Saturday, December 31, 2011

Black is the new black?

Young Lady's Equestrian Manual
On thing I learned when looking to buy a baby horse -- color matters. Breeders love to see babies with bling, and black foals with bling are money in the bank. Why? Because horse buying isn't a 100% objective process, and buyers are influenced by color.  I guess it's human nature to romanticize the black horse, the big blaze, and the flashy white legs. Personally, white legs that go above the knee make me swoon.

Apparently, though, it was not always this way. Consider the book, The Young Lady's Equestrian Manual,  available online at Back then, it seems, the color of choice was bright bay, but only if the legs are black; a black horse is undesirable, and more than a smidgen of white was vulgar. Here's exactly what the book says:

A friend of mine who shows saddlebreds once told me that they don't like to see a lot of white in the show ring. Is this true?


  1. The reason that Standardbreds are so predominantly brown is this sort of thinking... Superstition came into play more than etiquette, I think, but you will still run into many old-time horsemen that prefer a bay horse with minimal white. (Mostly though, they were work animals, and no one bred for color -- the plain nags were just toughest and fastest!) In STBs, though, black is preferable over gray or chestnut!

    I used to love the look of a horse with a blaze and four stockings... But funny enough my tastes are changing. I don't know if it's the STB influence or not, but many of the horses I fall head over heels for are the rich shades of bay, with just the smallest amount of white, usually an irregular spot hidden somewhere odd.

    I do still have a weakness for really cute roans, though!

  2. There was the old saying that started off 'One white leg, buy 'im. Two white legs, try 'im."

    I love blood bays with a bit of chrome, myself! At our barn, the default colours of late are black and dark brown: Oscar's buckskin makes him a standout!

  3. Before the black mare I had two plain bays with one white foot. Excellent horses and easy to clean up for show! I love a nice mahogany bay.

  4. One of the most beautiful horses I know (IMHO) is my friend's FresianXSaddlebred. She is bright bay with black points. No white on her anywhere.

  5. "One white leg, buy him. Two white legs, try him. Three white legs, shy him. Four white legs, fly him," is how I remember it. My old farrier used to say a star and a snip meant a good horse.

    I like rich bays, with a little white, perhaps on their faces. The white legs, etc. are neat, but so hard to scrub up for the show ring, as are gray horses or pintos.

    What really matters is a coat texture that kind of sheds the dirt. My one TB has it, the other one, a chestnut doesn't. My first bay TB had an amazing coat that would gleam with just a little brushwork, even in the winter--unclipped.

    Fact is, a good horse is a good horse, no matter what the color, even though some colors do seem to attract more admiration than others.

  6. "One white foot, buy a horse.
    Two white feet, try a horse.
    Three white feet and a white nose,
    Cut off his head and feed him to the crows!"

    My original dressage instructor's husband told me that one, whose two talented warmblood mares were chestnuts with lots of white. Obviously, they did not buy into the saying.

    I love, love, love my buckskin, but most of that has nothing to do with his color (I used to adore a plain, bay mare with almost not white), although it is neat when people stop their cares to snap pictures of him. It is not every day that you see a buttermilk buckskin, unless you are me. ;)

  7. One reason I was told to shy away from white on a show horse was that if the white was asymmetrical it could make the horse look "off". I sure hope most judges can see through a little white, though!

    I'm still a sucker for lots of chrome. That said, my current mare is bay with minimal white.

    The way I heard the old saying was "One buy him, two try him, three doubt him, four do without him".

  8. I'm more for personality and work ethic and conformation than color. I never liked greys until I got one haha, and that's because she likes to keep herself clean! So I guess I have a soft spot for greys now, especially the fleabits and the dappled ones. And heck, I love chestnuts. The fiery, bright, potentially-crazy kind! But if they don't have a nice build or work ethic, then I don't care what color they are haha!

  9. Here's the saying I've heard:

    One white sock, buy him.
    two white socks, try him,
    three white socks, deny him
    and four white socks and a snip on the nose
    cut off his head and feed it to the crows.

    pretty hardcore, those victorians!

  10. It was believed that white legs withwhite hooves were weaker than the black ones.

    Also nothing cleans up quite as well as a bright bay with black legs. However, I have owned a variety of colors, mostly off colors- duns, palomino, paints, grays, always extreme flash, especially with my current gelding, Scout, a red roan half Appaloosa with a big white blanket of spots, half pinto with belly patches, four white legs and blaze/balding face with one blue eye. The only drab parts on him are his black/brown mane and tail.

    All my life I've wanted a black horse and finally got one with Yalla! Although she is a black bay, mostly black with brown highlights.

  11. Oh, I LOVE black horses. My coming 2yo is black rabicino with 2 hind whites and a cute little star. I love his color, but he would still be an amazing friend even if he were a different color.

    My other horse is white grey, and she is a PILL to keep clean and pretty. That (and melonoma's) are why white/grey horses are my least favorite color. And yet, I have one... so it must not mean I don't place too much stock in color :)

  12. I have a black with a star, snip and two white socks, a dapple palomino with a star, strip and two white socks, a white with a star and snip, a chestnut with socks and a blaze, and a steel gray filly who will turn white in her teen years. Of all of them, my black gelding makes my heart go thumpity-thump the most. I have a soft spot for black horses. And blondes. :)

  13. I will be a lifelong member of the "grey club," I'm afraid, despite their tendency to look filthy and grow melanomas. I lost my heart at about age seven to a grey and that was the end of it for me... Although I tell myself frequently that color will NOT matter when it's finally time to get my own horse, I guarantee you my head will be turned by anything grey first. That said, I also really like pintos, bays w/ chrome and bright chestnuts! :-) My last favorite mount was a grey Pintaloosa, so there you go.

    I remember reading the rhyme about "four white legs, feed 'im to the crows" in a horse book called "Famous Horses," in the section about Hyperion. He had four whites and a lot of racing wags said he'd never be any good. He showed 'em! :-)


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