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.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Starting the youngster
As someone that did everything wrong starting off with horses - I didn't even know farriers trimmed, I thought it was shoes or nothing - I have first hand experience that those who truly want to can do it right. Even with more then a decade of horse experience under my belt, I still make mistakes. Every one does. It's what you do with the mistakes that is important.
Granted, there's a big difference between someone that just owns horses, and someone that LOVES horses. We've all seen or been the kid that could think of nothing but horses. We daydreamed about forming a close bond with our horse, and how we could prove our love to the horse and have its love in return. But there are many people who want a horse for a status symbol. They don't want to work at it. There's no hard rule in telling the difference, but it's my opinion that a horse lover is the type that can ignore the "horse rules" so often spouted by experienced horse people.
This week I'm starting a few young horses under saddle, and an older one as well. Every time I do this, I think about what it takes to put a good start on a horse. We always hear horror stories, but then we also see horses started in a backyard that are so much better then the professionally trained ones. Why is that? I think it's something simple.... see, there's really only 2 rules on starting a horse.
I often liken it to when your kid does something wrong, and it's funny. You have to me "mad" but you really want to crack up with giggles. How many moms have put on the "angry" face and voice? Yeah, I think most. This is the same thing, but instead it's the "everything's groovy" face and voice instead. And if you get to a spot where you're losing it, then step away from the horse. No different then a job interview where you work to appear calm and confident.
I will admit, I've started over 20 horses, maybe as many as 50 (I didn't count). To this day, that first step up into the saddle always gives me butterflies. I HATE bucks. Rearing, no worries. Kicking, not a problem, but bucking - ICK. So, before I put my foot in the stirrup, I have to pause, reflect on the wonders of that horse, and trust my gut. Which leads me to the next rule.
Another thing to remember here. Just because I do something with your horse, doesn't mean that you should, or just because you can, doesn't mean I can. I am not you, and the way I interact with a horse is based upon my personality. This means that while some things will be the same, some other things will be different. It's these nuances that make the wonderful bonds that we seek with our horses. Embrace them, don't fret over them.
There will always be times that things just don't go according to plan. There are always challenges that are hard to figure out. These things are part of why we love horses. Yeah, we might hate them at the time, but looking back, how often are the challenges our best memories?
It took me 2 weeks to finally figure it out. The solution for him was so simple, I had to change where I stood. I always bit up the horse on the nearside, standing by its shoulder. For some reason, Spot associated that with punishment or pain (had a fear response) when I tried to touch his mouth. Oddly, I had always dewormed him from the offside, and never had a problem with his mouth, and eventually I put 2 and 2 together. Spot gladly accepted the bit from the offside, or from in front of him. Not a head shake or lift of his head at all.
I had been given such "useful" advice as to tie his head down so he couldn't evade. Yeah, that's not the result I'm looking for - a horse that is forced to be bridled. Others told me to just go bitless. Well, I hope to rehabilitate him, and ride him in dressage, which requires a bit. By showing him that the bridle meant work (which for Spot means FUN) he quickly learned to associate those strips of leather with good things, and within a few short weeks was taking the bit on either side. Today, he will almost dive into the bridle.
That doesn't mean that someone with no horse experience should try to jump on an unbroke horse and ride into the sunset! My point is that years with horses will never make up for a lot of heart, and even more drive to do it RIGHT. The difference between a horse owner and a horse lover is that the horse lover will do what is best for the horse. The horse owner will do what is best for themselves.
Years spent with horses only gives you experience in what could happen. You learn how a horse moves, you learn how to pick up subtle cues about their mood, or how to predict what will spook them. Those years don't always mean that you'll be a better horseman or horsewoman, just a more experienced one.
I talk to many people who want to train their own horse, because they want that bond. I really respect that. My father eventually got a horse, and wanted to train him, and he did. Dad can't ride well, he has back and knee problems, but with help from the rest of us, dad was the first person to sit on his own horse. Other people are hampered by the worries of what if. There's nothing wrong with that, if you're honest enough to admit it! Those people wisely send their horse to a trainer, and are happier for it.
There's no single way to do anything with horses. The beauty of horses is in the journey.
Posted by Pinzgauer at 2:05 PM