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, October 25, 2010

Wet with a chance of Wind

Yep, it rained all weekend.  Saturday the rain was nice enough to wait until feeding was done, and we had moved a few horses out of the barn and the neediest into it, and then it started pouring.  It kept pouring for most of the day.

Little honesty here - I didn't mind at all!  Granted, I would love to have an indoor place to ride, so that I am not at the mercy of the weather, but until I do, I took the day off.  Oh it was lovely!  And evidently I was exhausted.  Saturday evening, I was reading a book, then Jae was waking me up asking me if I wanted to keep sleeping.  I said YES!

14 hours later, I crawled out of bed, refreshed and renewed.  It was wonderful.

Sunday though, I was bored to tears!  Too wet for a pony party.  Too wet to move things around the yard.  Too wet to mow.  I finally settled on reading a good book and doing laundry.

And now today.  The arena isn't quite dry enough to work a horse on.  One of my biggest fears is asking a horse for too much, or having a horse spook on such slippery footing, and it coming down on a rider, or falling and breaking a leg.  It's almost ready, and Jae is going to put a fresh till in it, to see if that helps.  If it does, I'll be training horses this afternoon!  I'm really looking forward to working with Rooster.

I've changed my plans with Rooster.  I'm encouraging him to be involved in his own training.  Right now, when he's asked to work, he turns into a robot.  To me, this is a sign of a horse that is fighting himself.  I don't mean a calm robot, I mean tense, and reacting only because he was trained to.  There's no real thought process going on in his head.

Now, Rooster is a very intelligent horse. This should be easy for him to learn.  It might take a week or 2 though.  I have been spending time with him at feedings, getting him to investigate me, and showing him that it's ok to be curious about anything.  I want Rooster to learn that he can ask, but he won't always get what he asks for, and won't be punished for it either.

This is a very hard thing to explain.  It makes sense when I see it, but I don't know how to put it into words for someone else.  I see this a lot with the problem horses I retrain.  In fact, Leah's boy Poco had some of these tendencies.  I call them Ticking Time Bombs.

What I see, is a horse that only knows one way to do things.  These horses could be pampered, or abused, that makes no difference.  What does, is how the horse is trained.  Horses need to understand a range of things, not a specific.  As an example, if the only person to ride a horse has a perfect seat, then when the novice gets on him and their legs bounce on his side and they sit a bit crooked, the horse starts to panic.  The horse tries to hold it in, because they were trained to do so, but eventually they just can't take the stress/fear/whatever and blow up.  This type of horse tends to be stiff, and tense through any work outside their normal.

What needs to happen, is that the horse needs to be taught that a quiet seat is good, but a sloppy seat is just to be ignored.  When I train my babies, I tend to ride nice mostly, but throw in a few sloppy leg moments, or sit crooked, or goof off in the saddle.  The horse learns that it's safe, and just fine for its rider to be silly.  That is what I'm starting today with Rooster.

His big problem seems to be mounting.  So, Friday, I got on him sloppy, and he spooked out from under me.  I expected it, and it was no biggie, but it proved my point.  And I'm assuming that his owner doesn't want that type of habit.  So, today, Rooster and I will spend a lot of time with ups and downs.  I expect to land my butt in the dirt at least once!  (Probably more).  But if all goes well, Rooster will learn that there's a range of acceptable, and hopefully take that and apply it to all saddle work.  If not, then I'll have to apply it step by step for him.

The goal, is a horse that will stand quietly for a rider as they haul themselves into the saddle, shift it over, scooch a bit, and then walk off nice and quietly, and pick up the gait asked with out tension. 

I'll know more after today if this type of training works.  I might have to re-evaluate again.  But I want this horse to be a safe and perfect gentleman for his owner.  I really think he can be. I really like this horse.

Huck, meh, he's easy.  The way to his heart is scratches and food.  He just needs to learn not to be so lazy.


  1. I think that Rooster's problem is often the kind of result one gets with the "one-day wonders" and other "quickie" training approaches. It's sort of like forcing a dressage horse into a frame--you get what you want but not really. There's too much left out of the process. In Rooster's case, the miles and experiences you plan for him will hopefully become more natural for him. Good luck!

  2. Great idea! however fit and strong a rider is , we all have a "sack of Sh**" day where we flop into the saddle or drag a leg.Very inmportant that the horse sees this as no biggie!

  3. I know just what you mean - the horse that's trained on the outside but not willing and soft on the inside. I've seen and dealt with some of those and sometimes it takes time to reach them where they can be convinced that they don't always have to be right and can try different things to answer questions.

  4. It has taken 4 years to get Poco where he is. Nuff said.

  5. Ha! But Rooster is no where near as much of a nut case as Poco was! Just the same type of tense.

    I really like him too, I think he's oozing with potential, and as soon as he grasps the concept, I expect to see a nice turn around, and for everything to fall into place.

    Sadly, the arena never did dry out. Well, that's not true, as of 15 minutes ago (well past dark) it was just barely in ridable condition. On the upside.... I get to ride tomorrow!

  6. I know just what you mean - the horse that's trained on the outside but not willing and soft on the inside. I've seen and dealt with some of those and sometimes it takes time to reach them where they can be convinced that they don't always have to be right and can try different things to answer questions.