Wednesday, May 27, 2009


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?


Unknown said...

My favorite color is rare - It is called
Burgundy in the Arabian world. A liver chestnut body color that is has a deep reddish sheen, with a red gold mane and tail. Every horse of this color I have known has been great.

Stelladoro said...

My all time favorite is a mahogany bay, the kind that seems to have purple highlights when the sun hits them just right, with as little white as possible. Of course, this was also the color of the horse that I leased for 7 years when I was first started into horses when I was 8.

When I went horse shopping when my awesome lease deal ended, the only thing I didn't want was grey or chestnut. Want to take a guess on what I ended up with? A grey of course. Although when I bought her we just thought she was a really neat shade of brown. I was shocked in the spring when she shed out to a much lighter, very clearly grey horse. But now she's here to stay, so I just groan each spring when she gets closer to white and trudge off to buy more special shampoos to keep her that way!

Martha Seaman McKee said...

It's buttermilk buckskin for me. Dale Evans made a lasting impression . . .

Leslie said...

Laura, I had to chuckle when I read about your color preferences. I was surprised you admitted having a little bit of prejudice when it comes to color only because you've been in the professional arena. I'm glad you're freer of your conditioning!

I used to think the professionals didn't have those kinds of prejudices. I'm guessing, lots do, they just don't often talk openly about it, like you mentioned.

I've had a horse color prejudice for a long time, evidently all my life. I recently realized how far back it went by the various toy horses I recently uncovered in forgotten boxes. I must have always been partial to pinto/paints. Seems that's what I always picked, even as a child.

I fell in love with my guys, both black/white Spotted Saddle Horses, the moment I saw them. As they tell us in all the books,and at all the clinics, that's not suppose to be good. But, when I began searching for horses to buy, I knew I would have pinto/paints. As it turns out, they have lots of other good qualities as well.

Sure, we're suppose to take in all the other technicalities when looking over a horse, but as with anything in our visually stimulated world, the first thing that's going to catch us will be the color,if not the eyes. I'm pretty sure everyone has their preferences.

One of my more amusing moments in the past couple of years was when our 3 year old great niece was out to visit. We were showing her the the horses. The first words out of her mouth "Those are pretty cows." It's sort of a running joke around here now.

Albigears said...

I have 3 bays with no white. A bright red bay, a dark bay with red highlights and a dark bay with golden highlights.

I was recently looking for an event prospect, and made sure not to include colors in the description of what I was looking for because I thought it was superficial. However when people sent me pictures of their prospects, and I opened them up, and they were chestnut... I was really disappointed. And found 'other' reasons I didn't like them. I really in my heart of hearts wanted a dark bay.

As Jimmy Wofford says, you've got to be in love with your horse. You've got to love that head sticking out over the stall each morning, because if that spark isn't there (when everything else is)it won't work out. Who's to say color isn't important, especially if it gives you a little thrill each time you see your horse?

mugwump said...

I'm lucky. I like red horses. Orangy sorrels, bright chestnuts,cherry red, just about any of them.The icing on the cake is a flaxen mane and tail.
Of course the two horses I am wandering off into retirement with are a palomino and a buttermilk buckskin(dun actually). Go figure.

FD said...

Oh, despite believing that a good horse is never a bad colour, I am strongly prejudiced against spotted or 'coloured' horses (what paints are generically called in the UK) and basically anything in a flashy colour, with lots of white, and greys.

Some of this is practical: the less white the better if you've ever been a professional groom! The melanomas greys get can be distressing. And I've found that chestnuts with lots of white are horribly inclined to mudfever / allergies / rashes.

The rest, dunno, I guess I'm just old-fashioned? My favourite colour is dark-cherry bay, with a hint of copper - they shine so, and still look good clipped. I will also admit a wistful admiration for the copper and gold colours you get with Akhal Tekes.

Ironically, my top three horses to ride have been greys and my three favourite horses (not at all the same thing!) were chestnut - and yes, they all had white on their legs and faces and one had a flaxen mane/tail.
Go ahead and laugh, I do.

Laura Crum said...

I feel better now. Seems like everybody has these color preferences. And I guess I'm not the only one who likes bays.

