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.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What I do with my free time and extra space

I breed about 3 to 4 foals on a normal year.  Lately, it has not been normal!  I bred a few foals for 2009, and made a silly mistake with one, and ended up with a 2010 foal.  Ok, I hadn't planned on breeding for 2010 and am not breeding for 2011.  Not sure if I'll be breeding any time in the near future.

Now, while I breed horses to fill a need in the market (horses for the novice horse owner that they won't outgrow) I also have a passion for the unwanted horses.  I have always had room for horses that were too dangerous for their owner, too green to sell, or dealing with medical issues.  I have a list of these horses that I have taken in, fixed up, and found amazing new homes.

I figure that since I have the experience, the time, the set up, and the help, it only makes sense for me to do this.  I love seeing the horses show up as a mess, and leave as a prized pet.  I worked in animal rescue for a while (Executive director of the local shelter for 2 years, foster home for many years for dogs) and so I have the skills to quiz people about their care, with out most of them even knowing they are being quizzed.  I have horses that were "garbage" horses who ended up living in barns I would be lucky to sleep in. 

I took in a horse with an ulcerated eye.  One look, and I knew he was coming home.  Within the week, the eye was removed, and he was happier for it.  Today, he's the loved riding horse of a lady who was scared of horses.  I picked up 3 horses that were skeletons.  2 were in foal.  Here's how that ended up: Ebony is now a child's riding horse, living at a Christian camp for disadvantaged kids. Sioux is a hunter pony for a middle aged lady with fear issues who thinks Sioux hung the moon.  Lakota is a young man's best friend and trail horse, and Bugsy... wow Bugsy lucked out.  He's the one in the barn I'd love to sleep in.

Those are just a few.  I make Jae nuts, because I care more about where the horse ends up, then how much I make off it.  I work deals, make payment plans, and do everything to get the horse with the person that horse fell in love with.  Now, if the horses isn't interested, I'll also say "I don't think this is a good match".  I have to sleep at night after all.  But really, it's only money, right? 

Don't get me wrong, Jae is rabidly fanatical about great homes for our "kids".  He just wishes that there was some better income for it.  On my rescue horses, I donate all the training, and sell them for the cost of their rehabilitation.  Granted, most of them end up between $2,000 and $5,000.  Dentals, surgery, special feeds, special hoof care... it's amazing how people can't see their horses suffering!  And Dr. G is a saint.  He does his best to cut me deals on the rescues.

Then there's Jon, the farrier.  I can't say enough good things about him!  I'll tell him that I have a new horse, and he takes time to make the horse comfortable.  He tolerates bad behavior, and works through it, to get the horse happy with his hoof care.  There have been many times that I've said to stop, because its getting dangerous, and Jon wants to try once more.  Granted, he also calls me often about horses needing a home... hmmm... maybe he's a sucker too!

I have a system on determining how many horses I can handle.  It's based on pasture management, cost of care, and hours needed to ride them.  When I have a large group of my home breds needing to be ridden, it doesn't matter if I have a ton of space.  I can't rehab a horse that I can't put time into!

Rehabilitating a horse depends upon what is wrong with it.  For many, all they need is feed.  That can take a few months.  Others need serious medical care, and that takes as long as it takes.  Then there are the behavioral issues.  These are honestly my favorite.   I love watching the horse go from scared and defiant to loving and willingly working.  They are also the least predictable on how long it will take.

Like I said, I don't rush things.  Some horses take a year to get comfortable before I feel they need to start a steady work routine. During that year, I concentrate on the basics of being a good horse... not crowding me in a stall, picking up feet, getting baths, and sprayed for flies.  Things that the horses should have learned as babies!  Riding is the easy part!  The hard part is getting the horse ready to ride.

I have a basic outline of what a horse needs to know before it's backed.  Basic ground manners (which means standing for everything when asked, bathing, clipping, vetting, etc)  then we go to inhand work.  Back up, move over, and those basic in hand commands that you need to just be safe around a horse.  After that is lunging.  I lunge a horse for a specific reason.  This is where I teach the horse its verbal commands.  Walk, trot, canter, reverse, woah, stand.  A horse can't learn more until it knows what those words mean.

After that, I put it all together, and climb aboard.  The first few rides, I'm just a passenger.  Jae leads the horse around, using the ground commands.  In a few days, I begin to give leg, seat and rein aids to match those ground commands, and Jae works his way out of the arena.  We go as fast or as slow as the horse can accept.  Some times it's all in one day, and other times, it's a month before he doesn't have to lead the horse.  Once I'm "on my own" I have to get the horse to understand that I am up there, and that I am asking for things.  Also, the horse needs to know that I will protect it.

