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, August 31, 2010

It's Official... sort of

Straight from the source: It looks like Daltrey has a new home!

Daltrey is a lovely Stonewall Sport Horse colt, soon to be gelding.  He's by Sugarbush Harley's Classic O (SDHR) out of Quagga's Ardent Sun (ApHC).  Ah, the memories.......

Arden managed to sneak his birth past us, but just barely.  Because she was bred to a large stallion, I was paranoid about leaving her unattended.  Ok, I'm always paranoid about leaving my mares unattended during foaling, but I was MORE paranoid this time.  The Problem was, it was March of 2010, and the foal's "due date" was July 2009.  Arden was bred to O in 2008, confirmed in foal by ultra sound, and rechecked in foal by ultra sound around 90 days.  In June of 2009, she appeared to be open, so I had the vet confirm that she had lost the foal.  He said "Yep, she's bred".  Uh oh!

Because Arden is a rather submissive horse, I had chosen to pasture her with the stallion, O, over the winter.  It was logistically easier on me, because they could share a round bale.  With one horse, the round bales often go bad before a single horse can finish them.  At this same time, we learned that we had a parasite problem.  Not just ANY parasite problem, but it appeared that we had an ivermectin resistance.  My horses were packing away the groceries, getting dewormed, and slowly losing weight.

Leah discovered this because her pansy boy began to show weird colic type symptoms.  A specialist diagnosed him, he was treated, and both Leah and I changed our deworming regimens.  Suddenly my horses began packing on the pounds!  I assumed that the parasite problem caused Arden to abort, and at some point in there she rebred.  I wasn't watching, because she had been confirmed bred.

So there I was, a bright March morning (before dawn) about to pass out.  My father was working early, so I asked him to check Arden every 2 hours.  If she was not eating, pacing, biting at her sides, sweating, or ANYthing, he was to wake me immediately.  At 11am he checked on her, tossed her some hay which she began scarfing down, and came back in.  At 1pm, Jae and I headed to the barn to refill water, and check on her again.  Arden was in the last stall on the left.  I saw her standing quietly, and thought to myself "wow, she's changed her shape, she has to go any time now" while I filled the first horse's water.

Then above the stall wall a pair of white tipped ears appeared.  I literally laughed out loud, and called to Jae.  The silly mare had foaled on her own despite my best attempts, and never showed a sign of discomfort!  At 4am her milk had been yellow and mostly clear!  (For those who don't know, it gets cloudy and white before they foal).

Arden was a perfect mother, and the baby was born mellow.  Nothing bothered him.  Because of his splash white markings I was convinced he was deaf - he was that calm.  It took 2 weeks before he proved to me that he really could hear.

Leah met the little guy within his first week of life.  One look at those baby blue eyes and every one fell in love with him.  And his personality!  Oh... he's a saint of a foal.  He never fussed, he only barely fought his training (the day we pulled him up to wean, he pulled back against being lead away from his dam).  He learned to bathe in 15 seconds... literally!  He learned to wear a halter in the time it took me to put it on him.  He loved any attention he could get.

When Leah mentioned that she was interested in him, I thought it couldn't be a better match.  This is the perfect "first baby" for any horse person.  For Leah, and her pony keeping situation he's tailor made.  He's sensible, he's goofy, and he's attractive!  Oh... and he's O's son.  Leah has a crush on O.

For months she's been mentioning that she'd like to have him, but had refused to commit.  I of course pointed out every good point of having a third horse... while reminding her that she was free to enjoy all of my horses with no commitments.  Leah's family around here; she's "Aunty Leah".  It's true, I'm an enabler.

This weekend, she finally admitted that she's a lost cause.  Of course, like all of my horses, I offer a trial, to make sure that the new family fits and works well.  So, there's still the chance she can change her mind.  The goal is to make the best match possible for people, horses, and the baby.  But I'm pretty sure that this little guy has found his forever home.

Now... we'll get to hear stories of Leah training her new baby!  She only thought she was done with the pony drama!


Sunday, August 29, 2010

What a Day it has been... What a rare Mood I'm in....

Ok, quick, name the musical the above Lyrics are from!  Any one?  Any one? 

Today was a good day.  I had a lovely ride on my polka dotted wonder pony!  She wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but she did show me that she could care less about how many strange things I throw at her.  New people, who cares.  New horses, so what!  I love that horse.

Sarah was forced to take a different ride today.  Doodles, a lovely grade Paint horse (solid) that has worked as a lesson horse, doubles as my father's trail horse, and did a stint as a show prospect for me, until his ulcers proved he'd never be happy showing.  Personally I love Doodles.  He's fun, he's tolerant, and he's a silly dufus.  Didn't get the chance to ask Sarah what she thinks of him though.  Ok, honestly, I plain ol' forgot to ask.

