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, November 16, 2010

So, I got pictures!

Yes, I made my poor mother suffer through the cold weather (lemme tell ya, anything under 70 is cold... but today wasn't too bad in the low 60s) and take pictures.  I have no idea why this  is so hard for me to do, but it really seems to be.  I guess because I'm always on a horse, or with a horse in hand when I am outside, and hence my focus is on the horse in front of me, not the pictures I should be taking.  Well, I'm making an effort!

So, today's rides were just as nice as I could ask for.  All 3 of them.  I started with Rooster, then rode Huck, and then gave Lady most of a lesson.  I'm still not used to the sun setting this early, so by the time I finish up all of my personal work and get to the client horses I'm still thinking 6pm when it's dark by 5:30, and 5:30 when it's dark by 5pm.  In all honesty, I can't tell you what time it gets dark, but I can tell you it's hard to tack down a black horse, with black tack, with no lights.  I think she only got shorted about 10 or 15 minutes, and she was working so well for me today, so I can't complain.

So, that lovely boy up there, is Rooster.  Isn't he just the cutest thing?  Although, I admit, I do have a weak spot for red heads, especially that bright of a red.  But, my ride with Rooster started out on a good note today.  I grabbed a halter, and Rooster met me at the gate!  We went to tack up, and I swear Rooster was taking a nap.  Well, except when that big truck went by, I think it was a garbage truck.... he woke up for that.  Well, breifly.

And Rooster spent the whole time before I ride sucking up to me.  I have a soft spot for that.  Big brown eyes get to me every time.  Ok, he wanted cookies, but that's a type of love too, isn't it?

I got on Rooster a few times.  First, I didn't have the girth tight enough.  I have a new latigo, and it's leather, and between slight stretching, and not being well worn, so not slipping over itsself, I admit, I spend way more time then I like trying to get that silly thing properly cinched up.  Wonder when western saddles will adopt the easy English type girths...*daydreams about elastic and buckles*
Oh right, mounting. Well...What do you think, does he look like the same hot blooded thing he was a few weeks ago?

Rooster would get worried and tense when I went to mount him.  So much so, that a few times he tried to move out from under me, and once he did blow up, spooking out from under me.

Now, he's, well... taking a nap I think.  I got on him from both the mounting block, and from the ground today, and he couldn't have cared less about any of them.  I have been rewarding a relaxed and calm attitude, and ignoring or dealing with his tension in non-stressful ways.  Basically, I just want Rooster to know that when a human is around, good things happen.  As an interesting side effect, ol' Rooster here, has become a complete sap.  He loves to be loved on.  He loves to get pets and scratches, and to be talked to.  Any form of affection is good for him, and lets him know that he's right on track.

And he has become such a wonderful little horse to work with.  He's still not dead perfect, but he's close enough that I'm willing to start pushing him a bit, and tackling the terrifying stuff that's out there.

We had some lovely work today, and our problems were well... laziness!  He was tootling along, and didn't really have a whole lot of get up and go in him.  Now, if I asked, he would give it, but if I slacked off, he went right into lazy pony mode.

I think most of us agree that having a bit of "I'm just gonna plod along until you want me to do something different" isn't a bad thing in a horse.  For me, when I want to move out, I want it NOW, but otherwise, a whole lot of slow is good for when things do not go as planned.

And we worked on crazy human tricks.  Yes, in this picture I am leaning very far to the right.  I know, and I meant to.  I also shifted the saddle, flopped my legs, and fidgeted with the reins.  I try to do all of those unexpected things that can spook a sensitive horse, but that we riders sometimes do with out thinking.

Does he look very stressed at all about it?  I didn't think so.  I did find though, that Rooster does NOT like to have the ends of the reins slapped around.  That got him all tense and stressed again.  Yeah, so guess what I did?

I normally ride in a single rein, but today I had split reins.  They have a leather popper on the end of each.  So, it was those that he didn't care for, and it will be those that I ride him in from now until he doesn't care about them.

Besides that, we just did some walk trot and canter work, and didn't have a single real problem.  I'm so excited!

And then it was on to Huck.  Have you ever wondered why there is no lovely and elegant way to get on a horse?  Yeah, I always wonder that when I get pictures of me doing it.  But hey, the horse looks great!

