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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We've been working hard!

This is Amy, riding Ash.  Amy is one of my riding students, who has excelled at horses.  The girl is simply amazing in both her ability to learn riding quickly, as well as her lack of fear while retaining all common sense. 

Ash there (I have to brag) is my 21 year old Thoroughbred mare.  My first riding horse, who taught me so much.  Yeah, she's a little on the forehand now when she canters, but as you can see, the old girl still has some GO.  Ash has taught many people to ride, and her favorite speed is canter.  She's technically my second horse, by about 2 weeks.  What can I say, I had the fever! 

But Amy, as you can see, is a very capable rider.  She recently offered to help me get back on track with my horses, and to help me over come my fear issues.  Bonus for her, she gets a TON of riding time, and gets to learn how to do the training aspect.  Now, as many of you know, there's no real "lesson" system for training, as it all depends upon what happens at that moment.  Oh sure, you can PLAN to go from halter, to lunge, to driving to riding, but it's the nuances and dealing with things as they come that matter most (and scare the jeebers out of us).

So, with the help of a very capable rider, and a whole whack of horses that have been ignored for far too long (too busy, too kicked in the head, etc) I had plenty of work for Amy to do.  I do my best not to take advantage of her, but as she can SIT a horse, and her instincts are correct, and she seems to LIKE working the young horses, well.... working we have been.

Now, last week, my darling Scorch managed to spook and buck her off.  So this week, we got her back on Scorch, and kept things nice and easy to get them used to each other.  He needed to realize that he's ok with that rider up there, and she needed to... um....ride?  Yeah, Amy had no concerns about getting back up on him. 

So there we are, with me on the ground giving pointers, and Amy in the saddle moving around.  Scorch is fine with all of that.  In fact, he's SO fine, that soon we're going to have to teach him that Mr. Willy can't hang to his knees all the time when he's working.  Nothing like a pink weeny to REALLY show up against a black horse.  Amy did ask for a western saddle.... just incase... and I happen to think it's a great idea to get the horses used to ALL tack.  Scorch is currently listening really well to seat and leg aids, much more so then to the bridle.  From my point of view, this is wonderful.  He tends to act more brave and relaxed then he is though, as our problem last week showed us, so this session was confidence building.

He did great though!  He's nice and forward, alert and intersted, yet looks as if he's having a good time.

Now, Amy's riding apparel is from the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism).  Her linen shirt actually helps keep her cooler (and much less sunburned then my tank) and check out those boots!  Custom made (by Amy) boots that are thigh high, AND work while riding.  I am definitely putting some on my Christmas wish list, if only I can decide what color.  She made a friend of her's a pair in pink, so lots of color options.  They are water proof, fold down to cool.  I am thinking who needs half chaps if I have a set of those!

But I digress.  I'm really happy with how well Scorch is coming along.  He's about as green as they come, while still having a brain in his head, so a great way to start Amy on teaching a young stupid horse.

So then we did some retraining.  Check out Ozzy!  Notice that there's no person on the ground near him?  Yep, this is a HUGE step for that boy.

Until yesterday, Oz acted as if he "forgot" all of his saddle commands.  He would stop, back, and just not do what is asked, but his whole manner was more of "what does that MEAN" and not "get off me now".  Our retraining of Oz started with her riding, and me walking.  From there I moved further and further away, until he would turn away from me and still do what his rider asked.  Then I moved to where I walked behind HIM, and he had to listen to the commands, but wasn't alone. 

So when Amy mounted up yesterday, and asked Oz to move off while I put the mounting block next to the fence, I was SHOCKED to see Oz start to walk away from me willingly.  Oz doesn't care who is on the ground, just so long as there's a person there for him to follow.  Well, walking away, and minding his rider only, that's a huge break through.  I walked to the center of the arena while Amy rode around me, and then I walked away and sat on the block at the fence line, totally "ignoring" them.  He was still fine.  We praised him so much, and because he was dead on, we called it quits early. 

Now, I can't recall what order exactly we worked horses in, and my pictures on my camera are out of order (since Oz and Scorch's pics are at the first and the last) but she also put a really nice work out on Poko.

Poko as many of you know, used to be Leah's Horse.  He is not a total novice horse, but he's got some great things about him, and does well for an intermediate and above rider.  I'm in serious need of horses that are packers with more size to them (wide not tall) and Poko fits the bill.  He'll also hold a canter for an hour lesson and never think twice about it.

