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 15, 2011

Fear Friday - I showed you mine, you show me yours!

So, in the past few posts, I have talked about my fears with horses, and how I am over coming them.  I have babbled on about my thoughts on what works for getting over your fears, and what hasn't helped me at all.

And then this week it hit me.  I'm somewhat lucky in that I actually KNOW what freaks me out.  So many other people just feel anxiety, and aren't sure why.  Is it because horses are big?  Is it because they fell off?  Is it because they have heard horror stories?  They don't know themselves, and so working to ease the fears is that much harder.

Look at my mother: she saw me get whooped up on by some horses, and ever since has been anxious with the filly who kicked me.  That makes sense.  But she also has been having some anxiety when working with her own young mare - who is a total saint.  Ishka, the young mare, has never done much of anything wrong, other then take a nap at the wrong time, so Nita's fears have to be pretty broad.  But when I asked her, she has no idea why she feels anxiety, just that she does.  Oddly, she's pretty sure it's not that she's afraid of being kicked, just the power of horses in general.

Most of our instincts tell us that horses are big and terrifying animals who could easily hurt us, and yet, we have an obsession with them.  I don't know how many of you were like me, and doodled horses on the side of everything as a child, only to grow up and daydream of them instead.  I own a herd of horses now, and still am amazed at their beauty and power, and just can't get enough of them.  So how can half of us say "run away" while the other half says "run to"?  It's a strange thing.

And each of us feels fear in different ways, and about different things.  For some of us, it's very specific.  For others, it's just a general fear that SOMEthing could go wrong.   

I figure since I have showed the world my fear, and my efforts to overcome it, that today's blog is all about everyone else.  What is it that makes you afraid?  Do you know?  Can you guess?  Is it specific or general?  Have you tried to overcome it at all, or has it kept you away from horses completely?

How do you feel about your own fear?  Are you ashamed?  Aware and accepting?  Do you feel excluded because of it?  Have you told those around you that you ride with?

I honestly feel that fear is a natural thing.  Whether we feel shame or embarrassment or not, we don't really have anything to be ashamed of.  Even if we can't talk about it with others, at least here, in the virtual, we can try to figure it out, and make the best of it.


  1. I have spent some time thinking on this myself over the years - and I have many answers that come to mind - but for sake of keeping my comment short enough to be a comment and not a blog of it's own (good questions by the way!), one of the things that I believe puts fears/anxieties into place, even with those of us obsessed with horses from our childhood through today, is that once you've gained experiences with horses, you've SEEN what they can do. You then realize that it's not always a Disney movie with a loving horse that wouldn't hurt a fly or you - - - - - Nope - in the real world, horses are strong animals and "stuff" happens. Real stuff that causes injuries/PAIN. Horses don't always magically DO what we ask of them. There's real WORK involved. Some horses will FIGHT what we're trying to teach them. And all of those memories are always swimming along in our heads along with the love and obsession for the animals. I guess what I'm saying is- once we've lost our innocence of the horse by spending lots of time around them, anxieties and fears can (rightfully) come along to live right next to our love of the animal. I personally try to "log those away" into a respect for the large equine, instead of fear/anxiety for the animals strength and natural fear responses. Then I do my utmost best to treat the horse with confidence and act like they would not do anything that could hurt me and yet wayyyy back in my mind - I choose to live with the fact that an accident could happen. But it's a choice I've made - - - because I love horses.
    I'm truly obsessed.
    *happy sigh*

  2. I have a fear of horses running away while I am on their back. This goes back to the horse I learned to ride on when I was a kid. He was a hard-mouthed runaway Morgan named Brandy. Foolish me, when I became an adult, I had the opportunity to own him, knowing his problems, and I jumped at it.

    I was young and naive. I tried to take him down trail within the first week. It went bad. I kept trying, and things got worse—culminating with the death+defying spin around, run into the street and down the yellow line of the road for about a quarter mile. No cars came, fortunately, but that was it. I gave up trail riding. I spent a year riding him in the arena, training, improving my skills, and then boredom drove me back to the trails. We worked through our problems and had a wonderful 2 summers of trail riding before he died.

    Ever since then, if I am in a runaway situation, I get terrified. So when my new horse, Cole, started bolting in the indoor arena last fall, it shook me to the bone. Most times, I was able to stop him in a stride or two, but it didn’t matter to my illogical brain. When I rode to the scary end of the arena, I froze and couldn’t breathe. I would just stop him until I was able to move, again. It took several months before I could comfortably trot him full laps around the arena—even though he seldom bolted after the first month or so. It was just a phase that he was going through.