Kris had a nice ride on Jaz, and is learning to ride English.  She felt the burn of keeping her legs straight from the hip.  It's one of those things that's hard to start doing, and really stretches the lower back muscles, but once you have it, you end up feeling 100x more secure on the horse.  After the ride, She pulled out Kiva, and we did a bit of lunging with her.  I showed Kris how I work with her, what her personality needs to be effective, and then had her give it a go.  The first round, I had to encourage Kris to be mean to Kiva (she likes a very confidant leader, and Kris's "mean" isn't that mean) but suddenly... it all snapped together.  Kiva decided Kris meant what she said, and Ba Da Bing, Ba Da Boom.... Kiva was in work mode. 

AND.... a bit of wheeling and dealing on my part has resulted in my purchase of Sweetie!  Yep, will be mailing off a check for her in the morning to Mr. Smith!  My very OWN Sugarbush Draft Horse, registered in MY name.  For this whole time I have been working with Everett's horses, and the ones I've owned and bred are "only" Stonewall Sport Horses.  The Sugarbush Drafts are a draft horse, not a draft cross, and Sweetie is from the original lines bred by Everett.  She's going to be a big and tall girl, she's got great conformation, even if she does go through a Moosey looking stage when she's growing, and icing on the cake, she's Homozygous.

And she's MINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When I leased the horses, I told Everett that I would sell them for him.  I love them all, but it's not fair to hoard them, and doesn't do the breed any good for one person to have a stash of them.  Because of this, I figured that I would just wait, and see what happened, and one day I'd buy one of them.  Today was that day.

Also this week, I was offered the chance to purchase the 3rd of "my" Olympic girls.  These are a batch of fillies I fell in love with sired by the Appaloosa Stallion, Olympic Hope, by Chocklate Confetti.  Sadly Olympic passed away young.  I managed to talk Sig out of Dream many years ago, which lead to my long friendship with her (RIP Sig).  The next year, Sig made me an offer I couldn't refuse, a long term lease on Dove, Dream's half sister, and the purchase of Arden.  As I planned the trip to NY to pick up my girls, Sig informed me that I could also lease Shadow, the last of Olympic's foals.  From the moment Shadow was born, I had said I wanted her; she looks like a funny colored Andalusian!  Just a lovely girl.  Well, Mary (Shadow's owner) informed me that she's getting out of full size horses, and made me an offer I can't refuse.  With Sweetie paid off, I will begin purchasing Shadow as well. 

So, I'm not really gaining any more horses, just buying the ones I already have.  This means Katy will be the only horse on the property that I do not own.  The only downside of the week.... I forgot to remind Jae to get pictures of us all riding.  Ah well, I guess I can't have it all.

Oh, and for those still wondering, the musical the title is from: Brigadoon.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I have to BRAG!

Ok, I DID IT!  I'm thrilled, I'm happy, and I didn't get a single picture.  I went out and rode Velvet.

For those who don't know Velvet's story, here's a short recap.  I bought 3 horses from a woman, and all 3 were racks of bones.  All 3 were bred, but one aborted late term.  They were fattened up, and placed into wonderful homes.  Ebony is living at a youth center with her owner, and working as a mount for disadvantaged children on the side.  Sioux went to a lovely hunter jumper barn in Oklahoma, where her rider is able to gain confidence on a smaller horse that still has talent.  And Velvet... she went into my broodmare herd.

Velvet is really the only horse that fit into my program.  The other 2 I just couldn't stand to leave.

Now, Velvet has produced a LOVELY filly for me, but sadly, it seems that Velvet produces short offspring.  This means that it's time to place her in a new home while she's still young enough to be a valued riding horse.  She's currently in the prime of her life.

Well, selling her means that I need to put some time into riding her.  When I bought her, I was warned that she's cold backed and will buck.  It's my opinion that she bucks when her saddle doesn't fit, as I've never had that problem with her.  But, she does have a few issues of her own.  She's balked, layed down and rolled, and been a general problem child when I tried to fit her into the schedule before.

Now, I'm also a bit cursed with her.  I've gotten her a ride or 2 before, and then she got injured.  This week, I fought to even get a change to climb on her.  From rain to sun, the weather made it impossible.

Welp (yeah, that's a technical term) I rode her today!  I tried a new theory on her.  When Velvet is loose (no halter, nothing) she's the most amazing horse ever.  Put a halter on her, and she becomes belligerent, and passive aggressive.  After thinking about this for awhile, I believe that her problem is fear related.  Sound familiar?

Velvet is so sure that what comes next will be bad, that she preemptively becomes bad.  So, today I started with hugs, kisses, praise, cookies, brushing, more hugs, and even some sugar cubes thrown in... and that was just while tacking up!  Oh, and if you didn't know, Sugar is a great way to keep a nervous horse's mouth moist on the bit.

