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, July 1, 2011

Fear Friday - How do you cope?

We all have fears when it comes to horses.  Being Thrown...
There are so many frightening things about horses, and yet we still love them.  We can be thrown from the horse, kicked, bit, trampled, bucked off, and more.  For me, it's getting trampled that sets off every fear response I have ever known.

It doesn't have to make any sense.  We love the horses.  We're scared of the horse doing certain things.  And for some, we feel guilt that we ask so much of others for us to have this strange addiction called horse fever.

Last week, Rachel made a wonderful point.  There are only so many ways that we can deal with our fears:

For me, there are different ways of dealing with fear, depending on the situation.. I came up with a pretty cool analogy (pun intended).. It's like getting into the cold water of a pool.. you do one of a few things.. 1. you can stay on the deck saying "huh-uh.. Not going in.." 2. You can get splashed by kids playing in the water.. Getting exposed to it, even though you really don't want to be.. but finding out Heh, it's not so bad.. 3. you can wade in, gradually getting used to the cold on your own terms.. or 4.say To Heck with it all and get it all over with in one fell swoop by doing a cannonball, or diving head first in the deep end..

Losing our seat and balance....
I think she put it perfectly.  There's only so many ways we can adjust to fear, and our own personalities tend to give us a preferred method.  The more I thought about that, the more I realized it's a great starting point for me.

I tried to cannon ball back into the riding.  I failed at it miserably.  I got on the horse, tried to push myself, and sat there having a silly panic attack that really didn't help me progress any in my fear issues.  So that method was out.

Of course, NOT dealing with it was out for me as well.  I own a horse or 2 (Or 30) and I can't exactly ignore them.  I have young horses that need handling in order to have a good home, I have old horses that are too aged to get a good home, and I have horses that have bad enough medical conditions to make them hard to place (like my ulcer horse).  If I ignored them, then I would just end up as some news story with a huge herd of horses dieing of starvation.  So that's out.

The horse trying to buck us off...
So I am stuck some where between getting splashed by others and wading in slowly.  For me, I'm kinda being splash as I wade in slowly, but that's what seems to be working.

I get splashed by watching others do things.  I see Jae grab a hoof, or Amy get on a green horse, and they are fine.  That makes me think "Hey, I can do that too", and so I try.  Each small effort makes me realize that I am ok, and try a bit harder.  Eventually, I get to the point where I am fine with what bothers me that day, and so I move on to the next step of my fear.

But I also have no problem with saying I've waded in a bit too deep.  There have been times that I try something, and fear grips me.  With my heart in my throat, I will stop, take a few deep breaths, and see if it goes away.  Now, for me this means getting off the horse, and even handing it off if I feel like I have to.  Pushing myself beyond my comfort zone has made me more fearful, so I just won't do it any more.

Getting kicked....
Leah made a point the other day too.  She pointed out to me, that when she first got her horse, Poko, I told her to only do what she felt comfortable doing.  Well, wasn't I the wise one!  So I am listening to my own advice handed back to me.

But like I said, there are things that I HAVE to do.  I owe it to my horses, as I "made" most of them (I decided to breed for them) that they get the handling and training they need.  I can't say "I'm too scared to handle this baby" with out also saying "I don't care about this baby enough to do everything I can to make sure it has the best life ahead of it that it can".  That's the responsibility I took on when I decided to breed horses.  I honestly believe that.  Just like many of you have children.

I know Lisa from Laughing Orca mentioned the feeling of guilt.  She feels like her love of horses means that she asks her family to give up more then she has a right to ask for.  The more I thought about that, the more I realize that I understand her, except from the other side of it.  I feel guilt about it as well, but that I am not doing more.  My "children" are the horses themselves, and I promised to care for them.  

Getting bit or attacked....
I don't have human children, just my "fur babies".  But I do have a small zoo of those!  I really do love them.  For the most part, I'm not afraid of them.  I don't just see one of my horses, and think "EEEEEKKK, run away!".

While Amy was riding some of my lesson horses (and prospective lesson horses) to get them into shape, I took a sadly blanket to the far side of the arena, and stretched out my legs to get a bit of sun on them.  It was going to be a relatively easy day, and by moving away from the gate, I could still see her (and scream at her) but with out my presence there to encourage the horses to pull to the gate.  It's a habit many of the lesson horses picked up here.  We're working to break it.

