The Sugarbush Draft Horse Registry
Ok, I have referred to these horses a lot, but I'm not sure that I've ever posted the link to the breed registry site. Full Disclaimer here, I am the registrar of the breed. I'll give you some background into how I got involved with these horses:
I started out as a horse owner with a couple of "nags". My (now ex) husband and I decided to buy horses for our first aniversary. Aaron (the ex) had grown up on an Arabian horse farm in Saskatchewan Canada. I had grown up always wanting horses. Needless to say, when we decided we needed horses in our lives, Arabians were the breed of choice. He bought Jaz (Leah's boy now) and I got Boo.
We kept our horses at a boarding stable. It was a lovely place, run by a crazy teenage girl. The boys were still weanlings, with Boo being only 4 months old, and Jaz being 6 months old. Within 2 weeks, this horse I had been eyeing came up for sale, a lovely grey TB mare named Ash. Ash was "unrideable". Yeah, I was in my 20s, young, dumb, and luckily I was also mostly unbreakable! I bought Ash and taught her to ride while I learned to ride. One of the rare cases where green + green does NOT equal black and blue!
After that, I waded through horses for a while, before getting involved in helping people with problem horses. It was something that started by chance, I didn't seek it out. After I split with the ex, I met the man of my Dreams, Jae. Jae is wonderful, he's supportive, and he didn't know a thing about horses. His only "horse experience" was working on the computer system for a race track vet in Ontario.
Yeah, for those of you who notice details, my ex-husband was a Canadian, and my better half is Canadian. Not sure how that happened, as I'm living in TEXAS!
So one day, over a cup of coffee at IHOP, Jae and I were talking about dreams. I mentioned that I always wanted to breed horses that were good for amateur owners, but athletic enough to go up the ranks in the English disciplines, like dressage and jumping. When I got my first horse, like so many other people, I got a horse I could afford, and thought "well I can't ride, so why do I need to spend a lot of money? I just need a safe trail horse!
Within 3 years, I was jumping. I lucked out in a big way, because the untrainable grey TB mare I bought for pennies ended up being a jumper at heart. She jumps ugly, but that's because she doesn't even give a real effort until about 4 feet.... and I am stuck at 2'6"! The last time I tried 4 foot, I broke my thumb... and it was NOT an intentional jump.
So, I kept thinking that most of us want a nice calm mannered horse. We want a horse that can do what we ask with out pain or discomfort. We want a horse that we can fall in love with, spend our lives with, and hey, if we decide to show, it can do that too! Add in some pretty color, and it'd be the perfect horse!
I stumbled upon Appaloosas. My good friend down the road had a lovely Palomino mare. She had the most amazing gaits, but she was green as grass, and he was a timid rider. I offered to put some hours on her for him. As a full time student, I had time to blow, and who doesn't want to ride all the time? Later, the neighbor mentioned that the mare was a solid Appaloosa. I was sold.
The little mare was so calm and trusting for her inexperienced owner, she had lovely gaits, and she fit most of my criteria for the perfect novice type horse. I started looking into Appaloosas, and found that this is pretty typical for the breed, and even more so in horses with high percentages of app x app breeding. When Jae talked me into starting a horse breeding business, I naturally went for the Appaloosas. I had looked at warmbloods in the past, and TBs, and so many other typical sport horse breeds, but none were consistently predictable and novice friendly.
So, after working with the Appaloosas for about 2 years, I was in love, except for ONE little problem (no pun intended). I got stuck at 15.2 hands. I know there are taller ones out there, but I was fighting the size. While looking at taller stallions, I stumbled upon this picture:
That is the Sugarbush stallion Sugarbush Harley Quinne. He was a magnificent horse, had wonderful color, and looks like he has good conformation, all photo issues beside the point. I began looking into the Sugarbush draft horse, and learned that there are a handful out there. The breed was officially founded in 1982, but it has over 50 years of breeding behind it. From there, I learned about the Stonewall Sport Horses. These started as Percheron/Appaloosa crosses, and were created for carriage use. Currently, Friesian stallions are being used in the breeding.
So, I thought, hmm... I like draft horses, I really like draft crosses. I'll try a breeding. I did. I thought, one breeding, and worst case scenario, I'll have a nice pet, and can place it in a good home, but at least I'll know if it works. I researched for over a year, and ended up producing this:
I dabbled for a couple more years, producing both Appaloosas and a Stonewall Sport Horses here and there. Then one day I decided that I needed to look into a good heavy stallion to produce more, and to just focus on the Stonewall Sport Horses. I contacted the breeder of that lovely leopard draft stallion.
Everett Smith is the breeder. He is a wonderful man, and was filled with knowledge that he was willing to share. I asked him about a good stallion, and he informed me that the last Sugarbush stallion was available for sale. Everett was looking to retire. He is in his 70s, and the drafts were just a bit more then he was able to work with. After a few months of talking, I somehow ended up leasing the last of Everett's herd, which included 2 mares - one in foal, and a Stonewall Sport Horse mare.
Along with the lease, Mr. Smith had asked me to take over the registry. He wanted to see the breed continue, but drafts have fallen out of favor, and the breed had fallen to record low levels, only 12 horses left! It would take a life time to rebuild the breed! Unfortunately, in this day and age of designer breeds, the Sugarbush Draft Horse was so often mistaken for a fly by night draft cross. This really hurt its image!
Well, when the horses arrived, I at first though, "WHAT have I gotten myself into?". Then, with love and training, I saw what Everett had seen. These are the most amazing horses I have known! They have gaits like a warmblood, with reach and suspension. They have the draft horse mentality, all love and effort, and not too much attitude. And of course, they are simply lovely!
I have now thrown myself full force in getting these horses recognized by the public, and working hard to help resurrect the breed. Luckily, the standard for the breed is pretty open. Cross a Sugarbush to a draft, and you get a full registered Sugarbush. Cross a Sugarbush to a light horse, and you get a Stonewall Sport Horse. Cross that Stonewall back to a draft, and you get a Sugarbush with generational papers. This allows the gene pool to stay open enough, while still maintaining the desired traits.
I have every intention of breeding a few of my highest quality Stonewall Sport Horses back up into the SDHR, but I won't breed horses that won't have homes, and the economy isn't supportive of heavy breeding right now. Ok, that, and I have a TON of horses to work already. The horses I have here are mostly offspring of O, or the one purebred mare that isn't related to him, and produced the other 2. I would love to sell those mares to homes that are as obsessive about the breed as I have become, and would produce a handful of quality, well thought out foals, themselves.
So check out the registry's page and see more picture of these gorgeous horses!
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.