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, July 7, 2010

Analyzing the Origins

I have been talking to Everett recently.  With the sales of his horses, and the recent interest in the breed on the rise, we've had quite a few nice chats.  I simply adore this man, he's filled with knowledge!  Add to it that he's one of the nicest people I have ever met.

This is Valley Vista Knighttime.  He was one of the quality Percheron stallions used as a foundation of the Sugarbush breed.

Everett started with quality, and bred for even more quality!  I love this horse's short back, good legs, and lovely neck. 

When I was a child, the first breed of horse I fell in love with was the Shire.  I don't know why, but until I was about 16, nothing was as lovely as a Shire in my mind.  I can clearly remember going to the Kentucky Horse Park and seeing a REAL LIVE Shire.  My poor parents couldn't drag me away from it.  My poor brother (not a horse person) was so bored.

So, much of my draft experience was with the Clydesdales and Shires.  I have limited experience with the Percherons.  I don't count the grade drafts who look more like a Percheron then anything else, because who really knows where those traits came from.  Since I am looking at moving forward with the Sugarbush horses, I know that I will have to use draft cross breeding eventually.  Everett had such luck with the Percherons, I'm thinking maybe I should start doing my research. 

The other influence Everett used in his breeding was the Stonewall Sport Horse.  These are draft crosses with appaloosa coloring.  The LP gene (that makes the appy colors) can come from a variety of breeds.  A few examples off the top of my head that carry LP: Appaloosa, Knabstrupper, British Spotted Pony, Pony of the Americas, Andalusians, Lusitanos, AQHA, Mustangs, Noriker (although rarely seen outside of Austria), and Tiger Horses.  Granted, many of those share gene pools (e.g. ApHC and AQHA) but some don't share any bloodlines within a few centuries (e.g. Appaloosa and Knabstrupper).

But when Everett wanted to add LP back into the Sugarbush Drafts, he naturally chose the heaviest option available - The Stonewall Sport Horse.  Mike Muir began breeding these sport horses for his farm.  He offers a driving program for the disabled called Access Adventure.  Here's another amazing man, who has achieved amazing things.

One of the horses used by Everett was a stallion named Rascal.  I want to say his registered name was Stonewall Rascal.  You can see that he maintains the draft qualities, but is a lighter version with a lot more color.

By breeding up these Stonewall Sport Horses to Percherons, a lovely draft horse was formed.  At first, this doesn't seem like a big deal.  I mean, add color to the mix, and breed back to draft... right?  Except when you start to do the math, you quickly realize that it would take MANY generations to get a horse that is a real draft horse again.  And that's assuming that the traits you wanted passed along perfectly!

Just as an example:  Appaloosa crossed to Percheron = 50% draft.  If the foal is PERFECT, then you can cross it back to another Percheron for a 75% foal.  Not bad.  But you've already spent 5 years getting there, IF everything was perfect.  Add another 4 years to cross back (9 years) and you get a foal that is 87.5% draft horse.  Notice how the increase in draft percentage dropped significantly? Another 4 years (13 so far) and you can have a foal that is 93.75% draft.  FINALLY, a real draft horse!

Now, in reality, it takes even longer.  Even the best breeder has foals that are not of the quality to pass along their genes.  Also, there's only a 12.5% chance of getting the desired color from crosses like that.  So the odds say that if you have 10 foals per year (which is a ton for most people) then you'll get 1 or 2 that are ideal.  I breed at most 5 foals a year.  If I try to mimic this program, then it would take me 26 years or more to get a horse like O.  I'd be looking at collecting Social Security before I'd even be started!

And to think, Everett did this.  He took an idea, and made a breed of horses unlike anything else.  He casually produces foals like this:


All I can say is WOW!

4 comments:

  1. Is that baby O? How adorable! I want to see O's brother and sister. I think I may have seen the sister on Everett's old website.

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  2. That is actually Charlie D, Everett's gelding. He's 4 years old now, and I believe he has just been sold to a lady as a riding horse.

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  3. No, I just realized how dumb that sounded. Harley Quinne's been dead for years.

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