And my own fear, being trampled.
Well, that means I sat on the ground, with a horse and rider walking, trotting, and cantering right past my feet.  I was on ground level.  Granted, this was when Amy was on Doodles and Poko, who are the type of horses that would not have a problem with a person on the ground, nor would they step on me.  So I felt like I was fine, while still putting myself close to my "fear place" of under the horse.  Ok, a few times she would stop and stand near us while I explained a point, and the horse would slowly fidget closer.  If that happened, I simply stood up, but mostly I stayed down, because each pass lifted a bit of tension from me.  I didn't think about it when I decided to sit there, but the wave of anxiety that hit me the first time she passed made me realize that my "old habits" aren't necessarily the same as what I can do now.  By the end of the day, I felt GOOD about sitting in the grass by the horses as they grazed ("By" meaning a safe distance away, but still sitting... it's a step).

So that was my way of mixing "getting splashed" with "wading in".  It seems to be working.  No, it's not a miracle cure, and it's not happening as fast as I would like, but I am getting better.  I may never be perfect with my fear issues, but I will be better - because I WANT to be, and am willing  to work at it.

So what method do you use?  Have you tried one that just wasn't any good for you?  I know that the general thought that I first had was "just do it and you will get over it" but when I tried that it didn't work.  I think that the "man up" mentality is what society so often pushes on us, but likely is the worst way to approach fear.  Because my fear is NOT logic based, proving to myself that "I'm ok" (a logical method of thinking) doesn't mean it will work at all.

Does it work for any of you, the cannon ball into the icy water type of overcoming your fear?  Are you still stuck trying to find the way that will work?  Or are you like me, and after reading Rachel's theory, realize that you're blending a few methods, or that one analogy perfectly explains your best way of dealing with it?  I know we're all at different points in our mental recoveries, but I am willing to bet most of us are more the "wade in" type, rather then the "not going to do it" types.


  1. Another great entry. For me, fear just doesn't exist. I broke my jaw falling with a horse when I was 16 and argued with the medics to let me get back on 'real quick'. It's not normal. Haha. And you're so right... it's all about my personality.

  2. I'm a wader. I do fantastic with my older horse that I have had for years. My new horse, Cole, has a bit of quirkiness to him--makes him want to spin and run in the arena. It took me months to comfortably ride him in the indoor arena--and that's a great feeling. Now I am working on the outdoor arena which is 3x the size. We do our work on th safe side and wade.

    We are fine on the trail.

  3. Well, my worst wreck (bucked off and stomped) I got back on that mare before going to hospital out of habit (always get back on if you can theory) but by the time I healed up, couldn't and frankly never have ridden her again. Rode my old darling mare to get back in the saddle , then was faced with the "first ride" ona green horse, trained by someone else.very shaky but rode anyhow , about 1/2 hour in she farted , tried to bolt out from under me and bucked,in hindsight ,it was the best thing that could have happened , I sat down , rode it out , smartened her up, and when it was over ,I felt like a million bucks! Suddenly by being "canbnonballed into it I dicovered I still had skills! as to the original mare , she is a great maree but I have never moved past the incedent , she was bred at the time which can make mares loose cannons. She raises amazing babies and while I likely could ride her, my deep seated fear of the incedent wouold telegraph to her and could easily cause a wreck

  4. Wow . . nice post. My whole blog is about getting over my fear of riding. It was bad then I fell off my percheron cross mare and broke my wrist. Unfortunately the best in the end was to sell her to someone who did not have the fear issues I did. But I bought a lovely little haffie pony and I adore.

    To get over my fear I have used many many techniques and I continue to use them.

  5. See, for me that would have simply confirmed my fear to myself. "They all buck" or something like that. And I completely agree with you about the telegraphing!

  6. I'm right there with you on the feeling like you want to climb the tree thing! I still have that urge at times.

    And good luck to you! Hope it all goes perfectly for you!

  7. I'm sticking with that initial advice you gave me: only do what you're comfortable with. I'm not for diving in the deep end, which could end up badly and maybe even scare you (or injure you) to the point that you're done with horses. All you can do is the best you can do.

  8. I understand fear. I can stand my ground, knowing my running horses will part around me, like water around a rock. I handle them well, brushing, grooming, hooves...It's moving to mount that scares the pea soup outta me. Been my life long dream but my ignorance keeps me from living it.

