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.

Friday, May 27, 2011

My frustration with the Pintaloosa thing in ApHC

Recently there has been a big trend in my Appaloosa boards about "Pintaloosas".  Many people don't truly understand the genetics of color, and get confused (how can you NOT?) and so think that this is some how an easy answer.  Sadly, it's really not.

The spot in this image is actually not a pinto spot, it's a mismark.  Mismarks are caused by suppression of the pattern gene.  On the molecular level that means something made the pigment migrate in that area, where it was restricted (white) in others.  These types of genes are called suppression genes, or suppressors, because they suppress the white pattern.  These suppression genes are what leads to those BIG polka dots that we so love to see on the LP colored horses.

On the flipside, this mare has pinto genes.

What, can't see any pinto markings?  But I can!  That blaze, those socks... and on her offside there's a very blue eye.  This mare is Daltrey's dam, and he proved her ability to pass on that splash at higher levels.  While he doesn't meet the "minimum" for pintaloosa, he's very close.  Daltrey has 4 knee high white socks, a very large apron blaze, and 2 ice blue eyes.  He got all of that because of his mother who looks to be a completely normal colored Appaloosa.

But splash is only one of the "pinto" genes that people have trouble understanding.  The other is sabino.  Now, most people don't know that there are MANY types of sabino out there, I want to say 8 but could be wrong.  All of those sabinos are variations of a theme when looking at their pattern, but genetically, we have no idea how similar they are.  One could be a vision gene, another a metabolic gene, and yet another a neurotransmitter.  See, it's important to realize that color is a side effect of the genes, and not the main purpose.

But sabino isn't exactly a true pinto gene.  Unless you'd call this foal a pinto?  Her white socks are well below the hocks, and while she has a misplaced spot in her blaze, it is still within the limits of most registries.

These face and leg marking genes were never told that they are supposed to meet a minimum line, and they aren't intelligent.  They simply do what DNA does.... replicate.  The expression levels of the white can be controlled, but you'd pretty much need a few years of study to understand all the nuances.  And lets be honest, who besides me really is that into DNA?  Most horse breeders don't want to worry about 50 genes everytime they think about breeding!  We want safe and happy foals with good conformation and a wonderful future.

So, it seems that in the ApHC there's a movement right now to get rid of "pintaloosas" and restrict all "pinto" genes.  Well, how exactly do you do that?  In the ApHC currently, more horses HAVE those pinto genes then do not.  So do you remove all the registrations from pinto carrying horses?  Do you refuse to register their offspring?

Yeah, those ideas are probably a great way to kill a breed, in my opinion.  If you remove papers from every horse showing sabino or splash white traits, then you've taken out about 75% of the population.  If you prevent foals from being registered who carry one of those genes, then you're creating a HUGE surplus of unwanted foals, as a good 75% of THEM will carry one of their parent's genes.  The ApHC registrations would plummet, and the members would bail out in droves.  Not exactly a very sound business plan.

I mean, who wants to become involved in breeding horses when you have only a small chance of success?  Who wants to dump a thousand dollars into producing a foal, only to have it come out worth little more then half of what you spent?  Hell, it's cheaper to BUY other people horses then to breed them at that rate!

Now, maybe this would be a great idea for reducing the number of unwanted horses...... but do you really think that any one would stop breeding?  Oh no!  Instead, they would simply register those babies elsewhere.

Here's another one.  This lovely ApHC mare carries splash AND sabino.  Her 4 ankle white socks and her thin strip of a blaze seem like they are completely normal, and not a problem, and yet, it's a mixture of both of those evil pinto genes.  She has produced a lovely high white near fewspot colt for me, who was within the ApHC registration guidelines, but again, just barely.

Zire had inches to spare on his white though, but still he showed 4 high whites, an apron blaze, and a small dash of blue in his right eye.  He's built like a dream, with a lovely personality, and everything you could want, and he's homozygous for LP.  I thought some one would snatch him up in a heartbeat as a herd sire, but instead, he went with out many inquiries for years.  Now as a lovely 3 year old gelding he's going to make a lovely performance horse.  It looks like a barrel horse (and here's hoping he wins a LOT).
Zire, my splash/sabino LP/LP gelding
So, because of all of this, I'm getting really tired of the ApHC.  It seems like in most circles you can't win!  Either your horse isn't bred for performance, or your horse isn't foundation bred enough.  If it IS high percentage of app x app breeding, then it's not the right foundation lines, or it doesn't have enough big money horses in it... because those are all crossbred.

