A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

And now I'm sunburned

Yesterday was a good day. Mom was here for working horses, and most of mine are on "vacation" due to extremely long hooves. Yep, that's what happens when you have to reschedule your farrier appointment, your farrier then has a family emergency, and every time you get a chance to reschedule it rains! My poor horses are about 3 weeks over due. Add to it, that they are on grass, and their feet are growing like mad, and I have some seriously long hooves. I will not ride horses with long toes, or horses that look unbalanced. So... an easy week for me until Saturday when the farrier arrives (and it supposed to be nice weather, but rain the next day, I sure hope the rain waits!)

I don't blame my farrier for not working in the rain. My place turns into a mud pit when it rains, and he already drives close to 2 hours to get to me. Nope, won't use another farrier, I tried that, and it wasn't pretty. The two farriers I tried out were, um, less then stellar! I kept having to say "less toe" for each and every horse. Now, I have 35 horses here, that's a LOT of horses to say "less toe" on each time! The farrier I have, I can leave alone with the horses, he's great! Their feet are always amazing looking, he's considerate of the horses, and if I mention an issue he actually takes what I say into consideration, then tells me what is best for the horse.

Other farriers I have tried tend to do the exact same trim on every horse. With a bajillion horses of less then stellar breeding, I have straight shoulders, I have sloped shoulders, I have long pasterns I have short pasterns, I have draft cross low heeled hooves, and horses with old injuries and clubby hooves. There's no way they can all be trimmed the same!

So, yeah. My point with all that is that Rover's on sabatical. He's got a bit of thrush, the start of white line (it will all trim off) and super duper long feet. Diesel has a toe crack. Nothing bad, but stressing it could easily make it bad. Dooddles feet look GREAT (he's not due for a week or so) but I can't ride his hiney off all the time.

All of my horses are like this. And ironically, the set that isn't due to be trimmed yet... well... that's the group that's too young to train, or too old to ride. My 20 year old mare, her feet look amazing, but she can't be ridden because of a tumor in the girth area (and she does NOT have a bareback type of back). So, yesterday, we did baths. Princessa loved her bath, and she let me easily scrub all of her legs and her udder with out a flinch this time. Normally, Princessa gets a bit fidgety about her lower hind legs, and always gets prissy about her udder. Rover got a good grooming, and let me tell you, the big Red Rover is as shiny as a new fire truck.

So, Mom worked Ishka. Ishka is a 4 year old Appaloosa Sport Horse. She's out of my mother's grade quarter type mare, by my stallion Spot. Her dam, Keeley, was my mother's first horse, and is now still going strong as a 20 year old. Keeley is a great horse, and mom wanted a filly to replace her. Boy did she get a great replica! Ishka has a personality that is almost a carbon copy of Keeley, with out all the baggage that Keeley had to endue in her long life, BUT, Ishka's conformation is much better, she's taller, and got her Sire's good points in work ethic. Basically, she looks like dad, acts like mom, and is a great horse for my mother.

Here's Ishka as a baby, isn't she cute!
Unfortunately, no pictures of Ishka working yesterday. But who can refuse baby pictures?

So mom took her out to the arena, and started riding. Ishka took a mental vacation, because my mother is well known for not progressing. Mom gets nervous about taking the next step, and if allowed would never do more then walk on her greenies. Through careful prodding, she has gotten a bit of trot work from Ishka in the past. So yesterday we worked on that. After warming up, I put out some ground poles to walk over, trying to get Ishka engaged. Then I asked mom to trot. Ishka immediately did the young horse version of "you can't tell me what to do!". Yeah, she's like her dam. Had mom work through that, which included saddle fit checks, trying a new saddle, and repeating. Ishka did it again, so, definitely not the saddle. After a bit of a "don't you DARE!" moment, Ishka decided that acting up wasn't cutting it.

