Secretariat could run like the wind, Trigger was a movie star and Mr. Ed could talk.
As horses go, Soren is special, too, although you won't see why when first meeting him face to face. But as soon as this big red horse turns around, you will discover something is missing -- his tail.
Well, Soren does have a tail, but it's really more of a stub. A nubbin. A stump. Call it what you will, the short outgrowth of hairs on his rump gives Soren a rather distinctive profile.
"From the moment I saw him, I thought it was adorable," says Becky Cousineau of Clearfield, who, with her husband, Jason, adopted Soren more than a year ago from a local animal rescue group.
Soren's been out and about in the Top of Utah, so you may have already met him. He gave rides at last year's Utah Renaissance Festival and Fantasy Faire in Marriott-Slaterville and the Utah Pirate Festival in Willard, participating with Ogden's Pack 'N Pounce Animal Rescue. Last September, he and pals Molly and Jack also marched in Brigham City's Peach Days Parade.
And everywhere Soren goes, there are questions, naturally, about that missing tail.
"They do ask about the tail and why we cut it off," says Brenda Gordon, who, as president of Pack 'N Pounce, rescued Soren and found him a home with Becky Cousineau, who is her sister.
Soren, estimated to be about 15 years old, had no tail when Gordon first spotted him on a cold, rainy day in the fall of 2011. The horse was standing across the street from a Syracuse pasture where Gordon had gone to look at some other horses needing assistance.
Soren was on his way to auction, Jason Cousineau says: "Without a tail, chances are he was going to end up in someone's dog food bag."
But Gordon says, "I just took one look at him and it didn't matter if he was ridable or not, he was coming home with us."
A horse like Soren is certainly an oddity, says one Top of Utah veterinarian.
"It's very, very uncommon. I can't think of one (horse) right now that doesn't have a tail," says veterinarian Scott Taylor of Golden Spike Equine Hospital in Marriott-Slaterville.
Andy Fishburn, a breeder of quarter horses at Heritage Farms in Farr West, adds that he's raised a lot of horses and never seen one without a tail.
It's not just the hair that's missing from Soren's tail -- it's the tail itself, the "dock" or bony vertebrae that are an extension of the horse's spine. Normally, a horse has about 18 inches of this bony tail structure, but in Soren's case, only about 2 to 2 1/2 inches remain.
Although the hair on a horse's tail will grow back if cut, there would be no regrowth of damaged vertebrae.
"If it hasn't grown in by now, it's not going to," Jason Cousineau says.
As it turns out, Soren has been missing his tail a good long time. The Cousineaus recently heard from a woman who used to know the horse about 10 years ago when he was working in a sheep business on property she owned in the Tremonton area.
At that time, Soren -- now named after an owl in the "Guardians of Ga'Hoole" book series -- was known as "Stubby," due to his pitifully short tail.
Lost and found
Susan Douglas rediscovered the horse after seeing an article and photo about him that Jason Cousineau submitted last fall to Pets in the City magazine, a Salt Lake City-based publication.
"I knew immediately that he was the horse that I used to know as Stubby," says Douglas, of Salt Lake City. "The last I saw Stubby, (a rancher) had left him on our property and somebody was going to come get him to be auctioned off. ... And (then) I opened that magazine and there he was."
Douglas says she was glad to find out the "red, gentle giant" she and her daughter, Lian, used to enjoy riding had been miraculously rescued.
As for that missing tail, Douglas says, the horse's former owner told her that the person he bought Stubby from said the animal used to be a show horse. Once, when his tail was wrapped for a show, it got caught on a fence and was pulled off.
"Whether or not that's true, I don't know," Douglas says.
A problem associated with wrapping would be one of the most likely reasons a horse could lose a tail, says David Price, director of the Utah State University Equine Education Center in Logan. Sometimes the binding is too tight and cuts off blood supply in the tail, like a tourniquet.
Or veterinarian Taylor says complications may also arise in show circles when a horse is given a nerve block to prevent him from moving his tail for esthetic reasons. If an infection sets in, the tail could be permanently damaged, he says.
Tails are intentionally docked in some working breeds of horses, like draft horses, so they won't get in the away of harnesses or carts, Gordon says. But she says even a docked tail is not as short as Soren's.
The Top of Utah horse wasn't a victim of a tail shearing, like a case reported earlier this month in Southern Utah where investigators are searching for a thief who cut two feet off a horse's tail, supposedly to sell it on the black market.
Locally, Taylor says, "I've never heard of that happening."
No fly swatter
Whatever the circumstances, Soren has been without his tail for so long that Jason Cousineau says it doesn't seem to affect him much -- except come fly season.
Horses use their tails to swat away flies and bugs in the warm weather months, and since Soren cannot do that, the Cousineaus help him out by spraying him daily with bottles of fly repellent.
"We go through those like nothing, trying to keep the flies off of him," Jason Cousineau says. At a half-bottle a day -- and $15 to $30 a bottle -- the repellent gets pricey, but Becky Cousineau says it's a responsibility they accepted when they adopted Soren.
Sometimes when the couple and their four children visit Soren, the horse has torn his hindquarters up from rubbing on the fencing to try to get rid of the flies.
The family also sees that Soren gets plenty of brushing and bathing to keep his rump clean, Becky Cousineau says, since he can't "swish" much after relieving himself.
When Soren was first taken in by the rescue group, he had no movement in his tail at all. Now, "he can kind of give it a little wiggle," Becky Cousineau says.
Taylor Cousineau, 16, says she thinks her tailless horse is cute: "It's just something that's unique and something that makes him him."
Tail or no tail, Soren is a gentle and patient horse for a novice rider like himself, says Jason Cousineau, explaining, "He knows a lot more about being ridden than I know about riding."
Becky Cousineau adds, "I love his personality. He's so calm, he's so sweet. He'll come over and put his head on your shoulder. He just loves affection."
Since her family already owned a cocker spaniel with a short, stubby tail, Becky Cousineau says Soren is "part of the family -- he fit right in."
"He's a rescue and the dog's a rescue; the dog had no tail, the horse had no tail," she explains. "In some ways, my husband rescued me and I rescued him. We all need a little rescuing now and then."