From there we went to the arena.  I walked her around, stepped up, stepped down, laid across her back, and finally climbed on.  It was pretty uneventful.  I lavished praise on her for EVERYthing she did, even standing still.  She was eating it up!  But, when it came to the next part... you know, walking... she didn't have a clue.  Oh boy.

Jae walked around with us, and Velvet would follow him anywhere he wanted to go.  She was praised for that.  But when I kicked him out of the arena, and tried to get her to just step forward, she froze up.  Poor girl.  I tapped, I kicked (lightly), I tried the turn to get forward momentum, and I tried the reverse until you will take a step forward.  None worked, BUT, she didn't get upset, because I praised her each time she did what I asked.

Finally, I decided it was time for "tough love".  I tapped her rump with my hand.  I kept increasing the tap until she leaned forward.  Give praise, pause, and repeat until I got a step.  That first step was the hardest part of our ride!  Of course I made a big deal out of it, hugging on her, petting her, and telling her how great she is.  From there, it was a few laps at the walk, a few circles, some left, some right, some stops, some starts, and then we were done. 

I know, not a big deal, right?  That's exactly what makes me so excited.. it was a completely uneventful ride!

I am a bad bad blogger

I have been slacking .  It's been days since I updated the blog, and I know I still have to write a post about Appaloosa coat color. 

I have a great excuse though!  I've been riding instead.  My lovely mare Dream (ApHC registered KCF Olympic Dream) is doing perfectly under sadly, and learning in leaps and bounds.   She enjoys working, and is meeting me at the gate for her next lesson.  I mean, when the horse almost throws herself into the bridle, how can I refuse?

I have been trying my hardest to also get a ride in on Velvet.  I think we're cursed though.  As an example, we had the most amazing fall weather yesterday.  I rode Dream, and then began to tack up Velvet.  By the time I had her saddle fitted and on her, I look outside the barn to see.......


There's no way I'm riding a horse with issues under saddle in the rain, in slippery footing.  The time before that, Boo ran into a gate just after I pulled Velvet up to tack her up.  The time before that, I had to do something, and it was over 100 degrees before I could get back to her.  On the upside, she's had a lot of lessons in accepting the bit, and standing for saddling.  Both are things she's less then perfect with. 

And then there's the personal crap.....

Recently my dear father has been suffering from a few minor medical issues.  Nothing life threatening (its believed), but in combination they have made him feel very poorly, and required one minor surgery.  This morning I was informed that Dad is back in the hospital.  His last surgery caused a clot.  They took care of it, he's ok, but still, he feels pretty bad.  I feel really bad for him, and I hope he gets well soon.

So today it's a lovely 88 degrees outside.  I have a few tired ponies, and one waiting for me to eat and ride.  I am GOING to ride Velvet today.... just as soon as I unload the grain, till the arena......

But it's a great day to be outside.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Acquiring Skills

When I started the horse business, I thought I was in pretty good shape.  I knew a ton about horses, and Jae had run his own business before moving, so knew about the business side of things.  Between the 2 of us, we had a good skill set.  All I had to do was spend my time with the horses, like I had always dreamed of.

Yeah... then I woke up.

I have learned that the horse business is a special one.  You can either go broke doing it right, or lose sleep doing it right and trying to do it ALL. 

Hmm.  I chose option #2.  Since we opened, I have learned some aspects of the legal trade.  I learned about contracts, liens, paper trails, and how to be a good client for your attorney.  I learned to back up and store all of my digital agreements, properly file my written ones, and to keep EVERYTHING.

I learned market research.  What does the market want to buy this week?  Is it a fast moving trend, or will it last a few years.  How does it affect me?   How can I capitalize on it?  I can write a business plan.  I learned how to apply for grants (although, I've only used that for the animal shelter I worked for).

I learned photography skills.  I can adjust camera settings for maximum effect in a horse picture, I can choose a quality camera by its technical description, and I know just where to stand to get the best shot of a horse.  I also know that the horse always blinks, puts its ears back, or moves a leg at the right time.

To help with that, I began learning photoshopping skills.  Digital "enhancement" of photographs, although I don't like the term enhancement.  Cropping, lightening, darkening, removing red eye aren't the same thing as fixing crooked legs.  Of course, I can do that too for fun.  I can draw a horse from scratch using photoshop, I can take poo or buckets out of a background.  I can even remove myself, or a handler from an image, take away a stallion's "excitement" and other ways of turning a good picture into a good G rated picture. 

So, now I'm learning videography.  Not as easy as photography, but I'm working on it.  I have a nice digital DVR, a good tripod, and I absolutely hate my editing software!  I think once I get good software, I'll be able to progress a lot.  I have to say here that a tripod is priceless!  Get a GOOD steady sturdy one, not a cheapy one (like I did at first).