    On trail, when he prances or tries to trot towards home, I get nervous. I just work that much harder to get him to stay at a walk on the way home. After all, that is when my first horse would be the worst. There is no way that I am going to allow Cole to form that habit. Someday, he will trot towards home when I ask him to, but never without me asking, first. I have zero tolerance for any behavior that could cause a runaway horse. (Horses don’t even have to gallop to be a runaway—my first horse could runaway at a trot.)

    Whenever I have had fear issues, and they sprout up every few years, I get control of them and then I ride with happy abandon, again. I just keep working through them. I don’t give up riding—I can’t. I love to ride so much that the thought of not riding is a bigger fear than my horse running away. Since I was so successful with my first horse, and the reward was so huge, it keeps me going forward with every other horse I have owned, since.

  3. I think you hit on the big thing there:

    "The thought of not riding is a bigger fear...." Most of us can add our own fear to the end, and it's oh so true.

  4. Laughing Orca RanchJuly 15, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    Another excellent, thought-provoking post. Well done.

    For me, until I had a few injuries caused by horses, most of them serious, hospital-bound injuries, I had almost zero fear of horses. But I think if I had just had a few simple falls with a couple bruises, I'd probably not have been affected by fear. It's the shock at how quickly everything can turn badly around horses that surprises most people. Like your Mother said, The Power of Horses. That same power is what infatuates us, too.

    And I think the part that causes us such anxiety after an injury or seeing someone else get injured, is that we tend to give our hearts to these huge, powerful creatures, and by giving them our legs and allowing them to carry us, we lose some of our own control, while we place our faith in them that they will take care of us and not try to kill us. But when they do end up hurting us, it's like a human relationship, in that we have lost that trust that we so depended on. We have to work that much harder in trying to trust again.

    It is very difficult to admit our fears and openly talk about them because it makes us feel vulnerable. Some people you talk to about your fears, either try to brush it off, maybe because they have their own fears and don't want to talk about it, or because they see you as weak. Just like in public school when the mean kids bullied and made fun of us, we don't want to go through that same experience, while at our our most vulnerable.

    But I have discovered that talking about it has been very cathartic for me and by burying my fears, and not dealing with them, I prevented myself from moving forward in my life.

    Thanks for sharing your own fears and allowing us your blog to talk openly about our own fears, too.


    ps I brushed my horse's tail for the first time a couple days ago. It was huge. I also picked out her front feet....not quite there with the back feet yet, even though I've watched the farrier do it and survive. lol!
    Tomorrow is the huge ACTHA Competitive Trail Ride, 83 horses/riders, and this is just my second time riding my horse since she kicked me in the face last summer. Breathe.....

  5. Alright! Now that is impressive about brushing her tail. I bet it felt really good to know you did that and lived through it! I'm so happy and proud, and impressed, and inspired by that! I'm just sitting here smiling!

    For me, I found that by admitting my fear, I starved it of all power. And THEN, I found that by making it an open thing around the barn, others felt safe to admit their own fears. After that, we all began to help each other over come our individual problems, and now fear is just another one of those things about horses that is less then perfect....kinda like horse dirt. =)

    Good luck on the ride! You're making huge strides, and should be very proud.

  6. We never owned horses. Dad said, tractors don't eat when they're not working. When other girls were playing with dolls, I was riding stick horses and barrels and making my own paper horses.

    I began with miniature horses and they helped me over come much of my fears...on the ground. I moved to big horses and I never get off the ground.

    I think it may be because every time I rode through out my life, it was a horse who was barn spoiled, jumped logs, laid down in water or reared...and I still loved horses...from the ground. I just don't trust what they may do while I am in the saddle. I truly believe if someone would stand there and stay, do this, now do that, I could build my confidence but there is no one.

    One of these days, I will climb aboard and ride with the wind and my dream since childhood will be complete.

  7. Great! I haven't saddled mine in a year.

  8. Another excellent post, my friend.

    Other than a toe, I have never broken a bone. Maybe I shouldn't have said that LOL! I am afraid of coming off and being hurt. After my rodeo incident with Poco, it was months and months before I could ride again and close to a year before my right hip worked right ... or maybe it still doesn't and now I am just used to it. I'm afraid of being laid up, not being able to work, which would mean not being able to afford my horse. Crazy, ain't it?

    I'm afraid to canter. I'm not afraid I'll fall off so much as I'm not confident about my ability to multi-task: ride, steer, etc. I guess that really means I'm afraid of not having control. That's why I have been stuck in trot for so long; because I want to make sure I'm not just (literally) flying by the seat of my pants. Working up to it in the RP might help that, because then I don't have steering to worry about. Although he doesn't need the contact Ash does, Jaz needs some -- I can't just "let go and let Jaz" in the arena. What do you think?

  9. Have you thought about taking lessons? I know that's what every one throws out there, but for me they really helped! I've taken lessons for years, and would gladly do so again if I could find a good instructor that I can trust. Of course, that's easier said then done.