So, we're working Poko up as an intermediate lesson horse.  Amy is showing him that canter work is ok, and can even be FUN, and he seems to like it.  That doesn't mean he won't spook, or that he doesn't make mistakes, because boy does he.  He pulls to the gate - HARD - and tends to freak himself out when he gets into the canter.  He has to be kept on a tight rein to prevent the "oh my god I'm going too fast" freak out, but our plan is to work that out of him.  I also think he'd make an amazing SCA games horse.  Can't you see that little tank there jousting?

Amy said that she's decided Poko is her favourite horse of the ones she's ridden so far.  Kinda funny really, as he's known to be a total pest, but I kinda like the big lug too.

Oh, and for those of you who have been waiting to hear about him getting his hiney kicked into shape... well... it didn't happen.  The snot has been perfect.  Oh sure, when Amy was riding him, he called out to the mares, and she spent about 10 minutes doing patterns to get his mind back on WORK not ladies, but besides looking and calling, he didn't do anything else.  He figured out REALLY fast that being treated as a stallion is NOT fun, and he'd much rather be a gelding and play with his gelding buddies.  So, the "fixing" of him was a big let down.

And of course there's more, but I don't have the pictures of it all.  Sweetie has started lunging.  Diva is about to start driving.  Cayenne is almost sound enough to see if she can bear a rider (this afternoon, gonna hop on her bare back and see if she's ouchy).  And I have Amy starting to get to know Nazar.

Nazar is one of my foundation SDHR mares.  She's just about exactly what the Sugarbush Draft Horse should be, except that she has no spots.  This mare is LOVELY (and in foal to O for 2012) and just a wonderful horse.

Sadly though, some where in her past, she got scared of people.  Because of this, she does NOT like strangers.  I started to work her a while back, and learned that lunging is also BAD.  If you assume the "lunge" position, she bolts off, and with 1600 pounds of horse pulling hard, there's just no stopping her.  She is green broke, but she needs a lot more work, and she's a very sensitive horse.

So, I have Amy spending time just loving and grooming her.  This lets Nazar get to know Amy, and Amy gets to love a horsey (I mean really, who wouldn't want to pet this amazingly lovely horse?).  Day one went well, and Nazar seems to like Amy, so tomorrow, we're going to play a few tricks on her.  Rather then "lunging" her, I'm going to "lunge" Amy.  We will start with Amy walking her, and me standing in the lunge position.  From there, we hope to have a lunge line from my hand to Amy's, and see if Nazar will get the idea with out becoming afraid. By next week, I expect to see this big girl doing some real work, and getting ready for riding!

Amy's also been riding Doodles, and working out his muscles issues.  Doodles has chronic ulcers, and just had an "episode" early this spring.  When he does this, he stops eating.  Of course, if your throat and stomach hurt, who would want to eat!  But at the same time, the food in his belly helps to buffer the acids that make the ulcers worse.  So, we now have him back to weight, and his ulcers under control (twice daily top dressing of his food helped) but he's so out of shape.  All of his muscles wasted away in the few months (3?  4?) that he stood around doing nothing.  His trot is not forward, and he's disassociated at the canter.  In other words, his from end goes on one lead, and his hind is on the opposite.  The lack of muscling causes this, so his treatment?  Riding.

Amy takes him out and works on big sloppy forward movements.  Our only goal is to get his hips limber, and have him use his back.  As the hips and back build, we are adding in a few steps of canter, to encourage the proper back mucles.  He tends to pick up the proper canter, and then break out of it after about 5 strides, so it's a lot of sloppy forward transition work.  The picture is Doodles before his recent medical leave, and you can see, he's not a big or fancy horse, but this little guy is bomb proof (except for small animals under his feet). 

There are many other horses who have been getting there share of work, but this gives you an idea of how fast we are getting caught up to speed.  I had just started to get really depressed because things weren't going well for me.  I couldn't make myself climb on some of these horses.  The green horses just gave me fits of paranoia, and the packers I couldn't get myself to canter on them.  Now, after watching Amy make it look easy, I'm much more willing to climb on and go.  That doesn't mean I'm back to NORMAL yet, but seeing that it's safe makes it FEEL safer for me.  Amy's a strong and fit rider with quiet aids, and a good solid seat, and I have the years of figuring out how to out think the horses.  Between the 2 of us, it seems as if the horses are FLYING along, and improving in leaps and bounds.

And here's the odd thing for me.  Because I feel like things are happening as they should, I feel more confident.  The more confident I feel, the more willing I am to try something.  The more willing I am to try it, the less afraid I feel.

I'm not back to normal yet, and who knows if I ever will be, but it's definitely a leap in the right direction.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad Amy likes Pokeypants. He's such a great ride, and so interesting. Maybe someday I'll be good enough to ride him. Maybe not.

    Glad you guys are getting so much done!