I'm also learning to develop a website.  Designing it, seeing the lay out, choosing good color schemes, and keeping it looking professional aren't as easy as I thought it would be.  I can't code in any language, and I'm definately not a web designer!  I can use a WYSIWYG editor (What you see is what you get).  I use my above digital editing skills to make graphics that I need, and I use my business skills to help market my product effectively (even if what I'm marketing is just knowledge).  I'd say I'm a healthy novice at web design.

Next, I need to learn language.  Not just writing to be understood, but writing to persuade and evoke emotions.  I tend to be either too flat, or too verbose (shocking to every one reading this, I'm sure!).  A good portion of websites and any marketing is the verbage.  Mine.... needs work.

I know I have more skills to learn.  I haven't even touched the financial aspect (I have a business partner/father for that) and taxes... I'm a pro at sending it to the CPA.  I can't weld, I can't change tractor implements with out help (but that's only because Jae doesn't like me too... he "worries".  I figure it's a small price to pay) and I can't do anything electrical/plumbing related.  I'll have to learn, but my brain can only take so much at once.

I never knew that operating a horse business required so many non horsey skills.  I have barely touched the surface of the things I need to know, but I hope to one day learn much more.  I have to wonder, is this why so many horse businesses lose money rather then make it?  Ironically, my first major in college was a double major of advertising art and photography... back before we did either one digitally.  My second major was business, just because its safe (lasted a whole semester).  I ended up studying biology.  I am occasionally awed at how things have worked out.  I always thought that so much of what I had learned would be useless later in life.  Although, I still haven't found a use for that 14th Century French Lit course I had to take!

Has any one else found that being around horses made you pick up skills that you never knew you would need?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Splash White (Finally)

I really appologize to every one I left hanging waiting for the rest of the color patterns. Unfortunately, a little bit of "the rest of my life" or as gamers say "real life" got in the way.  But here it is, the middle of summer, and I can't do a thing outside, unless I want to kill my horses, my better half, or myself.

So, let's talk about Splash White.  I am a huge fan of this color pattern.  I find it amazing in minimal form, and many of my horses carry splash.  The colt shown there is "O Stop Looking" also known as "Streaker Daltrey".  He's a mismash of SO many color patterns, appaloosa (snowcap) sabino, and splash white. You can see the splash on his face here, and the 4 white legs.  In person he has chestnut ticking on his legs showing where the socks end and the blanket begins, which helps in identifying his patterns.His extreme white face has given him a few other splash traits, including 2 blue eyes, and his right ear doesn't seem to work at 100%.  I believe he can hear from it, but I don't believe he can hear all the ranges of sound.  Mid tones, such as my normal voice, do not elicit a turning of that ear to me, but squeaky baby voice, and low momma murmurs do.  When Daltrey was born, his right ear hung awkwardly.  This is a sign that the ear has been affected by splash.  Not always accurate, but accurate enough to cause suspicion.

What the splash gene does is restrict pigment from reaching the horse's extremities.  This is why splash white horses look like they may have been dunked in paint.  A splash white blaze will be bottom heavy because the muzzle is an extremity, just as the legs are.  Many horses are evenly marked, but others look like they were lop sided when they got "dipped".  Colnels Smoking Gun (aka Gunner) from McQuay Stables is a good example of the lopsided look.  Check out his back leg.

While Splash white has not been mapped - to my knowledge - the expression of it has been studied.  There is speculation that splash white is located in the same area as roan and tobiano.  It is not the same GENE, but just as tobiano and roan do not recombine, splash may also be playing in the same neighborhood, and too close for recombination.

Because splash white is often hard to see, it has been difficult to determine the "zygosity" of many horses.  In some horses, a small sliver of blue in the eye is the only indication of it.  In others, what was expected to be a solid, ends up with large areas of white, or like my foal above, a lot more pattern then was expected!  I have heard that horses with obvious splash markings are homozygous(SPLSPL), and heterozygous horses (SPLspl) show "normal" face and leg amounts of white.  I'm not sure how true this is (see my above colt who can not be a homozygous splash horse).  It is possible however that splash white is an incompletely dominant gene, resulting in more expression with a second copy of the dominant allele.  This would imply that other genetic factors give the range of possible expression.

Let me put that in layman's terms!  Lets say there is an "expression" gene in there somewhere (theoretical only, we have no real proof of this).  The expression gene would say, this horse's base line expression is 25% white, like Gunner above.  So, base coat color (either working as an enhancer like dominant agouti and recessive extension, or as a suppressor like dominant extension and recessive agouti) and other enhancing genes such as sabino (even normal face and leg markings) could restrict or encourage the amount of white shown on the horse.  Depending upon the genetics, a "25% white on average" horse could show between 10% white, and 40% white.

