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.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The joys of horse friends

Today I had friends over for a riding day. Leah brought her boys, and Kris came up with her boyfriend, Shane. This was my first time to meet Shane, and only second time to meet Kristen. Leah brought a few horses, and I supplied the rest. Today it was all geldings.

Our line up of horses included Poco, Leah's first horse. Poco is about a 14 year old gelding (I'm guessing). He appears to be part Appaloosa and Part Draft; he's appy colored, but short super stout, and has a lot of bone. I would guess Percheron, but the boy is only about 14.2 hands. Of course, he could be any of a zillion mixes, from POA/Belgian to Perch/Knabstrupper. I think he's absolutely lovely, and he has amazing movement. He's a good boy but wound a bit tight. Poco tends to be over reactive, although he's not the typical "spooky". Instead of bolting, he simply acts like a royal Pain in The... well you know. Leah and I both believe that Poco just has some extra baggage that he carries around mentally. In the last 4 years that Leah has owned him, Poco has come a long way. He went from being very dangerous, to being a bit quirky. Personally I believe that while he was too much horse for her in the beginning, Leah made the right decision to keep him. It has helped her grow as a horse person, and to become a great horse person very quickly. Nothing like a lot of horse to give someone the incentive to learn.

Then there's Leah's other horse, Jazu. He is an Arabian gelding whom she bought from us. My ex-husband and I bought each other horses for our first anniversary. Jaz was the horse my ex got. He was a funky colored boy with a plain head, and with Arabs, a plain head is not so great. While his looks aren't super Arabian, his mind is. He's a quick learner, and so easy to work with. When my marriage dissolved, Jaz became my mother's horse, but mom didn't have the time to devote to yet ANOTHER riding horse, so we leased him to Leah to keep Poco company. Leah needed a good steady type of horse, and while Jaz is a bit of a prankster, he's also a great horse, so Eventually Leah bought him. I can think of no better place for the boy, and I know he'll always have a great home. Not to mention it kinda works as good advertising for me. We got Jaz at 6 months of age, and he's turned into a great, gentle, wonderful horse.

Then there's Boo, Jaz's half brother (same sire). Boo was my first horse, and he's my super foof horse. He's that horse that catches everyone's eye when they show up, and I taught him to do just about every silly thing a girl can. From Spanish Walk to rearing on command. Yet more reasons why people think he's so "cool". Yeah, since I DO have it all to do over again, I'll never teach another horses much of that. Rearing on command can be a VERY bad thing. But, Boo's a good boy, and uses his talents for WOW, and photo opportunities, not for evil. He's also great as a lesson horse in the arena, but doesn't do so great when ridden in the herd. He's a bit buddy sour and really likes to have time with the girls. This week it's the draft mares that he's in love with, especially Rose and her daughters, Katy and Sweetie (The Sugarbush mares from Everett Smith).

Then there was Rover. Rover is one of my second chance horses. His previous owner wasn't pleased with him, and I think it was mainly due to his size. I love Rover, and think he's just about perfect. He's for sale, but he's a great horse to ride with others, or alone, so we threw him into the mix. Besides it gives me more chances to see what he does with other riders. And I did get to see some of what he does. Until today I always thought he was a perfect beginner horse. Now, I honestly believe that he's a nice gentle horse for a rider that has some level of skill. He responds so well to simple and subtle commands, and while he has nice small gaits, he can also extend into nice big gaits when asked. He's 100% heart, and all give. This is one of those horses that would kill himself to make you happy, but he has to make sure you're a leader before he'll even be bothered to try. Rover doesn't try anything bad. No buck, no kick, no bite. All he needs is someone with the skill to make him feel confident in what he's asked.

And last, but not least, is Doodles. Doodles is one of those freaks of nature that every one wants. My friend bought him out from under the kill buyer for $150 when he was a yearling. My father wanted a horse, so she sold him to us for $300 (cover feed/gas, etc). We raised him, broke him out, and he's been perfect for my father. Completely safe and bombproof. This is the horse that doesn't bat an eye at a plastic bag blowing in the wind right at him. Due to a comedy of errors, I ended up taking quite a few dressage lessons on him, and we learned that if you ride this horse, he meets your level of expectation. For a newbie, he's a baby sitter, but for an expert, he turns into a nice mid level horse. Unfortunately, Doodles has severe ulcers, and can never be shown, so his job is to be a great riding horse.

We started out with me on Boo, Leah on Poco, Nita (my mother) on Doodles, Shane on Jaz, and Kris on Rover. Shane hadn't ridden before, or if he had, it was so long ago he forgot most of it. Kris has horses of her own, and mom and I both ride regularly. Leah is a great driving force for me, to keep me riding for FUN, not just for work. Plug here, Leah's the absolute BEST barn buddy in the WORLD!

