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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.