Now, using the above example, if homozygosity for white results in even MORE white, that "25% white on average" horse would express with 25% to 50% white.  We don't know for sure, but this is what many phenotype (studying genetics through appearance) experts believe.

Splash can be a pinto gene, resulting in horses with extreme white bodies, like this horse.
Or this horse:
Notice how Gamblin man (above) appears to have been crooked when he was dipped?  This is very common, and believed to be influenced by factors in utero.

This filly, Soliloquy (Annandales Grey Wolf, TIGRE x Jinx, SDHR) almost slipped past me.  Her sire carries sabino, her dam carries sabino and splash.
Her front legs are dark, but showing the baby fawning often seen in bays.  Her half sister Diva (The Polecat, ApHC x Jinx, SDHR) has similar markings:
Both shown at similar ages (Soli at 3 days, Diva at 2).  If you look closely, you can see that Diva (bottom picture) actually has more white on her legs, with a small white mark on her front left foot.  It does not go all the way around.  Although on closer inspection you will see that Soli has a wider blaze, rather wide for the amount of white she has on her legs, and a partially blue eye.  Diva has proportionate markings, and both eyes are dark.

Because of this ability to hide as normal markings, splash is passed through the gene pool of breeds that do not want "pinto" markings, such as Appaloosas.  Some breeds and breeders want to avoid the blue eyes, or potential hearing problems associated with the color pattern.  While deafness would be very detrimental in a wild horse, many owners have found that horses with hearing loss are often wonderful pets, and almost spook proof.  Of course, often means not all.

So, ready for your test?

What pattern is this horse likely showing?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ugh, a Small Rant

Bear with me please!  I have to rant a bit about Fugly Horse of the Day.

As a horse breeder, I have to keep in touch with my audience, market changes, and trends/fads in the horse world.  Interestingly, I agree with much of FHOTD's message, but not the delivery (the "I'm right, and you're wrong" attitude bugs me), not the blind faith of so many of the readers (lets call and harass people!), and definitely not the extremism.  The blog is, however, very influential in the horse market, and as a business owner, I must respect that.

So, today I pop over, do my checking up, and see "Stonewall Sport Horse" mentioned in the comments.  Boo!  Hiss!  Somehow I knew this would happen.  See, someone bred a Friesian to an Appaloosa, and registered it as a Stonewall Sport Horse.  I even think I know who it was.  (No, not me).  The resulting picture was... less then stellar, and the filly is not very colored (black roan).  Her ad isn't the best either, as most of the verbiage is in regards to the filly's color, and  the filly is in an awkward stage of life and angle in the image.  I don't think the filly is nearly as bad as the commenters are making her out to be though.  I mean, shooting pictures of a horse is hard... solo, it's impossible!  All I have to say is that Draft crosses tend to be VERY ugly as yearlings.  Rico and Scorch have been my exceptions, but I hope no one looks at Diva this week, her rump is 6 inches above her withers!

At any rate, the result of crossing a Sugarbush Draft back with a light horse, is a Stonewall Sport Horse.  Crossing an Appaloosa with any draft breed is a Stonewall Sport Horse.  Stonewall Sport Horses are not really a breed, they are a type.  In other words, it's an appaloosa colored draft cross.  Just like "Draft Horse" or "Sport Horse" or "Stock Horse" is a type.  The Stonewall Sport Horse has been around for about 60 years now I think (I could be wrong on that) and was designed to be a loud colored horse that is laid back by nature, and good for a handicapped therapy program.  Stonewall Sport Horses consistently excel at their job.

Of course there will be good and bad examples of horses in every type, but for some reason if it has color then it's evil.  I can't count how many ugly Quarter Horses, or Thoroughbreds, or even Arabians I have seen, but if it's a bad "cross breed", it's evil.

Here's my problem with this.  I put a ton of time and effort into my breedings.  I'm not worried about color, and don't care if I get solids (in fact I am rather a big proponent of the solid appaloosa in the ApHC).  I strive to produce horses that I can't find anywhere else, and have found in the Sugarbush Draft breed, and Stonewall Sport Horses.  Having a small group of people look at one image of one horse, and deem the entire type to be inferior is ... well... annoying.

I won't even go into the "new fangled cross breeds"  when BOTH Stonewall Sport Horses and Sugarbush Draft Horses have been around longer then the Rocky Mountain horse breed.  Unfortunately, the RMH had better advertising.  It's not MY fault that people who never look past their nose have never heard of these horses.  How many people have never heard of Knabstruppers either?  Yet they have been around for a few hundred years.  My breed is infantile by comparison, but that does not mean less quality!

I know that shortly, in my inbox there will be derogatory statements in reference to Stonewall Sport Horses with out understanding what I am doing, why I am doing it, how I am doing it, or what measures I take to protect my horses for becoming worthless later in life.  It's just rabid fans with access to google who will lump my program into their impression taken from a single picture of a gangly filly at a bad angle.

