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, June 13, 2010
Breeding up a dieing breed
Since the breed started, cross breeding has always been used to keep the genetic diversity open. I know that a lot of people think of cross breeding as BAD, and that anything that is cross bred can't be a purebred. In actuality, that is not the case.
By definition, a "purebreed" is a group of individuals that when bred together produce a consistant and predictable offspring.
No where in that definition does it say "a group of similarly bred" or "aminals of the same registry". These are all concepts that have come to us from dog breeds, and are actually very modern in horses (excluding the Arabian). In history, horses weren't even BREEDS. They were types. Warmblood isn't a breed, it's a type. Think of other old time horse terms: Draft, Cob, Destrier, Palfrey, warhorse, gaited horse, carriage horse. Even the (now) breed called The Hackney originally was not a breed but a type. Hack-knee... a horse used to pull a smaller carriage with flashy and attractive knee action.
(Both horses shown at right are registered AQHA. They share some traits, but have many that are very different.)
So, coming into horses as a life long dog person, I had to set a lot of my biases aside. I had to get used to the idea that it's OK to add in genes from a different breed. Registries accept certain acceptable outcrosses so that they don't end up where the Sugarbush is now. Or the Friesians... they have a LOT of genetic issues, and even state a coefficient of inbreeding as a selling point! (Lower is better, but all Friesians are inbreed to some degree because of lack of genes out there). The goal is to have a horse of an obvious appearance that is phenotypically different then other breeds. The Sugarbush tends to have a lot of the Percheron traits, because that was one of the first crosses used. But traits from Belgians (neck type) and Clydesdales (many show feathering) are also seen. The silhouette of the Sugarbush is similar, but not exactly like any other draft breed. Of course, as drafts, many of the breeds have similarities, because draft is a type that encompasses many breeds.
The Sugarbush descended from the Stonewall Sport Horse. The Stonewall Sport Horses are a type. Mainly a half draft with appaloosa coloring. Pedigree is loved, but not necessary in the breed. Instead of focusing on names on papers, the Stonewall Sport Horse people most often focus on conformation and ability to do the job the horse is bred for. Since these horses were used as the foundation stock for the Sugarbush, they have always been accepted as a genetic influence. This makes my life easier. I can cross a draft to an appaloosa, get a Stonewall, cross those lines to a Sugarbush, and get a Sugarbush who isn't inbred. It's a LONG process, but it's an option. I can also cross an appaloosa to a draft, get a Stonewall Sport Horse, then cross that Stonewall to a draft, and have a horse eligible for Sugarbush Registration. Both methods of crossing up will result in the horse getting generational papers (based on percentage of draft blood, and percentage of Sugarbush lineage). It gets a bit complex, but it's a great way to keep the gene pool clean.
Our goal is to one day have enough genetics that we can breed only Sugarbush to Sugarbush. I think it's a long way away, but I hope to see it in my lifetime.
Because of that, I am on a mission to breed a completely unrelated bloodline of Sugarbush Draft Horses. Something that will perfectly compliment Sugarbush Harley's Classic O's lines. I've got a VERY nice start. Rose, the mare from a few days ago, is one of the few pure Sugarbush horses that is a perfect genetic match to O. No direct relations! I want to make more of those.
Just think about it for a second. I breed stallion A to mare B, and get foal 1. I then breed Stallion C to Mare D and get foal 2. I breed foal 1 to foal 2 and get a Sugarbush. So, that means that I need SIX horses to get one. Add in time to mature, and what happens with the generation after that.....
It's daunting. It will be a lot easier with other breeders involved who can breed unrelated bloodlines. Adding in new breeders makes me happy, because it means that I won't have to shoulder this burden alone. I love each and every one of my horses. I have no intention of over breeding, but there's no easy way to rejuvenate a breed on the brink of extinction.
I love this breed though. There's nothing quite like it out there. They are amazing, powerful and still gentle. They are colorful and well built. They have everything I ever wanted to see in a horse, all wrapped up into one tidy (large) package. I'll gladly spend my life working to further the breed. It's a cause worth living for.
Posted by Pinzgauer at 3:19 PM