Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Cute Factor

by Laura Crum

The above photo shows Sunny, my good little trail horse that I’ve written about many times. Usually I focus on what a star he is as a bombproof trail horse, and yes, this is the reason I bought him. However, this photo shows the other reason I bought him, which I do not reveal to many people. So, here I am, revealing it to the world…

Don’t you think he’s cute?

I hasten to add that the photo was taken last summer—Sunny does not look like this now. I do not blanket and my horses live turned out and enjoy rolling on the damp sandy ground. Sunny is currently a fuzzy little yak, of an all over dirty yellow color, as his coat is much lighter in the winter and the rolling makes his mane and tail the same dingy yellow as the rest of him. Not terribly attractive. But he still makes smile. Dingy yellow and all, he is a little spot of sunshine on a gray drizzly day, lighting up his corral.

I was raised to think that you bought a horse because he could do the job you wanted to do, not because of his looks. I was taught that a pretty head or a pretty color were only important for resale value. What you wanted was a sound, athletic, broke horse, with the sort of conformation to stay sound, and to heck with what he looked like otherwise.

I still think that, sort of. But I have to admit that Sunny stuck in my mind because of his color and just the overall cuteness factor. Sunny does not have particularly good conformation and he isn’t all that well broke. I tried him as a riding horse for my son and rejected him, eventually choosing the much better broke Henry. But Sunny stuck in my mind. Six months later, when I decided to buy a bombproof trail horse for myself, I went back and got him. I knew he was a good trail horse, of course. But also, I couldn’t forget him. And I’m afraid his color and cuteness may have had something to do with it.

The thing is, Sunny’s “cuteness” has been very rewarding to me. In three years of owning him, he has made me smile countless times that have nothing to do with his abilities. I smile when I drive in on a gray day and see his bright shape in the corral. I smile (and take endless photos) when he gleams like polished gold in the summer. I smile when I’m riding and see his long white mane springing off his shiny neck. I like to watch the silver and gold light sparkles on his slick hair. And though he does not have a classically pretty head, I love his “little girl’s stuffed animal” appearance. Sunny is just plain cute, and it gives me a lot of pleasure.

I would have said this was my own private aberation, except that so many other people have oohed and aahed over this horse. Tough, old cowboys tell me what a good looking animal he is and I have to stop myself from asking “Did you look at him very hard?” Because Sunny is not really very well made and is a decidedly clunky mover. Every single horseperson I know has at one time or another complimented me on this horse—I have to say that I think they, like me, are seduced by the cute factor.

So that’s the subject of today’s post. Do you have a horse you love partly for how cute he is? And I have to add that every horse I’ve loved has become cute to me—for various reasons. Bright red Henry who sparkles like a copper penny in the sun, with his cheerful white-striped face and bright eyes, Gunner with his big blaze, Plumber who nickers to me constantly…I could go on and on.

So that’s my question for today. Any of you, like me, been seduced by the cute factor? And what is your horse’s particular “cuteness”? A little white snip in just the right place? An endearing habit? There are so many ways a horse can be cute. I guess that’s one reason why we’re all horse people.


Linda Benson said...

Laura - Sunny is indeed a very cute horse, and I can see how he stuck in your mind. I, too have fallen for "cute" more than once, and occasionally bought a horse I would have passed by if he/she didn't have a gorgeous color, darling head, etc. Yes, you want all the other factors of a good horse, but the cute factor can often swing your decision. And when a horse has that special nicker for you when he sees you, yup that'll do it, too. Glad you got a winner with Sunny :)

Anonymous said...

Norman is overwhelmingly cute - everyone who's ever met him says so - although he can be a beast too.

I didn't get Pie for his looks - his head is sort of clunky, although his confirmation is very good. But I really like his face and head, and his expressiveness, and although he's not conventionally pretty, I really do think he's cute (and tell him so frequently).

Your Sunny does have a really cute face and expression.

Laura Crum said...

