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, June 5, 2010

Pondering the average horse buyer

I am NOT the average horse buyer.  At least that's what I've gotten from reading so many people's blogs.  I started with a 4 month old foal, that my (now ex) husband bought me for my first anniversary.  A whole 2 weeks later, I bought Ash, my Thoroughbred mare.  Boo, the Arabian foal, was exactly what I always wanted a horse to look like.  He's BEAUTIFUL!

That's Boo and I when I first got him.  Isn't he just the cutest?  I made so many mistakes buying Boo, that it's not funny.  First off, I purchased a horse from a shady breeder.  Yeah, I was told Boo's papers would be in the mail.  I was also told he was 6 months old.  A year later, I got SOME records, and learned that he was only 4months old, and that his breeder never finished paying for the dam.  Her papers were never transferred, and so Boo could never be registered.

My second horse was purchased about 2 weeks later.  I was offered a beautiful Thoroughbred mare by my barn owner.  I couldn't afford her, being a college student at the time, so the owner sweetened the deal.  Well, it didn't go all that well, but Ash became my first riding horse.  I learned how to ride while teaching her to be ridden.  Well.... while she taught me that she could be ridden.

From there, I spent many years with just the 2 horses.  I would help out friends and such that needed someone to put hours on their horse.  I mean who can say no to a chance to ride more?  I ate a lot of dirt, got more bruises then I could count, but youth saved me from major injury.

I have had many trainers over the years.  From my exhusband, to a lady from my boarding stable (lovely dressage rider/instructor, who taught me a ton!).  Then I had a jumper trainer for a short time, another dressage trainer, and right now I am looking for a jumper trainer.  (Shameless plug here, I need a jumper trainer in North Texas, who is willing to work with a rider of draft crosses and Appaloosas!).

Now, I have a LOT of horses.  Last count was 39.  Yes, that's too many.  Yes, many are for sale.  And NO, they will not be ditched for any reason.  Until recently there were 4 full time workers here.  Now, there are 2 full timers and my mom is part time.  That means more hours in the barn for me.

But, when I sell horses, I always think about how lucky I have been to get the breaks that I did.  I know that most people have no interest in getting thrown.  They don't want to have to put millions of hours into a horse just to do things that should be normal.  I'm very proud of the fact that my horses are gentle, sane, and easy to handle.  Hell, most of them are born that way!  The secret is in the hours.

Our foals are handled all the time.  No, we don't have "training sessions" but that doesn't mean that they aren't trained.  I'll take Suzie for a walk, and stop to see the new baby, Streaker.  He comes running to me when I call him, and while he's there, I just pick up his feet, pet his head and ears, and do all those normal lovey things that every one WANTS to do with a baby.  A few minutes here or there, and by the time he's weaned, he's perfectly mannered.

That's Scorch, above, at 2 months.  He's learning that halters are "ok".

I'm not sure when exactly I taught Streak to lead.  It started with a halter when he was in the stall.  I put it on, I took it off, I put it on and might even leave it on for a few minutes.  I'm always so worried that he could get hurt, that he never had it left on when out of sight.  From there, I started putting it on when we walked his mom out to her paddock.  Then we attached a lead, but let him follow his dam.  Then one day, I actually walked him, and he wasn't sure about the pressure.  We worked through that, and now, he walks "ok" on a lead.  He still balks, but he's only 3 months old!  I'm not in a rush.

All of our babies are trained like that.  By the time we're ready to ride them, they could care less.  Leah jumped up on Scorch, just to "see what he'd do" and he didn't really care.

I also take it SLOW when breaking them.  As 3 year olds they get a lot of walk, and maybe some trot.  By the time they are 4, they learn cantering, and more serious stuff, and then go up for sale.  I'm behind right now, because I was out of commission for a year, but I'm catching up quickly.  It's not hard, it's just VERY time consuming.

So my point is, with as easy as this is to do, why don't more people?  Why are so many horse owners buying horses that are "well trained" and end up with issues?  No, I'm not blaming the buyers, I'm blaming the sellers!

I can't even imagine the heartbreak of having a horse that I'm scared of, or unable to ride.  I try to wrap my mind around that, and just can't.  It's like trying to imagine life with out a beloved family member.  You know it's possible, but you can't fully grasp the pain.