Is the Appaloosa  a great breed of horse?  YES!  But seriously people, why do I want to make more?  Their market is down, and the best breeding stock is too "plain" to be used as breeding stock (solids crossed to fewspots), yet if you use the loud colored ones, you get more plain ones (solids/fewspots).  And all of this over HAIR?

But here's a horse that looks like she'd be ok, right?

Yeah, uh, NO.  With only a few minimal markings on her, this little girl carries sabino as well!  Her flame shaped star screams that.  She has a minimal lacey blanket, so the color people don't like her either, but look at those legs!  She's square, she's nicely put together, and probably one of the best horses I've bred, and yet it's all about the color.

And her sire was a fewspot, and dam is a supressed leopard, so her minimal coloration is actually a big surprise.

On the flip side of that, there's this kid.  He's a bit straight in the shoulder, he's too pointy in the croup, and ever so slightly sickle hocked.  Crash was close but not quite.  Don't get me wrong, he's not a BAD built horse at all, he's just completely and totally average in his conformation.

But check out that blanket!  Wowza!

I had way more interest in this guy, then I did in the filly above (and he's now sold into a lovely home).  In fact, I made a man very mad when I wouldn't postpone his gelding.  He saw that pretty color, and wanted to use Crash as a breeding stallion, even though he's not ApHC registered.  To me this says that what matters to Appaloosa lovers is NOT the registration or the quality of the horse, but rather how loud it is.  Color patterns, even with as much as we know, are still a gamble.  Does mom throw her E or her e, does dad pass on that PATN1 or not?

I've never been into gambling, not with real money at any rate.  And horse breeding IS real money.  My horses need food, farrier, vet care, and so much more.  I have to maintain and improve the property, I have to advertise, and I have to train them.  All of this means money.  Who in their right mind would go out and just hand a stranger $500?  Not me!  I kinda need that money to keep up with my pony addiction problem!

So what incentive do I have to breed Appaloosas?  None.

Instead, I can breed Stonewalls that can produce first generation Sugarbush Drafts, and increase the gene pool of that lovely breed.  If I get a solid there, it's STILL a lovely horse, and still gets drooled over by perspective buyers.  When it grows up, it will be just as good as the leopard standing next to it in the show ring.  Because after all, it's just HAIR.

Needless to say, now that I am slimming down my herd, it will be the Appaloosas that I am most willing to drop the price on.  At this time, if some one makes me an offer that includes a good home, if the horse fits, I will likely take it.  I care way more about where my babies will be in 20 years then much else.  I'm just tired of the ApHC and the drama going on in the ranks.

I always see ApHC people wondering what it will take to bring people back into the breed.  Well, for me, it is consistancy.  I don't care what other people are doing, but I want to know that MY type of horse can be profitable and valuable.  I want to know that if I bring a new life into the world that it won't end up starved to death in a hoard's pasture some where down the line, because it was so "pretty" and yet no one else wanted it.

If you can't keep registered horses more valuable then unregistered ones, then there's a problem with your registry.  I hope that we never see this problem in the SDHR, and I work hard every day to remove all of the preconceived notions spread by those who don't know a thing about genetics.  As horse people, we should first care about conformation and temperament.  If the horse is too nasty to be handled, then it is NOT a quality horse, no matter how pretty it is.  If the horse is built too poorly to stand on it's own feet, then it is not a quality horse, no matter how pretty it's color.

If you want to see what a quality horse looks like... well the horse below is a quality Appaloosa!

Oz is an 11 year old ApHC gelding, stands 16.0 hands, and has been packing kids around for years.  He's as sweet as can be and is nothing but heart.  His bloodlines are lovely!  And yet, poor Oz sat in a pasture for a few years doing very little (previous owner had a bad car accident) and now he just needs a tune up, and I'm out of commission.  He came to me to be trained, and I can barely sit on a horse right now with out getting vertigo.  (Yeah, it's still here, but less frequent).  His owner is also getting out of ApHC I believe, so I hope every day that this guy gets a great home.

It seems like lately, all the signs are telling me to let the Appaloosa people do their thing, and just to focus on the Sugarbush horses.  I love them so much, and it seems like there's a higher quality owner looking at them.  I like knowing that my babies - that would be any horse that has been on my property - will live a long and happy life.

It's never just one thing is it?  Between my accident, my mother's health issues (arthritis), the trends in the ApHC, and the recent interest in the SDHR, my program is changing.  And I hope that it's for the better. 


  1. I'll keep praying that every single pony on that sales page goes by the end of summer.

  2. It bugs the crap out of me when people get color and genetics mixed up. Thanks for doing this post. Lots of good answers for those who are confused.

  3. It bugs the crap out of me when people get color and genetics mixed up. Thanks for doing this post. Lots of good answers for those who are confused.