And see, there's that mounting block.  And there's the Huck-meister standing at it like nothing at all.  Our ride was good today.  He was dead on!  Well, he was, but I made 2 mistakes that I almost thought were gonna get my face in the dirt.

Twice, at the canter, I asked for a downward transition, and I got a woah.  Neither time was I prepared for it, and both times I ended up leaning forward.  Both times Huck realized I was pulling a stupid human trick, and stepped forward allowing me to "catch up" to his momentum.  I think it was the curb chain.  I hadn't been riding Huck with one, because he was so light on the mouth, but put one on today, and got some serious stops from him.

Now, I stop from my seat more then anything, but with a light lift of the hands.  Well, I guess in Huck's mind, that's all it takes.  He was dead on with all of my commands.  Ok, well, the trot and canter work I had to get a crop for some incentive, but after that....

See, here's how this pretty boy worked out for me:
Yes, I'm taping his side there...... to get......

Click on any picture for a larger view.  And horse owners are more then welcome to save a copy for themselves.

And lastly, my ride with Lady.  Well... second verse same as the first.  It was almost a repeat of yesterday's lesson, with out the broken bridle.  Lady was lovely, she worked hard, and had some lovely moments of what I wanted.  She's coming along great, and has no interesting or exciting stories of acting up to tell.  And yeah, that's a great thing!

I have to admit, I know how lucky I am to have this trio in the barn right now.  I adore every one of these horses, and really look forward to riding them.  Days like today make me stop and appreciate just how lucky I am to be able to do this for a living.  I might not be a big name trainer who sends horses off to be big name super starts, but I work with some really amazing people, and their wonderful pets.  I prefer what I do to any fame or fortune I could be offered.

Ok, maybe not the fortune part.... I mean, if I was rich, I would have an indoor!


  1. You know what, I would KILL for low 60s right now...KILL!!! Heck I'd kill for 50s...LOL just kidding...I wouldn't kill anyone, perhaps injure...?

    Glad you had some good rides!

  2. I second Mare on the 50's request! I could live with that for a month or two!
    Congratulations on a series of very promising rides! Lady is a beauty, but un-learning that overbent evasion will be a definite challenge. As for the boys, I'm curious, Heather, why you've got them in curb bits so early in their training?

  3. 60s!! Hah!! That's what I have to say to that (from Northern Illinois). We've been spared so far this fall, but winter's on the way.

    They look great in the photos - nice to see them in action!

  4. Evensong, it's not really "early" in their training. They have been under saddle for about a year now, and were winners of the extreme mustang makeover here in Ft. Worth.

    The mustangs know their finished work, but because they were made show ready in 90 days, they had some holes in their basics. Rooster more then Huck. So they are with me to have that fixed. Like, Rooster will work a cow bridle-less, but would explode if you took too long mounting. Huck will side pass, half pass, and turn on a dime, but if his laziness struck, he would ignore every command you gave.

    So their case is bit different then the normal horse being worked up. I'm not really training these boys to ride, I'm problem solving and exercise riding.

    None of my 3 this time are simple back and trains. I actually find I prefer it like this, dealing with their problems as they occur is very mentally challenging.

  5. The time change really screwed things up for me and I was already messed up with the shorter days. Can't seem to get myself going earlier in the morning so I sure do miss that hour of sunlight. I'm longing for summer and hopefully more warmth and more work hours with the horses. Sounds like you are too.

  6. Rooster is adorable! What a cutie! Are you also practicing mounting and dismounting from the off-side, too? That would probably be good practice for him.
    Huck sounds great. What a good boy to cover your "silly human tricks", so you didn't have to come face to face with dirt. hehe!

    Yes, you are truly blessed to be able to do what you love for a living. Perfect time this week to be thankful, too. :)


  7. 60s!! Hah!! That's what I have to say to that (from Northern Illinois). We've been spared so far this fall, but winter's on the way.

    They look great in the photos - nice to see them in action!

  8. You know what, I would KILL for low 60s right now...KILL!!! Heck I'd kill for 50s...LOL just kidding...I wouldn't kill anyone, perhaps injure...?

    Glad you had some good rides!