  10. Not crazy at all! Getting hurt is what most of us fear, and not only for the pain, but for all the reasons you mentioned. I honestly can say that's a big part of my own issues.

    I'm going to work with you to "think" canter again, and make sure that the tension and anxiety aren't creeping into your body. And hey, if the round pen makes you feel more confident, then it's an easy thing to work with, right? Have to get the mind ready, before the body can accept it.

  11. I have discussed this wreck before , but it where the fear started for me , not because I fell off /got bucked off, but because the mare stepped on me , always before when it went west I made it clear of the horse , this time was so different , it made me somehow question all of my abilities and skills

  12. You raise a really good point about identifying the object of our fear. As I read your post and the comments, I have been trying to pinpoint the seed of my fear - and I think I found it. I think that I'm afraid of being out of control. It all can happen so quickly and the outcome is unknown. I'm the type of person who likes to know how things will unfold - and with horses, you can't always know that!
    The other interesting thing I've discovered is that my fear percolates and grows when I am not handling horses regularly. I guess my imagination builds the unknown up into some sort of monster, so I become afraid, even before I begin. I remember my heart pounding as I prepared to leave the house to go down and work with the horses last year, and they hadn't done a thing to cause this. Because of our house project I haven't been riding much at all. This week I noticed old man fear creeping up as I saddled the horse and prepared to ride. I have carved out time to do something with each horse each day, and the fear is subsiding.

  13. Thought some of you, might want to see an update on Cruz and some pictures and video. After I got him back from Heather, I had a trainer friend of mine put the 1st 2 rides on him, then I've been riding him since. He's done really good. He has NEVER offered to rear, buck or do anything other than try to figure out what we want. Do I ever have fear? Of course, we all do. The only answer to it is to get out there and do it anyway, work through it. My little horse has been timid on the ground, but his ground issues are going away the more that we ride him. I found this quite interesting, but my friend JP who put the 1st 2 rides on Cruz, says he finds it common, that riding "empowers" the horse. Cruz's ground work was solid, I spent months on it. He is lightest to the aids, and the most obedient horse I own. He is a great little guy. Rides out by himself, rides with others at any position, stands still for mounting and doesn't move unless I ask, rides very quiet and is super willing.
    I took him to an obstacle challenge when he had about 16 rides on him. Here is one of the obstacles: walk your horse between a scary scarecrow and some mini cattle. As you can see, he tries very hard for me.

    Over the flat bridge:
    Here here has some spooky moments, but in the end, he walked through calmly:

    The top two pictures were taken this morning out in the field. The 3rd one was part of his training, carrying scary pool toys around. The last picture at the bottom is my 1st ride on Cruz, his 3rd ride...and here is his 1st time under saddle with my friend J.P. up. It's a long video, about 20 minutes long. At the end of the 1st ride in the arena, JP took him to the trail where he had no problems with him. I was super proud of him.

    Rita C.

  14. I'm so happy that you followed my advice and got some additional training on him. Looks like it worked out well for both of you.

  15. After I got him back, I realized the mistake I made in bringing a green as grass colt home and sending him off after only a month at my place in the dead of winter to a different place. He is such a sensitive and reactive guy, he needed to settle in and gain trust. After I got him back from you in March, I spent 2 more months on the ground with him, teaching him more advanced maneuvers on the ground, like "shoulder in" and sidepassing, taking him on long walks in hand, exposing him to obstacles, etc. He did great, but still had his moments. After my friend JP put the 1st 2 rides on him and he was really good about it, I knew it was time for me to start riding him. I won't lie, that first ride I was scared to death inside, though I did not show it. I had to literally make myself get on him. I've seen how explosively reactive he can be. The strange thing is, he acted much braver and more careful under saddle than he did on the ground. I was pretty amazed. I've had other friends of mine tell me that they had similar experiences; that their horses have been better under saddle than on the ground, and that the saddle work actually built their confidence. He is getting to the point now where his skittishness on the ground is slowly going away.

    I didn't waste much time riding him in an arena setting, since trail riding is what I do. I got him out on the trail pretty quickly, and we also rode off solo very quickly. My 3rd time riding him, we went to Lake Lavon with Cliff and my experienced mare Frosty, and the 4th time was a solo ride through the fields.

    When we are with other horses, I find that he listens to me instead of reacting to them. This is the great part about him being so tuned into me and me spending so much time on his ground work. At the obstacle challenge, 2 people got bucked off their horses about 50 feet away from us. He stood quietly and did not react. Other horses can walk, trot or run by us and he will not break gait. On the trail, other horses can walk away while I'm mounting him, and he will stand still and wait for me to ask him to move off. I am pretty darned proud of him. He is a different horse. He is not gaiting yet but I hope as I continue to ride him and he continues to mature that he will. He just turned 4 in March.