I guess I'm doing my small part in trying to make buying a horse a good experience for people new to horses. I guess it's like the starfish story.  I can't change everything, but maybe I can make a difference to one, or a handful of horse owners.  And in doing so, maybe I can save a few horses along the way.

8 comments:

  1. Thank goodness for people like you! All it takes is a little every day with those babies, from the very beginning. Makes such a huge, huge difference.

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  2. All the babies are very social and people-oriented, sometimes to the point of being pests! I'm thinking of Diva, who is a PITA about wanting ALL the attention. I love having a baby approach me for scratches. I'm so looking forward to having Streak here.

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  3. What I can't figure out, is why someone would even BREED horses if they don't want to play with the foals? I mean, seriously, FOALS! They are CUTE! (And I can't keep my hands off them).

    Of course, that's probably why they end up as pests, eh?

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  4. The horse world needs more folks with the same thoughts as you.
    So many seem to be in a rush to sell the foal as soon as it's weaned, but they want big money, but haven't done a thing with them.

    I wonder, too, if overbreeding and inbreeding seriously hurts the quality of a horse.
    My previous horse was quite inbred, though she was amazingly foundation bred on her papers going way back to the origins of the quarter horse.
    She was gorgeous physically, but her mind was stubborn. She was also spooky. I tried to work with her for almost 2 years, but I'm not all that experienced, nor do I have a good bounce.

    I got tired of the crowhopping, bucking, spins, bolting, and ears pinned all the time. We were good on the ground, but in the saddle, no way.

    I bought her because my instructor told me she was 'bombproof' and 'beginner-safe'. lol!
    My 7 yr old autistic daughter refused to ever ride her (she loves our current horse and begs to ride her), and my two sons couldn't deal with her out on the trail. She was very unpredictable.

    I knew all this, of course. But I had only fallen of a horse once when I was about 9 years old...and I bounced back then.
    I had no idea my horse could send me to the hospital. Naive and stupid....that was me.

    I should have sold her a long time ago. Curse that stupid horse dealer/instructor for lying to me and for selling a beginner horse owner a horse that was not beginner safe.
    I paid $3,500 for my first horse...and only paid $900 for my current horse.
    I wish I could take it all back sometimes and buy 3 of my dear Apache for the price I overpaid for my first horse.

    But there are always lessons to be learned....even if they are seriously painful.


    ~Lisa

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  5. Well Lisa, I think inbreeding is an all or nothing type of bet. I mean, breeding horses is nothing but gambling. Mixing bloodlines closely is like doubling down. If it's good, it's REALLY good (I have one, half brother, half sister breeding). If it's bad, it's REALLY bad (the only horse I couldn't train was inbred. Father daughter breeding).

    Of course, I deal with horses like you describe all the time. The bucking, hoping, bolting types. So far, the only consistency I have found in these horses is handling. Usually someone in the horse's past. Some horses take the abuse and neglect and come out perfectly, others become hateful, and it takes me a year or longer to work them out of it.

    It's my opinion that 99% of the horses out there could be great horses for any one. And of those, 75% or more aren't great right NOW, because they need a pro on them, not the "sucker" they are being advertised for. I've talked to lots of sellers, and they know they will get a better price hitting up a first time horse buyer, then a seasoned pro, and they don't care what happens after the sell!

    I really hope that kharma gets those people.

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  6. Well, I did just find out recently from my farrier, that the bad horse dealer who sold me my first horse was dealing with some terrible stuff going on with her husband. It seems that he has throat cancer and doesn't have long to live. Kharma's a bitch. I just wish it affected the bad people directly, and not those around them.


    ~Lisa

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  7. Well, I did just find out recently from my farrier, that the bad horse dealer who sold me my first horse was dealing with some terrible stuff going on with her husband. It seems that he has throat cancer and doesn't have long to live. Kharma's a bitch. I just wish it affected the bad people directly, and not those around them.


    ~Lisa

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  8. All the babies are very social and people-oriented, sometimes to the point of being pests! I'm thinking of Diva, who is a PITA about wanting ALL the attention. I love having a baby approach me for scratches. I'm so looking forward to having Streak here.

    ReplyDelete