I think I'm doing pretty darned good with my Stonewall Sport Horses.... Not exactly "crap breedings" even if I do say so myself!

Rorschach Hextatic, aka: Rico - Yearling Stonewall Sport Horse

Jinxed Diva, aka: Diva - 2 year old Stonewall Sport Horse

 Annandale Olivia, aka:Olivia - Stonewall Sport Horse shown at 2 days of age

Soliloquy, aka:Soli - Stonewall Sport Horse shown at 3 days of age
And of course Rorschach's Slow Burn, aka:Scorch
3 year old Stonewall Sport Horse stallion

It's not all about the color!  And I think that my type definitely is not dependent upon the polka dotted rumps.  A good horse is a good horse, even if it's a roan, a solid, or as loud as Rico!  I prefer the Stonewall Sport Horses because they are a good size (averaging between 16 and 17 hands when mature) have a great mind, are easy to train, are cold natured, so not likely to spook, but have the conformation and heart to perform well.

Oh yeah.... and no Friesians in my breeding program, since my goal is to go from that, to this:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Murphy's Law

So, I'm an August baby... well "baby" might be stretching it.  At any rate, as the weather heats up, my family always starts asking "so, what do you want for your birthday?".  I gave them 2 options.

Option #1: Top quality riding helmet (with the exact size and model picked out on the clearance lists of my favorite stores).

Option #2:  The book "Is Your Horse a Rock Star" that was previous featured on Leah's Blog.

Ironically, and rather unexpectedly, I received BOTH gifts.... and both were on back order!  (Thanks again to everyone, I'm tickled!).  Any my helmet arrived Friday morning!  I'm very excited!

Yep, I have a super duper fancy nice helmet now.  It's light colored (no baking my brain box), light weight (no irritating tug and pull), ventilated and stylish!  I have to say, a quality helmet is also WAY more comfortable then a cheapo helmet.  Yes, I'm a dork and had to wear it around the house today.

My riding buddies now have a job.... you MUST remind me to put it on!

I had a perfect example today of just how quickly things can go downhill.  In my life, I have never been kicked by a horse.  I have been kicked AT, but the only "contact" has been from a 7 hour old foal with rubbery hooves, and a gelding that contacted my super duper oversized T-shirt and nothing else.  No, I do not think I am invincible.  Rather the opposite really.  I think when I do get kicked, I'm headed to the ER.  I expect my luck to run out, and the injury to be serious.  Needless to say, I'm as careful as humanly possible, while still working with horses.

But, with that said, dear Jae went to the barn this evening to help me feed.  He always helps, so that's really nothing new.  I prepared buckets, and sent him to feed the "skinnies" which include Diesel, Tori, and Sweetie.  While Jae tossed out that feed, I began to fill water buckets.

I was standing in front of Quagga's stall when I heard a noise.  I looked out of the barn, and saw Sweetie RUNNING to the back end of her paddock.  Well, Diesel is the head horse, so I assumed that she did something silly, and got in trouble.  I knew Jae was there, so wasn't too worried. 

I had no idea how silly she was.  A split second after Sweetie goes zipping down the fence line, I see Jae, running full tilt after her, and not looking happy!  Sweetie turns, cuts (she's a Sugarbush Draft, so it's not exactly athletic) and bolts to the far corner, and her body language screams that she's thinking of taking the fence!

Jae of course, being a good horseman, backs off, so she doesn't kill herself, and then moves her as he desires, back to the barn side of the paddock. I head over, ready to lend a hand, with out superseding Jae's authority in the herd.  It was obvious that Sweetie realized she was in BIG trouble, and was very very very sorry (that she got caught).

Evidently what happened was that Jae fed Diesel first, from a bucket on the fence line.  Diesel is the ranking horse.  Then Jae went to dump a bucket of grain in the feeder that's in the middle of the paddock.  This means carrying a bucket of grain through 2 horses that are very excited.

Now, Sweetie is a very docile and sweet horse.  Her name fits her perfectly.  Tori, the other filly in the paddock is about as submissive as it gets.  With both very mellow and non aggressive girls, it's natural to let your guard down a bit.

Sweetie decided that Jae was taking too long.  She tossed a hoof in Jae's direction, catching him in the forearm and torso.  It was a very glancing blow, and so far hasn't even left a bruise, but kicking is NOT ALLOWED... not ever.

Just goes to show that you can never be too careful.  Sweetie is a 2 year old filly, and has been extensively handled since birth.  She is not an aggressive horse, she has never offered to kick, bite, or strike any human, ever.  She rarely even does that to other horses!  I have no idea what made her think that today was a good day to die, or why she thought that kicking a human was a good idea, when she doesn't kick at other horses... but she did.  A completely unexpected incident.

