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, August 24, 2011

Lady's BACK!

Don't know if y'all remember Lady.  She came for training last fall, and was just a wonderful horse to work with.  Her owner is the type we all wish for as clients - she loves her horse more then anything else.

Well, Lady's back for a couple of months more of learning how to be a dressage horse, as well as some trail work.  She arrived Saturday morning, and spent the day settling in.  That afternoon I turned her out with another horse, and they totally ignored each other.

Sunday though, I had the perfect answer.  Melody, owned by my friend Kris (well, really her niece, Rachel) had a small booboo that needs attention.  So Melody is up here while she has to be treated all day.  Melody and Lady... perfect match!  They get along great.  Their idea of "settling in" was a few pinned ear looks, and then to hang out together.  Just how it should be.

So, Sunday Lady got to do nothing but get used to the sights and sounds again.  Monday started her work.  Of course, she decided on Monday that she had left her brain at home!  All I did was some lunging off the halter, and walk around.  The whole point being to get her back in the mindset of things, and let her have a chance to get used to where she is, and what is expected of her. 

When we lunged, she set off at a gallop on the line.  If she wasn't galloping, she was trying to stand almost on top of me.  Not mean mind you, just "I don't know what to DO... PET ME!" type of a thing.  I reminded her that it's ok to move to the end of the line, and by the time she was hot and sweaty, I had a gallop, canter, and a trot.  Walking was NOT about to happen though.  She was excited, and distracted.  All in all it was a good first lesson though in my mind.  From start to finish, she made BIG progress.

So then Tuesday comes.  I totally planned to ride her that day, but it didn't happen.  Took her out to saddle her, and she reminded me about her standing to tack up issue.  Lady has NO patience.  Well.... that was most of our lesson.  And, I learned something.  She acts up to get negative attention as well as good attention. 

See, Lady paws.  She also decided to kick out in the back (not at me, but in frustration).  When I corrected her for it, she would stand for a second, and then start up again.  I decided she needed some patience time, and left her standing tied for a few minutes with me out of her sight (but she was in MY sight!  I walked into the barn).  After a few moments of her antics, she just gave up, and stood.  Oh sure, she still turned left and right, but it was no longer as frantic of a swinging around as we had started with.  So, when she stood, I praised her.  When she acted up, I walked away.  Her "punishment" was to be ignored.  Seems like that works REALLY well with her.

Then we (Amy was helping me yesterday) went to tack her up.  Oh for grooming she was a saint, but bring out a pad, and it all started again.  Welll....... "negative" reinforcement doesn't work for her (the arnnnk sound) and it's hard to ignore a half tacked horse with out asking for a wreck (visions of Lady tangled in her tack jumped into my head) so instead... she learned to sweat a bit.

When Lady would get so dancy that we could NOT keep working with her, we just pulled off the saddle, and lunged her.  Focus on transitions, and having her pay attention.  She worked hard, she was lathered by the time we were done (this happened a few times in a row) but she really got the idea.  Finished up after an hour and 15 minutes of putting on the pad, putting on the saddle, buckling the girth on the off side, Lady starts swinging around like she's lost her mind, strip it all off, I lunge while Amy takes the tack apart.  When Lunging, as soon as Lady would focus, and do as I asked, we praised her, brought her back and start again.  Finally, with Lady just covered in sweat, we tacked her up, and she STOOD.  Like, perfectly!

So, she got praise, she got a cookie, and we walked a lap of the barn yard, praised her, and loosed the girth.  Walked her back to the trailer, and tacked her down.  The look on Lady's face was PRICELESS.  I wish I had my phone with me (left it in the barn out of the sun) to get a picture.  She was confused.  All that work, just to get tacked up and then tacked down.  All she had to do was STAND?  And then it was DONE? 

After all that, we hosed the girl off, and she LOVED that.  She's black, so rather sun faded this summer (it's been very hot, all black horses are bleached right now) but I swear she turned more black from all the hosing off we did.  Lady sighed, and leaned into the rubbing, and decided that was pretty good. 

This morning Lady is a little bit achy from all the lunge work (I asked her to actually hold a frame) so this works out.  Today is my day off, and hers as well - and she needs a day to recover.  It was a pretty hard work out for a horse that's been out of shape, but the leaps in her behavior have been beyond expectations.  Her owner, Erika, told me that Lady had been out of work for a bit, and spoiled, and she's right, but Lady is coming back easily.  If she keeps up this pace of progression, by the end of the week we'll be back to where she was when she left, and starting on canter work.

I am kinda sad that I didn't get to ride her yesterday, as this is a NICE horse to ride, but Lady is the one that decides how fast we progress.  I'm hoping that she'll remember the concept of standing to be tacked up, and just fidget a little for it next time.  If not, then we may have to do a repeat of this.  The way she's going though, I have high hopes!

(All images are from her visit with me last time, sadly, I forgot to get pictures!)


  1. LOVED learning a new technique from you!! Great post!!

  2. Sounds like good work overall . Gotta work on the timetable that suits the horse tright/

  3. ahhh.....a NSH...I own(ed) 2. The one I just lost was a NSH. I have learned they love to paw, I swear they get that from their saddlebred side after being in a barn full of saddlebreds!!! When I was first training my NSH, the trainer that helped me put 1/2 blinders on her to keep her focused on the lunge and line driving. It really helped her, with that flighty arab attitude. We also used it when we first started working her for showing. (I already had her saddlebroke when he came and helped me). I love the arabs and NSH, wish I had a trainer up here like you to help me out with all my NSH's and arabs Keep up the good work.