the surfer guy with the sun bleached hair, who also has the fun loving, but a little naughty, personality to go with it. The girls gush all over him! I know I'd fall for him too! Looks and sounds like a great guy, Laura! Hope you enjoy many trails together!

Mary Paine said...

Sunny is adorable! There is something about a palomino. The golden color makes me think of princesses and fairy tales. Have fun with your own little girl's dream come true!

Anonymous said...

Thanks guys, I'm glad I'm not delusional when I say Sunny is just too cute.

And mugwump, your yellow mare is more than cute. She's amazing. You don't often see that deep gold with the white mane and tail. And her head....I would spend all my time just staring at her. Of course, she can work, too. Well, you did say she cost an arm and leg. I guess that's how you get the beautiful ones with talent.

Unknown said...

hes got the cutest friggn ears. I love little horse ears I just want to grab them.

Hes also a lot like my Indigo in the sturdy little cement pillar legs. oh man hes damn cute. A lot like her personality too but she has a bit of spook and a lot more go.

Joy said...

oh my. I just love his forelock. I would have to slick that over to the left and make it look like a "business man" hair cut. He's too freaking cute. And yes, I would have to come running over and pet that animal for sure.

And I am jealous, mugs, that you have a buckskin AND a palomino. But I love my copper-red fat big butted lame horse just the same. He shines like a new penny in the sunset so there.

Kay said...

He is adorable and a lot can be said of horse that is just a joy to be around. To me he looks perfect.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Sunny is cute! I love his face and his little ears. I'm partial to small horses anyway; I have Arabs.

When I was a girl, I had a Palomino Appaloosa pony 13.3 hands high (POA or Welsh-Appy cross?) named Alfie. I just loved him. Goofy, sleepy Alfie could run barrels and poles around the big QH boys. I would ride him bareback and bridleless in the arena and kick him to make him go. He was fearless, bombproof, and so much FUN! He was about the color of Sunny, just beautiful in the sunlight.

Francesca Prescott said...

Hi Laura, I am jealous that you live in the Monterey Bay AND that you have a palomino with the "cute" factor! I also have a horse with the "cute" factor; he's a bay with a heart on his face. He also has the biggest heart I've ever met in a horse: he's the sweetest, kindest, most loving thing ever. But since we don't live in the Monteray Bay, and that Santa Cruz, Carmel and Big Sur are among my favourite places in the world, I'm still a teeny bit jealous!

Happy holidays from Switzerland,