Surely I’m not the only one who likes the old western songs? Yes, old country songs, but the western genre. Those cowboy songs about horses and cattle.
If we listen to them they give fascinating insight to the horses of the day.
They also tell us how subconsciously people have always used head shape to judge horses. And maybe not so subconsciously, old cowboys have often used whorls and head shape to judge horses. All horsemen have.
In ‘The Strawberry Roan’ the shape of the horses head is described as a horse that you could tell just by looking would be ab ‘outlaw’.
“Down in the horse corral standin’ alone
Is an old caballo, a strawberry roan
His legs are all spavined, he’s got pigeon toes
Little pig eyes and a big roman nose
Little pin ears that touched at the tip
A big 44 brand was on his left hip
U-necked and old, with a long, lower jaw
I could see with one eye, he’s a regular outlaw”
If we start with the ‘spavined legs’ and pigeon toed we have a horse with physical issues that can cause discomfort or lack of stability that can cause behavioral problems.
Especially when combined with little pig eyes, a slow learner, needs lessons slowly and carefully explained. When started in a rough and quick manner he would likely respond by fighting.
A big Roman nose, no matter what that will mean tough and determined. Determined can be read stubborn and refusing to give up on ideas they have developed. If this horse has decided he doesn’t like people he isn’t going to let go of that. If it is a Roman head, starting above the eyes, instead of below, it will compound the pig eyes and make for a very slow learner who will cling to one way of doing things. Bucking in this case.
Little pin ears that touched at the tip would show a horse with lots of energy and spirit. Quite likely one who will be spooky and flighty. The short ears show a horse with his own ideas, going with the big Roman nose.
Ewe necked again shows physical issues, poor self carriage, I wonder if he had any whorls on the bottom side of the neck? I would guess a big open splaying whorl, or wheat sheaf. I realize that’s getting a bit picky about a fictional horse in a song.
The long lower jaw? I don’t have anything for that. Except that tension in the tmj caused by issues with the jaw can lead to issues all over the body.
I love how this song covers all the bases we would look at when judging a horse’s temperament by the shape of the head.
If by some chance you don’t know the song you can find one of the many covers of it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-nRMg2U6X0

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