I'm very glad that Jae was not hurt.  But my first though was, what a perfect example of a good horse doing something so totally unexpected that could cause such harm.  This is exactly why I'm working to get in the habit of wearing my helmet.  I have rationalized all the reasons why I don't grab one when I grab a horse, and I'm slowly ruling them out.  I have enlisted my friend's help (ok, they offered!) and I'm passing on my "old" helmet to Jae... it fits his head better then it ever did mine. 

Isn't it ironic though, how helmets have been coming up lately?  From a picture of Rover's rider, to my birthday request, to an unexpected incident (I can't say accident, as Jae swears he's uninjured).  I'm thinking that this might be my big hint before the catastrophic accident.  Remember folks... I predicted it here!  (Ya think Paranoia will help me remember my helmet?)

Note:  I promise that I am intending to finish the white pattern genes. Splash is coming up next!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Picture Day!

Twenty minutes to drag the horse to the barn from the back corner of the property.
An hour to wait for her to finish her breakfast.
Fifteen minutes of picking out the burs and sticks from her hair.
One hour of washing - Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
Did I mention Repeat?
Forty Five minutes of clipping.
Twenty Minutes to trim up her mane and tail.

And Seven Minutes of Pictures!

Sugarbush KatyDid, 2007 Black LP roan mare, 15.3 hands.

I think my baby's all grown up!

Safety While Riding

This is what I asked for as my birthday present this year.  A nice riding helmet, with ventilation, neutral color (preferably light) that has a quality harness.  Many of my riding helmets are getting older, and the harnesses have stretched out making them not fit as securely.  I'm hoping I get the exact model shown here!

I don't have a strict view on helmet use.  I feel that for children, it is their parent's responsibility, not MINE to choose whether or not that child should wear a helmet when riding.  Since I have always heard how "you don't have children, you can't understand" I have learned that well... I don't have kids, and I don't understand.  So I'm not the right person to tell ANY parent how to do ANYthing with their child.

I also vary in my helmet use.  I'll gladly hop on a horse with just a lead rope and halter, and head off across the pasture.  I do ride barefoot, I have ridden in tennis shoes, and I own 5 different pairs of riding boots, but sometimes the horse is there, and I decide to just hop on.  It's true, I'm not always very safe when working with my horses.  It's also true that I know my horses well, know which I can be less safe with, and I accept the fact that my choices could lead to injury.  As an adult, I can do that.  As a child, I had to do what my momma told me (although I wasn't always good at that either!)

My personal feelings though do not fit into a cut and dry formula for when to wear a helmet and when not to.  I do feel that it's never my place to tell any one else that they need one (although, I think that making people aware of the benefits of a riding helmet are always good).  My stable laws are actually set up so that riders can make their own choice.  My release form states the use of helmets is a good idea, and those who choose not to release me from all liability from harm. There's no law to wear helmets, and I don't feel it's my place to tell others how to be safe.  I do feel that as someone with experience in horses it is my responsibility to make riders aware of the potential risks of horses, and possible bodily harm they can cause.

I often listen to the riding helmet debate, and wonder why we are so worried about our heads, and nothing else.  Body protection is just as important.  During my time working in an ER, I saw  plenty of horse injuries.  Every August the rodeo came into town, and I would see cowboys rushed into the ER with their sternum broken, punctured lungs, heart issues from forced compression (it's really not good when a horse jumps on your chest).  Many of these riders had been wearing no protection at all.

And yet, we rarely head people discussing the benefits of wearing body protection while riding.  Why not?

My limited experience with dirt bikes left me checking out all of their available protection, and thinking how well it translates to the horse world.  Check out that body armor!  Protection for your arms as well, with range of motion kept in mind.  Often these body protectors have oodles of ventilation to keep the rider from getting too hot, and to encourage the use of the protection.  How cool is that? (No pun intended)

Of course, when I had a dirt bike, and actually rode it, again, I wasn't always as good about putting on my protection as I should.  Yep, I wore a helmet, but that was from speed.  I also wear a helmet every time I plan to canter, jump, or ride a horse that might decide to do those things on their own.  I'm a slacker, and I openly admit it.

Here's some interesting data:

...there were 5,033 visits during this time span. The average age was 30.0 +/- 17.0 years; 66% were women. The injuries occurred at home (36%), recreation/sporting facility (30%), on a farm (19%), and other public property (12%). The injury was due to a fall (59%), thrown/bucked from the horse (22.0%), and while riding the horse (9%). The most common injuries were contusion/abrasions (31%), fractures (28%), sprain/strains (18%), traumatic brain injuries (12%), and lacerations (6%). The body area injured was the head and neck (24%), trunk (29%), upper extremity (30%), lower extremity (16%), and multiple locations (1%)....

