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 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?


  1. Oh ! I so agree, if it was just the horsesI would be on cloud nine , its the promotion , the "networking" and getting "out there" I love that I have people around me who are good at the things I hate, my busisness partner Deb, very organised and makes sure my papers are up to date etc. And a niece who adores showing so ...

  2. I'm not in the business, but I can assure you that in my wildest dreams I never pictured myself up to my elbows in a gelding's sheath, sticking needles into their necks, scraping disgusting gunk out from under their frogs, etc. National Velvet never did that stuff LOL!

  3. Oh I didn't even think about that! All the horsey tasks that no one talked about before I got horses (Before internet was big).

    Like, I didn't know that horses had to have their feet trimmed. I knew there were farriers, but I thought they only did shoes. If a horse went barefoot... then no need. Ha!

    Sheath cleaning... oh my. Yeah, that wasn't in the books either!

  4. I learned a lot of construction skills, including basic electrical and plumbing, from my first husband, whose arthritis prevented him doing much--so he told me HOW to do it, and I jumped in to complete whatever task was needed (we were care-taking a 560 acre dude ranch at the time). The development and maintenance of this little place has prevented me from actually doing much RIDING until the last couple of years!

    I've been told my website is a little to "scrap-book"-y to look professional, and I suppose it is, but I'm actually backing out of the breeding business, and trying to figure out what to do instead, so for now it works. I set it up with Yahoo's "Site Builder" Program, which is pretty user-friendly. The photography stuff I mostly do with my hubby's nice Nikon D40, and the help of Picasa. Just starting on videography, and I, too, am looking for a decent (and cheap) editing program.

    I'm probably weakest in the business and legal aspect of things, but luckily have not had need of a lawyer (knock on wood). I do send my taxes out to be checked (after I do a "draft" version) by an equine CPA.

    The actual horse stuff I've been learning (and still am) for the last 48 years. I've done everything from dude strings to grooming for the captain of the US Olympic Eventing Team. I learned from some really good horse people, (and from some really bad ones), and picked up a lot just by the seat of my pants.

    The couple of times I've been involved in various "horse camps" I've tried to give a little view of all that goes with taking care of horses (beyond just riding). One year my vet volunteered to come out and show the 4-6 graders how to float teeth, and since my old Corky was "under" he offered to clean his sheath as well! Boy were they grossed out! I told them it was just "preventative maintenance."