Another try at it. Any suggestions?
Let me start out by expressing what I'm thinking when I post-
I'm hesitant to make suggestions as it's only what I would try, and my style is going to be expressed, not what is "right" or "wrong." There were probably a lot of people thinking "Don't change it!" for the first one, so please keep in mind if you like something the way it is, leave it! I love your openness to try things! I just want to ensure you (and everyone else) are comfortable saying "Nah, like it the way it is, but thanks!"
Okay, here we go. Regarding the new horse and kitty:
IMO, MUCH better! Let me tell you something that gave me a chuckle- and it occurs rather frequently. Whenever you do a scene, take breaks, walk away, come back up to your screen and see what your first impression is. An innocent placement may give a funny (or wrong) impression. When I saw the horse in the first picture, I couldn't figure out (other than the ceiling pulling my eye) what seemed "off." Well...
With the cat's foot (nice and bright white) where it was, it made your horse look like he had a big white smile! That foot ended up where it should be (that's where the cat would be kickin'!) but from your original angle, at first glance it seemed the horse had nice the mouth open and his toofers on display, lol! Artists tend to see what they have created AS THEY WANT IT TO BE, not what is shown. (One thread, the woman was grabbing her chest! We all had to smile about that.)
Let's start with what I really like in the second one-
That cat's tail! You can see it is in full action, compared to the first one. Cats speak through their tails (I know- we have eight of them!) So this really got the "Hey, I'm down here!" attitude going.
You captured the gentleness of the huge animal, he's obviously thinking, "Seriously?"
Here's some things to take a peek at-
And help me out- is there one or two spotlights from the left? (or a point?) Is this correct- Your light source is somewhat low coming from the left or middle, It's hitting the bales of hay and also illuminates the cat's face. (Nice!) The light hitting the hay is necessary because the cat is dark-
Here's what I would experiment with (not necessarily change, but if I were putzin' around) If you have the hay and horse lit by the same light, I would separate them. Soften that hay one up perhaps (try a peach, that does great things with golden hay!) (255/195/169) or (255/202/181) and try perhaps as low as 8%. You might want to make these even whiter than the peachy provided. That will get a glow going on the hay. Here's why I would separate them- Looking at your sky, I chose peach. It ties it in without being a light source per se if it works out with being a softer glow.
Next, looking at the sky, the bluish gray. I like the color of the spotlight, that ties in with the sky nicely. What strikes me though, is it really stands out as a spotlight. If that is what you wanted, then that is the impression I get. It's a nice style! If you want a less spotlight-y effect, increase your spread angle slightly. (I'm assuming a spotlight?) EDIT: The reason I would separate the two lights (if it's two) is so you can adjust the light on the horse without impacting the hay.
Also, for that eye, which is dull, go into Surfaces and LOWER the glossy setting (it's the opposite of what it seems, higher setting is less glossy) and for me, lowering the Diffuse too.
Last, I'd zoom in more and get lower... I know you're avoiding the ceiling (I think that made a BIG difference, just my opinion) I am curious- if we want to experiment and get a mixture of the first one's point of view (more from being the cat) and this one (a bystanders point of view) can you do a quickie and bring down your camera (keeping this lighting and location of the camera) and tilt slightly up? In other words, what would this look like if we shot this from the lower left, like we are a bit out from the bales of hay (not from behind the cat, like your first one) but as if we are ALMOST down on the cat's level. See if what that would do
Your focus is the horse and cat touching, perhaps too much of the horse's body is in play, so are you up for a bit of zooming in, and getting lower from the camera's view- like your first one? What do you think?