So, there's twice as much of a chance of a fracture, as there is a traumatic brain injury, and a hair more of a chance of a body injury then a head injury.  The natural argument here is "But if you hurt your head, it's worse".  Not really. Most injuries resulting in permanent loss of motion were to the torso (spine) and could have been prevented by wearing body armor like I posted above!  Most injuries resulting in death were to the head.  Ideally, riders should be protecting BOTH.

My point is NOT to say that it's ok to go without protection.  My point is that it doesn't make sense to encourage the use of helmets when so few of us are wearing body armor to keep our legs working after a serious fall!  What we need to be doing is encouraging the use of all protection, and educating the horse owners out there.  That is my goal with this post.

And after knowing all that, I still ride without a helmet (occasionally) or body armor (almost always) I really don't see how I can say anything to any one about what protection they choose to use.   It's also a pretty well known fact that the best protection against injury on a horse is riding lessons.  The more knowledge, muscle training, and experience with balancing and controlling a horse that a rider has, the lower their incidence of serious injury.  No, that does not mean that the chances of getting hurt goes away!  I'm also not currently taking lessons... although I AM working on finding a good instructor.

My better half and I have had many discussions over the "what ifs".  If I get killed riding a horse, I have explained to him exactly what I expect to happen.  The first thing I said was that NOTHING should be done to the horse.  If the horse can not be re-homed into a quality home, then my family is responsible for it, in my memory.  We have discussed what should happen if I am seriously disabled from riding, and the consensus was that we should place/sell the horses who would not be suitable for driving, as that would become my next sport.  I honestly feel that my life wouldn't be as good without horses in it, even if that means it could be shorter.

Having helped my instructor recover from a broken back, having broken an arm in a horse related accident as a child, and taking many many facers off a horse, I am under no delusions that the sport I prefer is very dangerous.  I still can't seem to pull myself away from these animals.  I feel that safety is very important when handling horses, and I work hard to teach people how to interact with a horse in the safest way possible. 

I do wish though, that encouraging the use of helmets and body protection while riding is something that could be done in a more pleasant manner.  I think in our (equestrians) zeal to enlighten others, we often accuse rather then teach.  This confrontational manner often has the opposite result of what we want.  Too often I have talked to people who don't like helmets because of the way they were introduced to the idea.  As those who have been to my farm know, I always mention helmet use. 

Lisa made a wonderful example of encouraging helmet use in the comments to Rover's new home:
"Sure wish that little cutie gal on his back was wearing a helmet and some boots with a heel though.
Horses can spook and be unpredictable and it only takes a second for someone to get seriously hurt. That little sweetie has a lifetime ahead of her and it would really stink if it was spent in a wheelchair."

It's not confrontational, it's enlightening.  I hope we can all encourage our fellow equestrians to be safe like this, and not make new riders feel like they are being run out of town because of their personal choices.  I would also love if we could encourage the use of body armour - although I need to convince myself to use it too.

Note to readers:  I decided to make this post based upon a few coincidences, not because of the comments on my previous entry.  After reading a forum where someone was seriously harassed over not using a helmet (adult rider), I had to vent a bit.  So, for everyone that wants to vent, please feel free to do so here.  We all have different ideas about what is enough, and for me, it's interesting to see where everyone stands on the issues.

And now, I'm going to go wash a draft horse, without a helmet, but with proper footwear, and try not to get over heated in our lovely Texas sun.

Monday, August 2, 2010

And this is how things should end up for every horse!

Today, I opened my email to see this.  This is Red Rover in his new home, where he's now called "Red".  Does he, and his new person look happy?

This made my day.  I love getting updates about my horses in their new homes.

Laura (his owner) said that her granddaughter is just pleased with him, and wishes that they could clone him.  Rover has a buddy that he gets along with perfectly, he has tons of attention, and he's starting to put on the rest of his weight.  Laura is taking care of his feet, and is committed to him for life.

Wow, this boy got the PERFECT home.  This is what makes it worthwhile.  Selling horses always sucks a little, because I miss them once they are gone.  And yet, I remember so clearly how excited I was to get my first horse, and from the look on that girl's face, she feels the same.  Good horses like Rover are worth their weight in gold.

Seeing these pictures almost made me tear up with joy.  I would bet money that the big guy is getting extra cookies and more pets and scritches then he knows what to do with. 

When Rover was diagnosed with Ringbone, I fully expected him to be here for a LONG time.  I know that many buyers are scared off by medical issues, and no matter how good the horse, ringbone makes them a hard sell.  I refused to hide his condition, because that's just not fair to any one, and anyone who knows me will tell you that my first priority is to the horse. 

I hope to get tons more updates on Rover in the future (You hear that Laura?) and if he ever needs a home, he's ALWAYS welcome back here.  So for all you Rover fans out there, here's proof that he's doing GREAT!