So, today was feed day. I buy feed by the half ton, in bulk. I have 39 horses and a donkey, so that's a LOT of mouths to feed.
Now, feeding the animals is a personal hobby of mine. I love to know what to give, how much to give, what nutrition works, what horse needs something a bit different. In truth, I work hard not to switch over the feed too often on my horses. Normally I get a wonderful feed that is made of barley, sunflower seeds, and soybean hulls. It's very high fiber (good for horses) and lower NSC. Now, it's not a "no" NSC diet, but it's great for growing horses and those that need to be built back up.
My little operation here has 4 employees. First of course there's me. I do the breaking, the backing, the medical, the training, the foaling out, and other major horsey tasks. I basically have a degree in biology (haven't received my degree yet because I want some extra courses that will make me eligible for vet school... just on principle). My studies were in genetics, and genetics bring out the geek in me - in a big way! I spent my life as a city kid, and when I got my first horse, from there I was hooked. I learned much of what I know the hard way, and have youth to thank for all of my parts still working properly.
Then my assistant trainer is my mother. She handles the young horses, and most often is the one that puts the basic ground work on them, including lunging and ground driving. Mom is incredibly patient and actually enjoys repetitive work. PERFECT for working with the youngsters.
Then there's Jae, my better half. He does just about every thing not horse related, and helps with the horsey stuff as well. When it comes to fencing, keeping the tractor running, repairing something a horse broke, or just holding the head while I climb on the first time, or being thrown around during a vet/medical treatment, Jae's the guy.
Last but not least is my father. Dad piddles. He's the guy that mows the lawn, paints the fence, and pets the new foals (which is actually a VERY important job, socializing horses!). He's great at getting scared horses to trust someone. He's also the guy who does the bills. Paperwork is something I HATE to do, so it's nice to have someone willing to do it.
Our program is pretty simple. We breed Stonewall Sport Horses. These are Appaloosa draft crosses, created by a guy named Michael Muir, and they gained popularity when he did a drive across the US to promote disabled driving (horsey type). I found out about them, and fell in love. See, my Appaloosa breeding program has always been for sport horses, and I got stuck at 15.2 hands. Too short for sport horses! I love drafts, always have, and the draft crosses are good sport horses. To me the switch was a no brainer.
Now, the Stonewall Sport Horse was bred up by a man named Everett Smith. A wonderful man, let me tell you! Mr. Smith has many years in the carriage business, and made a full draft horse with that purpose in mind. As a side effect he also created a great riding draft. I leased the last of Mr. Smith's herd, with the understanding that I will sell the last of them for him. I breed his stallion, Sugarbush Harley's Classic O, both to my mares, as well as outside mares. I also have the intention to produce a couple of Sugarbush horses myself. Now, with the recent Economic downturn, these relatively unknown breeds aren't moving so fast, so I am not breeding.
So, when I have open stalls, I take in horses in need. I do not like to BUY horses that are neglected or abused. I will rescue them, I will take them, but I really think that paying the person who is not caring for their horses is a BAD idea. In most cases it leads to them breeding another, or thinking that they are successful, when in fact they are simply bad breeders.
The caveat there, is that I WILL buy a horse from someone that needs the help and knows it. I've had people beg me to buy a horse from them because they have to sell one to feed the rest, and they just lost their job. To me, that's just being in a rough spot. I will give those types money. I was there myself once, and ended up giving away a handful of horses during my panic, before things settled out. My thinking was, place the horses in good homes while they are fat, healthy and happy, and not have to watch them starve if I can't get the income flowing again SOMEHOW.
Granted, that panic is what lead me into working with the horses full time. So it's not all bad. And the horses I placed, they have great homes with owners who adore them.
But right now I'm full. In fact, I'm a bit over full. I was full, and then my dear friend Sigrid Rico passed away. Her daughter contacted me and basically informed me that if I was WILLING to take Sig's horses then they were mine. I had a lovely filly leased from Sig (Olympic Dove) and I felt comfortable accepting the 2 older horses. The third horse was a known problem foaler, was bred, and had a chance to be placed in a home more suited for her then mine. Then I had the Stonewall foal mess up. Bred a mare for a 2009 foal, pastured her with the stallion that winter, since she wasn't doing well in the herd, and was the low horse, but got more then plenty of access to the round bale and grain when kept with the stallion. I thought "hey, it all works out".
Mare had ultrasounded as bred for a July 2009 foal, then in April, she looked open to me, so while trying to schedule an apointment for another ultra sound, I accepted a horse in need. I was positive she was open. I figured she had slipped the foal (her first breeding) and it had been too late in the year. Well, I had a lovely foal in 2010 from her. One more horse over the "limit".
So today, while at the feed store, the clerk there asks me if I can take in another horse. The horse was abandoned at a boarding pasture. Previous owners had the horse on pasture lease. The pasture owner couldn't handle that the horse wasn't getting the proper care, so told the owners that he'd take the horse instead of the money they owe him. Now this pasture owner, who isn't a horse man, has a horse. He has been feeding the horse, but supposedly it's thinish. It's a bay 3 year old gelding, appears to be broke, but needs weight.
The feed store guy said that the pasture owner would love to sell the horse for the $100 he's owed. He wants someone that can feed it! Well, feeding is something I'm good at. I take pride in getting that perfect balance of muscle to fat, with out having horses be TOO fat. And since I buy a crap load of feed from this place, the clerk thought I'd be a great match.
I'm over my limit. The horse needs a home. Sounds like an easy rehab and sell.
Yeah, I told the feed store guy that I'd think about it. *headdesk* I do NOT need yet another horse, but I can't say no if the horse is really in need can I?
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.