I loved the foreground donkey. The crop definitely makes the frame more formally balanced, but it also makes the image a bit mannered. It feels more formal now, which is both good and bad. Getting rid of the cloud definitely helps, it was bugging me too, although not enough to mention is.
The big problem for me is that the lens' defects at the edges are now even more pronounced and obvious. Normally I don't give a damn about technical nonsense, sharpness, and so on. A little softness and distortion won't much damage a good image, and the best lens in the world won't save a bad one. Still, with this particular image you have a noticeable change as your eye crosses the frame, and I find that maddeningly distracting. If I had never noticed it, it probably would not bother me at all, but now that I have, I can see nothing else!
I hesitate to say the cropped image is worse, but it is certainly a different image and I find it less organic, less comfortable feeling, more cold and formal.