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.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A glorious day off!

So, it's my goal to take one day off per week. It doesn't always happen, but it's my goal. Some weeks I get more days "off" because of weather. Sadly, I don't have an indoor arena, so working horses is very weather dependent.

Well, this week has been perfect. And today is the culmination of it, with lovely weather, and no responsibilities. Ok, feeding, and cleaning stalls don't really count, that's more of a life style choice I think.

So I have been thinking a lot abut how I got here.  Of course that leads to where I need to go as well, but, I haven't decided on that yet.

2009 was a horrid year for me. From family health issues, to personal issues, I spent the entire year playing catch up and physically unable to ride. The time off caused such joyous side effects as weight gain, and of course, for me to become much more timid in my riding. As a horse breeder, I have to work closely with large animals who aren't always in the perfect frame of mind. A horse can easily hurt a person, either by accident or intention, in the end it doesn't really manner.

So, the time away from working with the horses left me wondering if my instincts were still there. A horse would swing around in a stall, and I'd be sure there was a kick coming, or pinned ears at feeding time would leave me thinking that they were directed at me. Granted neither thing is appropriate for my horses, but that doesn't mean that they don't try.

So, with the joys of coming back to work in 2010, I had to get back into the swing of things. I started slowly, working on the ground, and with the well trained horses. From there, I began to tackle harder and harder issues. Now, I am back in full swing, and breaking out horses again, as well as handling horses with behavioral issues. For me, regaining my courage and internal calm around the horses was done by choice.

I didn't realize that this is hard for some people, until my mother commented on how I couldn't understand her problem because I don't face fear with the horses. That was the point that it dawned on me that courage is something that we rarely talk about with horses. Either you have it or you don't, right? WRONG!

For me, being near a horse brings an inner peace. It allows me to slip into an altered state of mentality, just as meditation does. I look at things around me differently, more like a horse would. I listen to sounds that I wouldn't normally notice, and my eyes tend to catch movement more then colors or details. No, I'm not talking about some kind of hokey "horse sense"! I just have learned over the years what it is that horses tend to notice, and that's what I work to focus on. Just as someone meditating concentrates on their breathing or stretching.

And still today, I face moments of fear. Only weeks ago, I did a very stupid thing. With a storm blowing in at 3am, my desk top weather screaming at me that it was going to be bad, and my month old foal and his dam loose in the big pasture, I decided that I needed to "rescue" them. I grabbed Jae, my better half, a halter, my dog (who goes with me most every where) and headed out to the pasture. The wind was gusting, lightning and thunder were on the horizon, and the herd was no where in sight. Jae and I ran around the pasture, calling to the horses, and peering into the darkness. Well, my horses are used to coming when called.... and come they did.

As we rounded the pond, and walked across the horsey highway, I heard something. We turned in time to see a white streak headed for Jae. He barely jumped out of her way, with her passing so close that for a moment their legs tangled. I yelled to ask him if he was ok, when my spidey senses went off. I'm still not sure exactly what happened, but I looked over my shoulder and could see nothing but the star on the head of a yearling. I only had enough time to think "this is going to hurt" then BAM! I was hit dead on.

I guess I have to mention that many of my horses are Appaloosas, Stonewall Sport Horses, or Sugarbush Draft Horses. All of these are appaloosa colored, and when they are homozygous for the dominant form of that gene (LP) they are blind in the dark. Granted, blindness isn't a big deal for a horse, but add wind that removes all sound, and was blowing from the horses toward ME, so they couldn't smell me either, then it's a problem.

The poor filly hit me hard, spinning me around, and onto the ground. I remember a quick mental debate between ducking and covering my head and neck, or getting up fast, because I was sure that the worst was yet to come. I chose to get up, thinking that the herd would NEVER see me laying on the ground. I hopped up yelling at the horses, and the wind died long enough for me to be heard, and like the red sea, the herd parted.

Jae ran over to help me, positive that I was seriously injured. I was more dazed then hurt, but my knees hurt a lot. My dog was MIA, being smarter then we humans, she had dived into the pond and found her own safety. Once Jae got me inside, I looked at my legs, and saw scrapes, bruises, and my right knee was the size of a grapefruit. Nothing seemed broken, but WOW, what an experience. I never fully understood the concept of a stampede until that moment.

That ordeal left me much more aware of how I have to behave around the horses. The next morning, the filly that hit me was sore, and scared of me. Jae could handle her, but when I came close, she tried to flee. Since then we have worked through that, but I'm sure in her mind, she thought I tried to eat her.

So now, I think I'm mostly back in the swing of things.  I'm riding as often as I can, and I'm working hard to get the business where I want it to be.  It's hard, not knowing when the next paycheck will come, but it's SO worth it.

I really believe in what I do.  I tried office work.  I'm good at it, but it makes me miserable.  My biggest problem with owning my own business is taking time off.  I don't mind the low wages.  I don't mind the long hours.  And there's nothing that would make me trade my lifestyle for a larger paycheck!

The economy took a nose dive at the same time as I was getting things up and running.  I'm at the point now, where I watch the market every day, hoping for an upswing in horse sales, and for stocks to start climbing again.  I think I can hold off until things get better, but a few horse sales wouldn't hurt at all.

Someone has to do horses professionally.  Most breeders right now are at the age where they are looking to retire.  I'm not.  I'm just starting my career in horses, and I think I have a good many years ahead of me.

Some of what I'll be posting here is about my thoughts on running the business.  Some is about my thoughts on horse care and training, and of course some will be simple updates on what I do.  I try hard to be an honest horse person, and to break the stereotypes of the typical "horse trader".  I do trade horses, but I do it because horses are such amazing animals that people should be allowed to own them, and those who have never had a horse need someone they can count on to think of things to protect them.  This is why I sell horses that I know and trust, and I work hard to make beginner safe horses!  Many of my horses are young, but they are better as babies then so many offered for sale at low prices.

I price my horses as low as I can.  As a college student, I bought the cheapy, and I have the aches and pains to prove it!  I learned the hard way, and I hope to keep others from having to suffer from not being lucky enough to be born with horses in their back yards.

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