by Laura Crum
I was raised in the horse biz by a tough team roper who taught me to pay no attention to a horse’s color. The color didn’t matter. What mattered was what the horse could get done. One should ignore color and also whether a horse had a pretty head (things that were only important for resale value) and focus on getting a sound, athletic, well broke horse that could get the job done. Didn’t matter if the horse was purple, I have heard this guy say. (Though I also heard him reject a very loud-colored leopard Appaloosa because “I don’t want to look at that horse in my corrals.”)
Well OK then. I spent most of my life trying to look past color and a pretty head to pick out good, sound horses, with good trainable minds, if they were colts, and well broke if they were older. But somehow that was never the whole deal. And the whole deal had something to do with color.
The horse I idealized when I was growing up was a marvelously talented bright bay that belonged to my uncle (Mr Softime). And somehow the first horse that I totally fell for and kept until he died was a bright bay with no white who was almost exactly the same color as Mr Softime (this was Burt).
Coincidence? I think not.
The next horse I fell for in a big way was a bright bay with a big white blaze. (Gunner) And for the rest of my life I have been disposed to assume that all blaze-faced horses are “good ones.” Silly, I know.
My most recent color affectation came upon me gradually. I was aware that despite my early teaching in ignoring color, there were colors I liked and didn’t like. If a horse was a color I liked, that predisposed me in his favor. If he was a color I didn’t like, that made me less inclined to like the horse. Still, I could look past my prejudices. Perhaps my favorite riding horse of all time was a brownish bay—a color I really don’t care for. (Flanigan)
And the pony I bought for my son was a mostly white pinto with blue eyes—though I don’t, in general, like this color scheme. But Toby was a good one—the magical little white horse that taught my son to ride.
Still, overall, I didn’t care for white or whitish horses, be they paints, cremellos, whited out grays…etc. (There is some logic to this as these light colored horses always have dirty green and brown blotches.) I didn’t care for sorrels—it seemed to me to be such a common color. And I didn’t like horses with too much inky darkness in their color—dark bays, dark browns, blacks. Just my prejudices.
My favorite color remained bright bay, followed by bright gold palomino and bright gold buckskin (I didn’t much care for the buttermilk varieties). I liked blaze-faced horses and certain sorts of paints. I liked roans.
So when a bright gold palomino who was a good trail horse came my way, I bought him. This would be Sunny.
And despite my general dislike of grays, I fell hard for the dark, dapple gray gelding my friend Wally bought as a six year old (Twister). Twister has always been boarded with me, and I am just as fond of him as I am my own horses. He really was striking as a young horse.
Twister soon “whited out” to a silvery color, and yes, he always has dirty looking blotches. And the next horse I bought was a deep red sorrel. I didn’t much care for the fact that Henry was a sorrel, but I looked past my prejudices, once again, and bought the best horse I could for my son when his pony died of cancer. And Henry was a pretty shade of sorrel, a coppery red.
So for the last five years most of our riding time has been spent with these three horses—Sunny, Twister and Henry. Here they are in a row as we get ready to go riding yesterday. See what they represent?
It took me awhile to see it this way, and I’ll grant you, it’s a fanciful idea. But Sunny, Twister and Henry have come to represent gold, silver, and copper in my mind—the three precious metals. Ok—its silly, I know. But the idea gives me pleasure. Our three horses—symbolizing what’s good (colorwise). My copper, gold and silver horses in their corrals in the high country.
OK—is anybody else as weird about color as I am? I have already pointed out that I can look past my prejudices, and I now love my son’s bright copper-colored horse as well as I love my bright gold horse—and Wally’s silver Twister. But I still have an aversion to horses with too much dark “ink” in their color, such that I don’t especially care for a very nice black horse that Wally owns—simply because he’s black. (And yes, I realize this is not very rational, but despite the fact that I read “The Black Stallion” as a kid and used to think I’d love a black horse, the feeling I currently have is still mildly negative when I look at a “dark” horse.) It just feels like there’s too much “darkness” there. Sort of a symbolic thing. (Its fine for you to vote that I’m crazy—and I do know there are many, many good horses that are these colors.)
I guess the point of this post is just that in my old age I have acknowledged to myself that color DOES mean something to me—if only in a symbolic sense. Is it just me? Or do others have these odd preferences? Where certain colors give you active pleasure and other colors—well, you can like a horse of that color, but it’s despite the color, not because of it? Or, as I started out by saying, am I just crazy?
The one thing I can say for sure is that every morning when I walk down to feed, the sight of my silver, gold and copper horses gleaming in the sunshine brings a smile to my face. Of course, it has something to do with the fact that they are genuinely good, reliable horses. But I still think the colors (and my rather fanciful notion about the colors) is part of what brings me joy. Does anybody else feel this way?