Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Yet another chestnut mare! Color theory in the horse world

Experienced horsemen remind us that "a good horse is never a bad color." But is that the end of the story colorwise?  Does color matter at all? Well, I think it does. I remember a book from my childhood that had a chapter on horse color. The author cautioned would-be horse buyers that "pale chestnuts tend to be cowardly," that bay is "a good honest color," etc. And we all know the adage chestnut mare beware.I think chestnuts, like humans with red or blonde hair, tend to have more sensitive skin, for one thing.

What brought on my thoughts of color?
Take a look at this mare...

I just love her--and yes, the flash is part of the appeal. Telling myself that a good horse is never a bad color, I wondered, "Would you like her  if she were a plain bay?"

Well, I can't imagine her as a plain bay. If she were bay she would not be that mare.  IMHO, the mare has charisma and a spark of personality. When you try to piece her apart, something gets lost in translation. It's like wondering if Marilyn Monroe would be a celebrity icon without her blonde hair.  Frankly the question doesn't interest me. She is who she is.

Okay, I'm babbling a little. This post is kind of an excuse to show you this video. Anyway, what do you think???


  1. I think you have a definite "type" you like for movement!

    I'm not a huge fan of the same trots the horses you adore always have - a little too much action for my taste. In some ways, almost typical Friesian movement but on a lighter horse. They're pretty - just not my "thing." That may change with time, though... I grew up a QH person, where flat knees were important!

    She is very pleasant looking, and seems to be behaving. I feel as if I've seen that rider on videos of several different horses, all of whom had that same calmness about them even if showing a lot of movement. I greatly appreciate that - when I was horse hunting, there were some horses I wouldn't look at because of how they were ridden.

  2. I do like the flash :-). One wonders though -- I was watching a very interesting horse on Youtube the other day -- horse was in Germany. As I watched I could hear the whip cracking every 45 seconds or so in the background.

    I think Harv would offer "the big movement" and then some of someone was crackin' a whip at his heels. At least you could hear the whip sound through the music. I wonder if other videos overwrite that sound.

  3. I LUFFS her!!!!
    She can come "pretty up" my barn any day. I like this type of movement but only when the hind is as engaged as hers. However, from an ammy POV that much hind end is much harder to ride well without using your hands... lots of no hands lunging.

    I happen to love that chestnut mentality, my plain brown gelding is a temperamental chestnut mare under the skin and I think that is why I like him. I like being able to get a reaction on any aide (even if it is explosive) and find that the horses that tend to over react are easier to teach but harder to manage. That said this mare seems lovely and pleasant.

  4. I don't think color has anything to do with anything and I have a chestnut. You said it. Experienced horsemen remind us that "a good horse is never a bad color." and there is never a bad horse just trainers.

  5. OOOps, Heather picked up the first thing I noticed before the horse even....no helmet.

    This mare moves the way the dressage judges seem to want them to go nowadays. Lots of natural flash and elevation.

    I'm not sure how comfy she is to ride, though. At my age, I begin to appreciate that a lot more than looks.....

  6. That is interesting - I think it would make a definite difference, depending! We get the echoing crack of a whip when someone is longing on a cool, quiet day at my barn. Between that, the road that runs next to the arena, and the nearby gun range - I think my OTTB still wouldn't have THAT kind of action.

    But I know I'm a sucker for horses that really use their hind end and get their hocks under them. It's not surprising I ended up with a horse who naturally collects himself!

  7. Um, does it bug anyone else that she drags her hind toes?

  8. Dragging hind toes? I watched a segment of the video (slomo) and she clearly lifts her hind hoof above the footing, rather than pulling the toe through it. Can you pinpoint a part of the video?

  9. Well, I have a weakness for blood bays, myself. Chestnuts can be fun but there's something about those black points and the high contrast they provide to a deep, reddish coat. . . .

  10. She's adorable. Love the little red warmblood mares. I agree, with what Net said though, She is kind of a 'leg mover' and looks quite cow-hocked as well.

  11. Her canter looks like so much FUN!

    I did not buy my horse for his color, but I would be lying if I said that I do not enjoy the compliments. A buttermilk buckskin turns heads and he takes my breath away. :)

  12. She's a fun color, but I have to admit I'm not crazy about her. Too much knee action for my personal tastes. Makes me think of the phrase "passagey trot". I know though that extravagant action is the vogue. But I tend to like more straightforward movers. But I also am no expert.