Monica said...

My first 5 horses have been bay. Now have two bays, a sorrel, and a grulla. I love a bay horse. The grulla mare is very pretty, esp. in the summer, she turns a silver gray color. In the winter she is a dirty, muddy brown color. I have never been fond of sorrels, because in the qh world, they are everywhere. But I love my sorrel mare, she is put together really well and has the best attitude you could ask for.

I will probably never have a gray or roan. They are far from my favorite colors, like a lot of the others here, I would probably find another reason not to like them.

There are so many nice horses out there, you may as well pick one your going to like looking at.

Heather A. said...

Palomino Paint. Oh man.

I went to see my horse for his color, and I bought him for his personality, so I guess I did it the "right" way. To make it even better, he's the loudest palomino paint I've ever seen. In the summer he's a dark golden copper color, almost like a penny with touch of gold. His mane and tail are snow white. He has 4 tall, white stockings, a stripe, a "lightning bolt" on his neck, and a big white spot on his butt from his stocking to his tail. I have to brag. He's one handsome guy. I'd always wanted a palomino paint and I couldn't have gotten a nicer one.

The crazy part is that his winter coat grows in almost white. When he sheds out he looks like a completely different horse. It astounds all the other boarders every year!

I'm also a sucker for blacks with one little white star, but that's because I work with Percherons. Black with a white star is pretty standard for them if they're not gray. Duns & buckskins are lovely, as are DARK bays (as in almost black), and chestnuts with lots of chrome!

Heidi the Hick said...

My Champ was bright chestnut red with a white star-strip-snip and two white socks and two white stockings. He was sooo shiny and I swear he'd glow in the sun. I thought he was gorgeous and he thought so too. I loved him!

I'll always be a sucker for a red horse. Always.

But now I have two Appys. I love flash, can you tell?

They amaze me. She's white with brown points, and little brown freckles on her shoulders in the summer. She doesn't have any shine but her summer coat is like velvet, all over. He's similar to her but darker; his face has a lot of black skin underneath, and he's got a generous helping of spots. His summer coat has so many speckles and freckles and shades... I can get really distracted when I'm grooming him!

I'm used to prejudice in the horse world. For 17 years I rode that flashy white-footed half arab and faced lots of people who figured he was an abomination of a good breed... Now I've got people who "just don't like Appaloosas."

Don't care. I love looking at them. I could look at them all day. Isn't that kind of important? I mean, I can find something to like on almost any horse, but there's nothing like seeing your own horse and thinking, "Oh my gosh, he is SO BEAUTIFUL!"

Juli said...

I am a huge sucker for an odd colored horse. I like loud leopard apps. I like a roan of any color. I LOVE the silver dapples and the champagnes and the pearls. Oh, and grulla's. I want a grulla horse.

I like buckskins, but not the palomino's so much. I don't care for paints, but if I had to chose one, give me an overo over a tobiano. I don't care for chestnut horses of any shade. I love a pretty bay horse, the redder the better.

So my personal horses? Alpine was a very, very pale palomino. He was almost white in the winter. Merlin is plain bay, no white. After owning an almost white horse for 10 years, I was very attracted to that plain bay wrapper.

I won't turn a good horse down based on color, but I sure will go out of my way to find a good horse in a very cool color!

Joy said...

So funny! I admit, I am not a fan of paint horses. Not sure why. maybe because so much white is such a pain in the butt. I love blood bays. Always look elegant to me.

All my life I would have said I hate the color orange, but the other day I was brushing my willie boy and the sun was shining and I realized that orange is beautiful. He's got copper and magenta highlights and his mane and tail are deep orange with more copper and magenta. I think he's lovely. Sigh!

I would probably pick a red/orange horse over another color, given the choice. I do like my best friend's grulla horse she recently got. He looks really cool.

I enjoyed reading everybody's color preferences!

joycemocha said...

Dark bay has always been my favorite, along with silver dapple and now liver chestnut. My girl is a liver chestnut, and at first I wasn't so wild about her color. But it grew on me, and hey, it doesn't show the dirt! Real easy to clean up.

She has a big ol' blaze as well. Well, according to the AQHA it's really a star, snip and blaze all in one.