So, got mom working at a trot, and Ishka behaving at the trot. Now, mom's riding issue is that her hands are stiff. So she doesn't do well following the mouth. She's been working on this for eons, and is a lot better, but greenies are so sensitive about these things. I eventually had mom step off, and I stepped on. Took Ishka around at the trot, and she was asking me to just get out of her way and let her find her balance. Showed mom how to do that (2 point, and big open reins with soft contact). Once she was sure I wasn't going to knock her over (balance issues) she began to step out and move beautifully! Nice soft and forward while still listening. Such a nice girl. Tomorrow's lesson will be for mom to learn to stay out if Ishka's way.

Then we lunged Amber. Now, Amber is an amazingly lovely AQHA mare. She's also 4 years old. She's foundation bred, but looks like there's a ton of TB in there. Nice, tall and leggy. Oh, and she's the most lovely champagne color. I always wanted a Champagne broodmare, but never could find one with anything besides the color, until I stumbled upon Amber. Amber has conformation, she has a decent predigree, and she's so well mannered. By color, I think she's a dun champagne. She stands about 15.2 (I really need to put a stick on her) and has lovely forward movement. Due to my lay up last year, she's not broke yet.

So, Amber got a lunge lesson. Mom has been having trouble teaching Amber to reverse. Now, Amber is sweet, and she's lovely, but she's of average intelligence. Most of our homebreds are of exceptional intelligence, so by comparison, she seems a bit dull mentally. The idea of reversing just doesn't make sense to her. I showed mom how to lunge her into a fence to ask for the reverse. No, I'm not talking about running the horse into anything! The idea is that you lunge the horse in a corner of the arena, if the horse refuses all the commands to turn around, then you give it less and less space to continue it's circle. The idea is to get the horse to look to the handler for a clue as to what it is supposed to be doing. This allows the handler to show the horse what is wanted, and set the horse up for success. Once the horse tries the right response, praise and love are given, and hopefully the horse will seek the positive reinforcement the next time.

Amber... well... she got scared. Going counter clockwise, I could get her to reverse, but going clockwise it just made no sense to her. I have to admit here that I screwed up while training her. I pushed her to hard to get the right response, and was too focused on showing mom how to do it. Amber got scared, and at one point she chomped at me like a baby. Oh man do I feel bad... that's a sign that I pushed her WAY too hard.

Of course, I quit, moved her away, reassured her, and gave her a task she could win at and get praise. We then went back to reversing, and she had made progress. Now, she's not great, but offering to reverse is now one of the options she chooses when confused. It's a step.

To keep things light hearted, I took Amber to the other side of the arena. Over there i have barrels with poles set up like a jump. It's about 18 inches. I lunged Amber around, brought her up to the jump, then stopped her. Then I walked up to her, praised her, petted her, and hand walked her over the pole, and praised her to high heavens. After a second to think about it, I asked her to lunge that way.

I had no expectations. She could swerve around the jump, she could refuse, she could hop over it... the options are endless. But, a nice steady trot, and Amber chose to hop over! Shockingly to me, she had a GREAT form. I praised her a ton, then asked for it again. This time, she reversed at the last minute, so I let her, and repeated the exercise in the opposite direction. Again, she hoped over it, and got praise.

After a few more tries, I raised the bar. Um, literally.

Amber kept trying to take a mental vacation, so when she trotted up to the higher bar, she wasn't prepared. She decided that more speed and power was the answer, and FLEW over the 20 inch bar. Simply lovely, and I got her mind back! We did some trotting over ground rails, a few more tries at the jump, and basically kept it fun and light hearted for the filly. All in all I consider it to be a good day's work. Amber learned that sometimes working is FUN, as well as a few commands. I learned that my quarter horse has some talent in a field I like!

It was a good day. And now, I'm incredibly sunburned from playing outside too long with too little sunscreen. Yeah, I try to remember to slather it on good, but for some reason I forgot, and am paying for it now. I guess that means there's always a downside. I love my job, but it'll probably give me skin cancer.

More later on today's work session!

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