  9. Funny thing was ,if I had known she was going to do anything ,there was no way in He** I would have got on her.I was good for me , because mixed in my fear was the doubt that I had any riding skills left whatsoever. I would never reccomend anyone "face thier fears " in quite that way, but the circumstances did work that day for me , reminded me of a very important fact.I control my reactions when possible and if I can keep my seat and my wits about me ,I can get through some things . That all said every person is different and every set of fears.I have beeb riding or working horses since I was a small child , and have had a lot of "air time " over the years , after 40 some years my experiences and reactions are likely somewhat different than others who have ridden longer , or less years .I do know for a fact if I rode Richie again I would create a wreck all on my own with me telegraphing my issues .No point in wrecking a good horse for my issues. Lisa , congrats on healing and moving forward with Apache! Best of luck I am sure you will do well in your own time

  10. Are you just scared to be on the horse, or is it something about mounting specifically that does you in?

  11. That doubt you had about no skills.... that's what has been killing me! I feel like I'm no good any more. Add in a few other totally unrelated people chewing me out (part of the business I guess) and going so far out of their way to let me know that I suck, and it sure doesn't help with the timing of all of this. I think the doubts are the worst part of the fear issues, personally, as they invade my life almost every second of the day.

  12. Wow those photos are something! I especially like the barrel racer- total air!!

    I guess I am a wader-cannonballer. I feel like it's my duty. Like you, if I don't ride my horses, no one else will. Most of my horses have been started by me and some haven't been ridden by anyone else (Annie). I feel obliged to work with them. I do understand the guilt though. With a husband and children I was always fretting about the time spent out at the barn when I needed to be at the house. Working full time only gave me a couple of hours of time a night, after all, and I had to divide that between family and horses. As far as getting hurt, I never thought much about consequences until I lost my job and with it, my medical insurance. Then I realized that I COULDN'T get hurt so it made me more conscientious about riding.

    One time, I went with my husband, children, and both of our moms to look at a couple of unbroke horses that were owned by friends who wanted to sell them. I had my husband give me a leg up on the pinto mare, no problem. However, I didn't know then that the other horse, Riddler, had thrown his rider previously in their first rides, so when my husband threw me up on his back, bareback, he bolted, pulling the halter rope out of my husband's hands. We ran down the length of the field and he fell, crashing into the fence and on top of my leg. I imagine my friends and family must have been horrified watching their friend, daughter, wife, mother die in front of their eyes. I got up with a torn jacket, a few scratches, and an incredibly swollen knee. If you sliced a nerf football in half lengthwise and placed it on the inside of my knee, that is what it looked like. I had so much blood floating around in my leg that it was black and blue from the knee down to my toes. Fortunately, nothing broke but I couldn't bend my knee for three solid months. I never even thought I could die from a blood clot then, just what an inconvenience and a pain it was being hurt.

    Anyway, I should have just walked/hobbled away right then, right? No! We bought both horses and I felt it was my duty to break and train them properly. It was three months before I could think about riding and then I needed to address his terror and my fear.

    As soon as I felt better I began breaking the pinto mare, Neena, and saddling Riddler. I put him in the english saddle and bitted him up, lunging him, until he understood verbal commands. Then one day, my husband took a hold of the halter rope (wearing gloves this time) and I mounted, holding the reins tightly. He lunged while I rode in a thirty foot circle, very controlled. We did this several times until I felt no anxiety about him running away with me. I trained him up and he became my daughter's horse for several years.

    But that's not the end of the story. Just over a year after my first accident with him, I was riding with a friend in a field and he jumped forward in a bolt when the other horse and rider moved ahead of us. I pulled him up sharply, one reined, because I was terrified of being run away with again by him, and he lost his footing on the slight incline we were standing on and fell down, on my other leg. Same thing happened, hematoma and terrible bruised leg, but no breaks and another three months of healing before I could ride. Did I learn my lesson? Not really, only that I considered him a loose cannon and I worried about my daughter riding him. She was never hurt by him but I sure was. A few years later, when she practically gave up riding, I sold him and she has never forgiven me for selling HER horse. I can never forget The Riddler. He's hurt me far too many times!

  13. Yeah, falling horses just terrify me. Not a place I ever want to be in. I have to say, I can't believe you kept getting back on..... I would be too chicken.

  14. Laughing Orca RanchJuly 2, 2011 at 6:50 PM

    Hey....guess what I did today?

    It's taken me one year to rebuild some of my self confidence and for my mare and I to trust one another again, but today I. Rode. My. Horse.

    And yeah, the adrenaline has just finally wound down and in it's place I feel blissfully happy.

    Thanks for the Fear Friday posts...they are one of the catalysts that motivated me to face my fears and work through them.


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  17. Great post (liked the one from the week before also!).

    I struggle with fear on a few issues - horses misbehaving in the barn (trapped!!) and big spooks on the trail. I'm fine with my old guy because he is as close to bombproof as they come, but other horses make me nervous.

    I guess I'm a wader... I need to try things, tell myself that wasn't so bad, then back off and do something I'm comfortable with.

    I'll get there though - it just takes time...