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.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Road to Mental Recovery

I have mentioned that after getting a hoof to the jaw by my darling filly, I have had some fear issues to over come.  Ah, well..... those fear issues definitely have proven that they do NOT make sense.

So, Diva is the horse that kicked me.  Well, in her mind she kicked Sweetie, and the fact that a human was there was not worth her notice.  As you can see, she earned her name properly; she really is a Diva!

I have said many times after the fact, that the only horse I would have ever suspected of close the distance between us that fast would have been Jinx... who just happens to be Diva's dam.  Hind sight being what it is, that feels like a real "duh" type of statement.  If the mother can, it's a good bet she passed that athleticism on to her daughter.  And, I actually think Diva is MORE agile and quick then her mother.

As for her kicking me, well, that's 90% my fault.  I should have known that a horse would act like a horse.  With that said, I also need to work on some better manners with her.  While she's a darling horse, and does have good manners, her pushing into a horse I was handling, even if she hadn't kicked me, is way beyond acceptable.  So her 10% is that she should have known better then to act aggressive ANYwhere near a human.  It also says to me that she needs to get into training, and get a real job, and soon.

Well, that goes back to my crazy fear issues.  Am I mentally ready to work with her?  If I ramp up, that could cause more problems then it helps.  I've been pondering this lately while I'm getting back into the swing of farm life (and the weather has not been conducive to training).  And then something weird happened.

The other day, I'm standing out on the fence line that separates the back yard from the horse pasture, and talking to my mother.  The horses see us, and come up for attention.  With out thinking about it, I start scratching, and petting those who ask politely (i.e. no pushing, shoving, etc).  A few moments later, most of the herd heads back off to do their horsey things, realizing that I'm not handing out treats, grain, alfalfa, or anything GOOD, but one stays.

It's Diva.

There I am leaning over the fence scratching the white speckles on her rump, and working a twig out of her tail.  I never once was concerned about it.  Even once I realized the irony of my lack of fear, I still didn't ramp myself into a frenzy.  I have no fear response of being behind her, of handling her, or of her acting up.  I KNOW Diva, and I know how she will behave, and evidently that makes all the difference.

Even before she decided to kick Sweetie, and catch me in the middle, I had known she was about to act up.  I had made a bad call, and thought it would be a good training moment.  There was no surprise that she kicked out, or acted like a typical silly filly!

So then the next day one of my mares shows up with a cut on her back.  It's of course Jinx, Diva's dam.  Jae brings Jinx up for treatment, and I put her in the stocks and climb the stepping block to reach her back (I'm short, she's not).  So here I am spraying water on a mare while standing on a mounting block, and leaning over her, and it has to hurt.  Any fear?


Now Jinx has the most amazing mane and tail.  It's thick, it's black, and it falls in lovely sprials.... which of course get tangled.  So,  since we've already done most of a bath, Jae and I start in on her mane and tail with the scissors.  6 inches off the mane, and it's no longer tangling its self every time we turn around, but her tail... oh my.

While breeding, she had managed to build one super large knot under her tail.  It was about the size of an orange, and just mangled.  I don't like to cut off too much tail hair at this time of year, since the tail keeps away the bugs, so I dove in with the detanglers and conditioners.

Now here I am, standing directly behind a 16.1 hand draft horse weighing 1650 pounds that is a very dominant alpha type mare.  And I'm pulling her hair!  In order to remove the knots, I had to be in  the "kick zone", there was no way around it.  Oh sure, I could have asked Jae to do it, and he would never had thought twice about it, but I was fine.

Never once was I worried about getting hurt.  If I pulled a hair, she would lift her hind foot, and then gently set it down, and I would pause, and massage the owwie spot.  When i finished, I then doused her boo boo with ointments, and covered it in Swat to repel flies... both of which had to hurt, but she never complained.  And not once did I feel fear or worry about her hooves.

And yet, when picking the feet of a horse I don't know as well, I get twitchy.  Still.  Neither the horse that kicked me, nor her much larger but similarly mannered dam, bother me at all.  On the flip side, my little quarter horse mare (who I raised from an orphan) makes me watch her closely, and she's never once offered to kick.  This makes NO sense to me at all.

Standing behind a horse doesn't bother me one bit, but a horse running up to me, or a group coming to see me will get me a bit nervous, even if they are walking calmly.  We're in the middle of breeding season, and handling a stallion doesn't upset me at all, but handling a mare for in-hand breedings makes me twitchy - even though when handling the stallion I have to be BEHIND the mare.

This whole fear response thing makes NO sense.  It's not logical, it's not something I can "work around" ahead of time.  Am I better?  Oh yes!  I am doing about 80% of my normal duties, and feeling about 90% myself now.  I do still have times when I just can't focus on anything (which is not normal for me) and I feel like a kid in a candy store.

I have ridden some, and I normally feel fine on a horse, but the thought of one spooking under me sets me off.  I can ride those spooks!  I know I can, and I know I have, but emotionally, I'm convinced that I'll come off and under the horse's feet.  Falling to the outside (away from the horse) doesn't bother me at all.

I think my fear is not related to getting kicked, so much as it is to getting trampled. When I was knocked under the horses, and they were jumping on me, I knew it was bad.  I can still see the sunlight on the dust, and Sweetie's golden legs all around me, in my head.  The kick, that was too fast.  The laceration and damage to my face  wasn't that bad, or that painful until days later.  The mental trauma I think, was from laying there KNOWING that I'd be lucky to ever get out of it.

The fact that I'm fine with the horse that kicked me, but wigged out by the thought of falling under a horse makes me think I need to work on things a bit different.  As soon as the arena dries out I'm going to start doing some ground work.

Poko... you hear that?  I'm talking about YOU buddy.

If I can handle that (and he really reacts to emotional ramping up) then I am well on the way to being back in the saddle! 


  1. Good plan - I agree that some things will give you pause while others will be comfortable - just keeping easing into the areas of discomfort without pushing too hard and you'll get there in time - and it does take time. My fears were very specific after I got kicked - handling a horse's hind feet - particularly the horse in question - but they could be general too - worry that the mare would behave unpredictably.

  2. Fear is a funny, funny thing.

    I know we've talked about my fear issues with the canter a lot. Those fears aren't all that different from what you're saying here - on Laura's horses, I was totally able to canter the last year or so... but put me in a lesson on a horse I don't really know and I just freeze when asked to canter. The idea of cantering itself doesn't bother me, but the idea of getting into the canter does. The idea of a fast canter doesn't bother me, even.

    But there's the weird and apparently unrelated moments of fear too - like the minor freak-out I had when I got up on Keeley bareback the first time. I was fine after a few minutes of your mom leading me around, but man-oh-man, that first step was a doozy. I've never fallen off bareback; I don't know where that panic came from, but I'm guessing that it's tied to the cantering thing.

  3. Wow you have really come a long way in a short time! Just remember baby steps...When you get twitchy take a break, take a breath, and then continue on! Good Luck! I think you are doing awesome!

  4. Muley, proud cut sorry ass piece of horseflesh. Yes, I can say that.

  5. Wow you have really come a long way in a short time! Just remember baby steps...When you get twitchy take a break, take a breath, and then continue on! Good Luck! I think you are doing awesome!