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.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Evaluating Rover

Ok, so lately Rover has been "off".  He doesn't seem painful per se, but he is definitely not moving right.  He has been on medical leave for almost 2 weeks now, and when I looked out and saw him running around sound, I decided to see if he really is.

So I have a few things going on here.  No muscles to hold him up as he moves (let alone carry a rider) and he's trained to move in all the wrong ways.  Then on top of that, the problem of an old injury, or pain somewhere.  Keep in mind, Rover is one of my rehab cases.

Here's the back ground I have on Rover:  He was purchased from a paint breeder, where he was used for "riding".  His last owner was new to horses, and had both Rover and a MFT mare.  She claims that she was intimidated by Rover, and that he's just too much horse for her.  She was a little thing, maybe 5'2" and Rover is 15.3.  Previous owner was into the Parelli games, and she really liked the back up thing from Clinton Anderson.  So, when Rover arrived, he would back up at the drop of a hat (look at him funny and he's backing across the yard).  He also invaded personal space, refused to focus on his handler, and was a typical pain on the ground.

And skinny.  Evidently, he ran the fence lines constantly when she took her other horse out to ride.  Now, he was sleek and shiny, so obviously well fed, but also a neurotic mess.  I have to admit, he had the strongest muscles under his neck that I have ever seen.

So, Rover had the winter off to fatten up, and started under saddle this spring.  He's a great riding horse.  Since we've had him, he's always been irregular in his rhythm.  The best way to describe it, is it's like riding a gaited horse that's trained to trot... the trot is never truly a 2 beat gait.  I have no idea what breed Rover is, but he looks like a stock horse.  I would guess he's a solid paint by his markings.

I played with saddle fit all day, and the riser pad behind his shark fin withers seems to help a lot.  I also put him into side reins, which prevented him from raising his head to the moon.  I'm not talking about strapping his head to his chest or anything, just properly fitted side reins to encourage him to stretch down.  As soon as he gave in, his gait improved.  Hmm.

I also felt him all over.  His legs are not hot, do not have swelling, and I can not find a specific site that is the problem.  Now, when I massaged his back, I did get a very pronounced response from behind his withers on the right.  Hmm.  A bit of stretching, and he felt better.  He really liked the tail stretch.  I have to say, I have never seen a horse enjoy having its tail pulled on so much.  So, when I lunged him out after that, he was markedly better.

I had to climb on.  I got him moving forward, and stretching down, with Jae watching for any sign of pain.  He's perfectly even at the walk.  I moved into a slow trot, and it was hell.  I kicked him up to a real working trot, and the irregularity went away.  At the working trot he can't brace against me because he just doesn't have the muscles to do that right now, and I kept dropping contact when he tried.  Instead, he gave up on the bracing, and started stretching his neck out straight.  The more he stretched, the better the gait.

He's also VERY heavy on his forehand.  I was working up a sweat just trying to keep him from plodding along on those front legs.  I eventually got him into a canter, and Jae called out to me.  Evidently, Rover is refusing to reach in front of him.  He's also all strung out and has no grace nor ability to collect his body at all.

So, now I have some data to present to both the farrier and vet.  I did not ride him long, nor did I ride him hard.  The biggest difference I found was in saddle placement.  When I moved the saddle back a bit, Rover used his back, and gained a proper rhythm.  I think the issue isn't leg related after all, but back.  Any bets on how long till I'm looking for a good chiropractor for my horses?

Oh, and I also think I stumbled upon a riding instructor!  I'm VERY excited.  She's close, she's got experience, and she is willing to work with me.  I really want to get back into jumping, but I'm not as brave as I was in my 20s.  Grabbing mane, and just doing it won't cut it for me any more.  My dear Ash took me up to 4 feet, and I'm pretty sure that we did NOT have a lot of the basics down.  Now that I'm a bit older (read as wiser) I would prefer to learn safety first, and high/fast later.

I have also decided that I'll be adding Dream back into the training schedule.  This is the horse that I hope to be jumping soon.  She's 16.0 hands, and has talent oozing out of those spots.  She's a Chocklate Confetti - Dreamfinder bred Appaloosa.  She's 5, willing, and SO much fun to ride.  I simply love her.  (she also tossed me like I didn't exist on one of her early rides).

Not sure if I'll be getting her started over fences professionally first, or if I'll be learning to start her myself.  This instructor does both horses AND humans!  *happy dance*

And to make it an even better day, it rained a bit, and we have weather warnings for a lot more rain to come.  We really need it.  It's also making it pretty darned cold out (that would mean it's below 80).

And, Station appears to be doing GREAT!  The cool weather is such a blessing for her.  Good gut sounds, good gum color, good CRT, good temperature, pretty good appetite, and POO!  Yes, normal horsey poo, not dry icky worry me to death poo.  She still only wants grass or hay, but ya know, I'm fine with that.  She's been in the pasture all day, hanging out with her best buddy Ash, eating the sweetest spots of green stuff, and acting just normal. By the way, Station is the dam of Dream, my jumper prospect.

And to finish the day, just as I was walking inside, I glanced over the herd in time to see Soliloquy, one of my yearlings that just came home NURSING on her dam, Jinx.  Soli has been off property for months.  She was weaned and kept separate for about a year now.  *sigh*  It's the mare not the foal that is the needy one!  What am I going to do with her?


  1. LMK if you find a good chiro. I'll add my two to the mix and we'll get the best deal.

    So what are you going to do with Soli?

  2. Well, since Jinx is dry, it's really just something I think she'll have to outgrow. Mostly, it's the mare wanting some comfort from her foal. Jinx is a great mother, and Soli will eventually grow out of it. Obviously separation isn't working.