    Ok but on your topic of color theory: I'm probably one of the most skeptical people around. But I do find myself thinking, it is possible there is something to these theories. I mean, scientifically speaking, perhaps certain coat color genes travel with some other genes. Or perhaps sensitive skin affects the horse's behavior, through learned behaviors.

  13. Bay Horse, the world would be so boring if we all liked the same thing :-), I like hearing other views. Speaking of learned behavior -- part of me wondered if the mare is so showy b/c of the way people react to her coloration. I'm guessing she was fawned over as a youngster, and maybe she learned to "show off?" I'm maybe making her a bit too human, but at the same time I think animals are far more self-aware and cognitively complex than we give them credit for...

  14. It's amusing to me that you say, "if she were just a plain bay..." because I admit that's sometimes the phrasing I use for chestnuts. To me, bay coloring is much more interesting and dynamic than chestnut, though I agree her white markings make her stand out a bit.

    Though I honestly don't believe that color has a thing to do with performance, it's fun to speculate. More likely, I think that some bloodlines carry consistently good athletics and conformation, and by virtue of genetics, they also happen to carry consistent coloring. It's more like two symptoms of the same gene pool, rather than cause and effect.

    There are a lot of nice things about her trot (including a loose shoulder, engaged hind end and soft expression), but what concerns me is how hard she hits the extension in her knees at the end of every stride. She's "popping and locking" which always sends up a red flag in my mind for early-onset arthritis and joint troubles. I expect to see some of that in a massive extended trot, but not in every stride of the working trot. Aside from being worried about physical deterioration, it also gives the impression of a bit of a rocky ride.

    I like her, but her movement looks as though it needs to mature and strengthen. She's only five. Maybe the popping would go away as the rest of her supporting muscles strengthen to support the joint movement.

  15. Funny how the spicy reddish hue temperament seems to cross all species. Humans, cats, horses!

  16. I often wonder about my young horse and his color. Would he be as impressive and adorable without all of those wild spots? The undeniable answer is no. I usually have these thoughts while lunging him, he's an somewhat average mover, he has decent but not stellar confirmation. But those spots take him to a whole other level! People L-O-V-E love him! Besides his ridiculous cuteness though his true advantage is his rideability and I'd love him just the same even if he was a plain old bay for that sheer factor alone, the flash is just a bonus :)

  17. Oh, she just looks fun! I think she would look even flashier as a dark bay or black.

  18. She is absolutely lovely!!! Would love to know her age and lineage. Wow, what drive and joy. GOOSEBUMPS!!!! Makes me want to get back into riding. Thanks so much for sharing that. I agree, a horse is a total package. Breeding that focuses too much on the exterior loses quality FAST. And that is sad. Yet, flash sells and it captures our imaginations, and opens our wallets :~). "Something about the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man..." For the record my all time favorite horse was a blood bay Morab mare, Shilleen. Long mane, long forelock, coat like copper in the sun but very dark indoor or in shade. Lovely versatile mare. I agree about the buckskin comment - people slam on the brakes in their cars driving by a buckskin in a field. Cracks me up! Great blog. Glad I saw your Entrecard!

  19. I don't particularly like "normal" bays, because they are so common. And I like chestnuts, (I like that chestnut a lot!) However, my dressage horse I have right now is Bay... I bought him for personality and rideability, not for color. But I do LOVE blood bays. LOVE them. And Buckskins, I have a weakness for buckskins. I'm not sure why. They are not common in the dressage ring though!

    I have one chestnut at my barn of 5 horses, and he has super sensitive skin. VERY sensitive. My bay doesn't. Actually, all three of my bays don't. Gray's I know have a high risk of skin cancer.

    I've heard though.. that bays with an even number of socks (or no socks) and an evenly place face marking (or no face marking) do better in the show ring. Whether that's Hunter/Jumper or Dressage. I can tell you though, a bay horse will place any day over a chestnut (or any other color, except maybe a very rich dapple gray) in the Hunter/Jumper ring. After showing for 7 years with a flea bitten gray and a chestnut in the hunter/jumper ring... this is something I know very well. lol. As far as dressage though, mostly I've heard that an even number of socks/stockings is the most important, next would be an evenly place face marking.

    I had a colt born two years ago. He has 3 socks and an off center face marking. Of course. haha. His future is hopefully dressage.

  20. Read Temple Grandin's writing on gene traits/color traits. It's really interesting and enlightening, especially in regard to albino traits/pink skin blue or pink eyes in animals.

    She's a cute girl, but I also am wary of her snapping toes and knees. I love her attitude and cute face though.


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