Doesn't matter if its a home bred, or a rehab.  All horses want to please their leader (if they are sane, there are always exceptions) and they just don't always get what is asked of them.  I blame the trend in "30 days professional training!".  THIRTY DAYS?  Wow, that's like, enough time to really confuse the hell out of a horse.  Just imagine trying to learn a new language in 30 days.... well... that's what you're asking the horse to do.  And a horse has a teeny tiny little brain.

Thirty days of training is enough time to put another confident rider on their back.  In my opinion, it's great for someone that knows how to ride well, and just can't take the chance of a bucker.  Someone with health issues (osteoporosis, etc) someone that can't afford to lose time off work (self employeed, etc) or someone that just knows that their own fear will cause more problems then it's worth.  That's what 30 days is good for.  If you need a horse trained, and you want it back safe, go with 90 to 180 days.  The longer, the better.  Trust me, you'll be happier for it!  (I rarely offer to train outside horses any more, so I don't make anything of saying that)

So, that's what I do for "fun".  I fix horses. 

I like it.  I like knowing that there are horses out there who were on their way to a long ride on a double decker, but now are living the good life.  I like knowing that I did something bigger then myself.  It's my passion.  It's my hobby... and it makes a lot of people think I have really gone round the bend!  Lucky for me, I haven't hit the dirt in a while.  I'm sure when that happens, I'll swear off crazy horses, and yammer on about how I'll never do this again.  As soon as I heal, I'll be back doing it again.  It's addictive.  I admit it - My name is Heather, and I have an addiction to helping horses in need.

*chorus*  "Hi Heather" (welcome to horse lover's anonymous)

So if you're ever wondering where these misfit horses I talk about came from, like the quarter horses, and other breeds that just don't seem right on a draft cross farm, well that's where.  Most of my horses have some history, and not all of it good.  All of them have good lives here though.  My goal, is to find them good families of their own.

3 comments:

  1. Good post! I like how you talked about how you keep the horse's interests in mind first of all. Finding a good home for a horse, with agood match between owner and horse, should always be more important than money.

    It too me over a year of trying to find my previous horse a good home, with lots of folks coming over to ride her, and lots of e-mails and phone calls. But none of them seemed a good match for my previous horse.

    What was so ironic, was that just when I was ready to begin riding again after healing up from all my injuries (torn ACL, broken knee), and I even got back up on my previous horse (and realized, the bond was gone and she and I were not going to work out. Huge moment for me), was the time that my previous horse's perfect owner contacted me.
    He and his wife came over. She wanted to buy him his own horse as a wedding gift. They'd been married for a year and she rode rodeos, did barrels and team penning events. Her husband worked on a cattle ranch every summer and he usually rode a APHA black/white Tobiano gelding, so that is what his heart was set on.

    He came out and rode her, and I could tell he was already smitten. Even though she acted like a pill, shaking her head, crow hopping, and pinning her ears. He came out a second time and rode her out on the trails near our house. And when she acted like a pill, he made her move...sometimes fast. It was so good for my horse. She needed a more assertive, confident rider. Someone who would take over, so she could stop trying to act like the leader. Someone who would love her, even when she was acting unloveable.

    I could already see my horse relax and see the beginnings of a connection. I knew he was the right person. And he bought her after the vet check.

    But it was still sad to say goodbye.
    But I needed to say goodbye, so I could say hello to my new horse, Apache. :-)

    ~Lisa

    ReplyDelete
  2. * Hi Heather * your free time and extra space are put to such good use, lucky horses and their people!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Good post! I like how you talked about how you keep the horse's interests in mind first of all. Finding a good home for a horse, with agood match between owner and horse, should always be more important than money.

    It too me over a year of trying to find my previous horse a good home, with lots of folks coming over to ride her, and lots of e-mails and phone calls. But none of them seemed a good match for my previous horse.

    What was so ironic, was that just when I was ready to begin riding again after healing up from all my injuries (torn ACL, broken knee), and I even got back up on my previous horse (and realized, the bond was gone and she and I were not going to work out. Huge moment for me), was the time that my previous horse's perfect owner contacted me.
    He and his wife came over. She wanted to buy him his own horse as a wedding gift. They'd been married for a year and she rode rodeos, did barrels and team penning events. Her husband worked on a cattle ranch every summer and he usually rode a APHA black/white Tobiano gelding, so that is what his heart was set on.

    He came out and rode her, and I could tell he was already smitten. Even though she acted like a pill, shaking her head, crow hopping, and pinning her ears. He came out a second time and rode her out on the trails near our house. And when she acted like a pill, he made her move...sometimes fast. It was so good for my horse. She needed a more assertive, confident rider. Someone who would take over, so she could stop trying to act like the leader. Someone who would love her, even when she was acting unloveable.

    I could already see my horse relax and see the beginnings of a connection. I knew he was the right person. And he bought her after the vet check.

    But it was still sad to say goodbye.
    But I needed to say goodbye, so I could say hello to my new horse, Apache. :-)

    ~Lisa

    ReplyDelete