Linda--I think I remember you posting that your favorite colors were bay, palomino, buckskin and paint. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) I had to giggle because those are my favorite colors, too. Do you think its a western horse gal thing? I also am drawn to roans. A horse with a big white blaze will catch my eye every time--perhaps because I rode Gunner for so long. But Sunny's bright gold palomino color is now right up there for me with my previous "favorite color", which was/is bright bay.

Kate--Arguably the best horse I ever owned/rode, Flanigan, had a head exactly like Pie. I thought it made him look noble, like a horse in an old painting (OK, maybe I'm being a little fanciful here). But the fist time I saw Pie's photo I thought, oh, he looks a little like Flanigan (though Flanigan was a bay), same head. I bet he's a good horse. Its funny how some little thing like that can become an endearing trait.

wilsonc said...

If your going to be looking at your equine friend for years to come it might as well be a pleasant sight. Sunny is a very appealing looking horse. I'd fall for him too. The first time I saw Boo I wasn't all that impressed with his looks although I did like his black bay color. Now I think he's beautiful. He's not as typey an Arab as I thought I was looking for, but he's definitely beautiful.

HorseOfCourse said...

He is very cute, Laura, and I agree with you it is a bonus.

I love a well proportioned horse.
A horse normally has to be built well to move well, which might have something to do with it - but it is not the complete picture.
It is something with the angles that pleases the eye.
And I want a good eye too!
And if it is a brown one with white markings my heart beats a little faster as several of my horses has been of that colour...

But most of all I believe that if you love your horse, it is beautiful, no matter what.

Laura Crum said...

wilsonc--Yes, its interesting how once we own and love a horse all sorts of little things become cute and endearing. And I think Sunny's expression is cute, as well as his color. He always looks interested in whatever is happening--and looks at me with that prick eared "what's up" expression every single time I'm in the barnyard.

Horse Of Course--I think Fame is very pretty and looks as if she would be a lovely mover. Sunny is not a lovely mover, which I knew when I bought him, but he is good on the trail. Here's a funny thing--Sunny will stumble occasionally in the ring, but I have never once known him to stumble on the trail. Interesting, don't you think?

kippen64 said...

Maybe Sunny finds trail riding more interesting? So therefore the lack of stumbling.

For years I thought the cuteness factor of my Highland Pony Kippen was just darn annoying. He's an excellent example of an old fashioned type of his endangered breed, and his yellow dun (buckskin) is one of the original colours of the breed. None of that means anything to the hordes who say "he's so cute!". Ugh!!!! He's also well known and easily recognised from more than a hundred metres (100 yards?) away. More ugh!!!! So sometimes being considered cute is annoying.

Mrs. Mom said...

Oh my gosh what a mug he has!! He is freaking ADORABLE Laura!!

Yep. I'm a victim of that same trap. Oh sure, they have to be able to USE and be sound, etc, but man alive these days I've decided it is OK for me to want CUTE in my next horse too ;)

Thanks for sharing him with us!!

Susan said...

I like cute and flashy horses, but my newest horse is a rather plain sorrel. If I was only looking for color, he'd be the last horse I'd buy. It was mainly his expression that appealed to me.

Funder said...

He is adorable, and I'm so glad to hear that's not what he looks like right now - I was gonna be so jealous!

I have to agree with Horse of Course - I think any color can grow on you and any horse you love is going to be beautiful.

Laura Crum said...

kippen64--You're exactly right. Sunny clearly enjoys trail rides and does not much care for going around in circles and it shows in the way he carries himself. As for the cute/obnoxious thing, one time I was riding Sunny past a nearby boarding stable on the way to the trails. I stopped to talk to a woman I knew who was saddling her horse, and a woman I did NOT know, walked up to Sunny, oohed and aahed over how cute he was, and without asking me, proceeded to start feeding him carrots. I had more or less ignored the ohhing and aahing and her stroking his neck, but the carrots (while he was being ridden and without asking permission) were too much for me and I asked her to please not do that. "He's supposed to be paying attention to his rider," I explained, but to no avail. She just stalked off, clearly offended. The perils of riding a cute horse, I guess.