Today was all Leah's idea. To come up and play in the nice tilled arena, have fun, and give every one a bit of nice safe arena time, with not much thought involved. The weather almost cooperated. To start off, it was lightly overcast, but unfortunately there was a breeze. When that cleared, it was sunny, and I think most of us are a bit burned now.

The breeze didn't work so well with Poco. Plus my goats were out grazing my weed filled round pen (yeah, I need to till that eventually). Not sure why, but Poco was being very high strung, and eventually we decided that it's better safe then sorry, so we tacked Poco down. Leah then took Jaz, Shane took Doodles, Nita took Boo. A bit after that, Kris had a problem with Rover. She couldn't keep him on the rail. I hopped on Rover, and had no problems. I think it's because Kris rides a bit crooked (don't we all) and Rover is more trained then I thought.

Ok, he's also a bit pig headed it seems. I ride well, not great, and I have a lot more to learn, but well. Rover knows that I won't put up with crap, so he does what I want. Evidently he tested Kris a few times. Between the additional horses, and the new rider, he was "almost good". Nothing bad, but not exactly perfect.

About halfway through the ride, Leah put out barrels. Kris took rover through the barrels, and he seemed off. A second try (at a trot) and it was obvious that something was up. Rover had been sound up until this point. She hopped off, and I checked his leg. Right front was puffy and had a knot on it. AHHHHH. The last thing I want is another lameness.

So, Shane had enough, and decided to drink beer and watch the ladies. Heheh, I think he was a bit tired. That left Jaz, Doodles and Boo to ride. Not sure how it started, but some how we got talking about Velvet, and that she is for sale. So Kristen wanted to meet her. While I rode Boo, Kris rode Doodles, and Leah rode Jaz, Nita went to catch Velvet.

This is Velvet. Not the most flattering picture in the world, but she has mainly been a brood mare for me. I absolutely LOVE the babies she produces, but between my need to cut down, and her foals being too short, she's on my train up and sell list. Velvet is also a bit of a passive aggressive type of personality. She doesn't do the serious bad behavior, like biting or kicking, but she will threaten, she will also do things such as intentionally stepping on your foot. Now, Velvet has some bad history behind her. She ended up bred to her father at some point, then when I got her, she was a rack of bones. Her previous owner had financial issues, and trusted a friend to board her. When she checked her horses the herd was skinny. I mean on death's door skinny.

I bought Velvet in foal to a paint stallion, and she produces a lovely black and white tobiano gelding. That little guy hit the jack pot and now lives in a barn that's nicer then most people's homes. I then bred Velvet to my Appaloosa stallion Spot, and produced Nox, a lovely black near fewspot filly.

With the market the way it is, I want to get her riding and sold so she gets a great home before getting "too old" in most people's minds. She's only 13. I have recently been working with her on the ground, teaching her to lunge, because no one had before, and gaining control of her. She is one of those horses that feeds off negative energy, so the more angry she can make her handler, the more in control of the situation she feels. I am trying to show her how to cooperate during training, and that she will receive praise for it. I think it's working, but I haven't been at it long.

In the past 2 years, I have put 2 rides on Velvet. Both at a walk, and both for about 15 minutes. Kirs wanted to ride her, so I said "ok". Of course I made sure that she knew ALL of this horse's background, so that Kris could make an informed decision. We saddled her, and the saddle fit nicely. Velvet tried to refuse the bit, but in the end, we got her bridled up. Kris climbed on, and had a bit of a scare Velvet spun around but luckily didn't buck. I don't believe that she has a lot of buck in her, but it's hard to be sure with horses that have a history like she does. Her previous owner called her cold backed.

Kris ended up following Leah and Jaz around, and things were going well, until Velvet decided to drop and roll. Luckily Kris made it out of the way in time, with no injuries. Got Velvet up, and Kris lunged her out, then hopped on for a bit of "see, rolling doesn't get you out of work". We ended on a good note, and I wasn't aware that Velvet was ready to do so well under saddle. I think I'm going to start riding her myself now.

In the end it was a good day. I think we all had fun. Maybe Shane wishes he was fishing... but what the hey, right? All of us ended up sunburned, so that's a good sign that it was enough fun to spend way too much time in the sun!

Tomorrow Leah will be coming back, since she left her horses here, and maybe Kris will come back as well. I think I'll take Monday off to recover! Ok, probably not... I mean really, I work with horses for a living, how rough can it be?

1 comment:

  1. Aww shucks. (moves dirt around with toe of boot) I kinda like you guys too.