Mrs Mom--My husband posted the photo for me--I thought some of you might enjoy seeing what Sunny looks like and why I always say he's cute.

Susan--I agree with you--expression has a lot to do with what makes "cute".

Funder--Yes, I agree, all my horses have become "cute" to me--including the ones I didn't think were cute to begin with. Henry, in particular, is sort of a stoic trooper of a horse and I'm not crazy about sorrels and at first I just regarded him as the right horse for the job. But over time I've grown very fond of him and now his copper red color, white striped face, and eager expression (especially eager when it comes to food) always make me smile. Henry has become "cute" to me because I love him.

Joy said...

Sonny is VERY cute. I love him already. And yes, my horse is stinking cute. I get compliments on him all the time, but he's got some flaws. People don't seem to notice. I think it's his overly large butt and stocky look, but that he's so small too. He's 14.2. He's my little big horse. Love cute.

Francesca Prescott said...

Hey Laura, your Sunny really is super cute! Such a gorgeous colour.

And yes, like you, I'm a real sucker for the cute factor in a horse. I love a broad forehead and expressive eyes, and Kwintus' giant star (it's almost a heart shape) makes me smile just thining of him. I also love a big, long, thick tail as it reminds me of playing with Barbie's horse whenever I brush it! I love how he asks for sweeties all the time, even if it can get a little annoying when you're trying to tack him up -well, no longer... Keep forgetting he's retired and no longer getting tacked up :( -

And like Horse of Course said (love your blog, by the way, Horse of Course!), if you love your horse, he's always going to seem beautiful to you.

Shanster said...

Nope - I never did buy a horse on cute factor when I think about it. Once I have my horses tho' I find all sorts of things that I think makes them unique and that I enjoy.

Maybe more personality quirks than looks.. Brandon is solid bay... Sera and Rosso are chestnut and seems like those are all you see when you see horses out in pastures... nothing remarkable about any of them.

I have always sort of wanted a buckskin or a roan... my husband would love a paint horse like Kevin Kline's horse in Silverado! grin.

horsegenes said...

OMG... a Barbie horse! Everytime I see a pretty palomino I think of Barbies horse. He is super cute. And cuteness doesn't really have anything to do with conformation, color or anything logical.

I am completely obsessed with my paint horse. And I don't even like paints. But this horse has stole my heart. He is cute, (not really- he is big and white) has a great personality, loveable and dang perfect. I have no common sense when it comes to this horse, I can't see any flaws, I can't see any short comings. He is just perfect. I can tell you every hole in all my other horses, conformation, looks, attitude etc. But not in Mr. Semper. Slap me. I am in love with this horse. I carry around pictures of him in my wallet and in my truck. I don't have any pictures of my children in my wallet or my truck.

My husband is convinced that that I might leave him for this horse and my kids think that I am a nut case. Whatever.

I wrote about him on my blog - and you can see him in all of his perfectness.

Laura Crum said...

Joy--Sunny is 14.3, which is one of the things I love about him (easy to get on) and very stocky, and, I agree, that contributes to looking "cute".

Francesca--I think Kwintus'heart shaped star is very cute, too.

Shanster--I've had lots of horses I bought on their merits and some I bought partly cause I was attracted to some "cuteness", whether color or a pretty head or such, and I have to say that it doesn't seem to be much of a predictor how well they'll work out either way. Some I bought on their merits I grew to love, some didn't work out. Some that I thought were "cute" became very special horses for me (like Sunny), some didn't. One horse I bought for his very darling head and good looks turned out to be a real butt head. And then Henry, who I picked solely on his merits, became horse we all really love. (And now I think he's very cute.) You just never know.

kel--Yes! That's exactly how I see Sunny. A Barbie horse. Or a little girl's stuffed animal. He's not classy, not really well made--just cute. Semper sounds like a wonderful horse. And I like paints. We had a great paint horse named Pistol--I'll never forget him.