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.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fall is here.... for a week at least.

Something happened in Texas recently.  It's cool out.  Highs in the 80s this week!  Let me say that again, EIGHTIES!  You know, like cooler then the 90s.

Well, lets just say that has lead to a flurry of activity.  Between the holiday weekend, the horses to work, and the wonderful weather, it's been pretty much non stop at the farm from 9am until pretty close to sundown.  I am NOT complaining.  In fact, I'm LOVING this!

So, yesterday we had Pony Party number 1.  Jae even said he was going to ride!  Yep, that's me on Boo, and Jae on Doodles.  My better half can actually put a leg on either side of the horse, and I now have photo evidence.

I've been working to get Doodles up and back into shape recently.  Doodles has ulcers, and pretty severe ulcers at that.  He has to get a supplement daily, and ideally a dose of ulcer guard monthly as well.  If not, BAD things happen.  Well, like Doodles wasting away to nothing as he suffers the pain of ulcers.  So I fight this on a pretty regular basis, and I keep thinking I'm just going to sell Doodles into a good home where he can get the attention he needs and his environment doesn't change.  You see, changing his herd is what makes his ulcers flare up.  We're a full time working horse farm.... herd changes are the norm.  BUT, I think I have him under control.  Well, for this week at least.

And I've been practicing the whole western riding thing, and teaching Doodles to neck rein.  He's trained through 1st level dressage, and we just started second level when his ulcers made us stop.  Doodles will never show because of those ulcers, but he LOVES being a lesson horse.  But, in order to assure him the best home ever, I decided that being a good western trail pony is something he also needs to know.  Now, he's an amazing little trail horse.  Sure footed, calm, mild mannered, goes out alone or in groups, but he's usually ridden English.  Well, as you can see, I'm now showing him that he can do it all in a different saddle and bridle.  He's trucking along, and he gets the concept, but it's not a habit yet.  I will say that I can make it LOOK like he neck reins, because he rides so nicely off my seat, but I'd like him to be able to carry a first time rider and neck rein.... that means nothing but neck.

Lets see, what else has been going on lately.  Chris is teaching Poko how to tolerate a less then perfect rider, and not to blow up.  Poko isn't sure about it, but he tries hard.  Of course, the day after, I have to take Poko out and remind him how to be a good lesson horse (which he has not mastered yet), but between the 2, I think we're dulling him up enough that he'll learn to take a joke and carry an intermediate rider soon.  He's great with self confident riders, but I'd like him to age into total novice riders.  Not sure it will ever happen though.   Either way, he's still a wonderful little horse, and I wish I had 3 more just like him.

On the upside, all of this work has turned that little draft cross into a tank of sheer muscle.  I don't think Poko has an ounce of fat on his body!  But to keep things "normal" (as in "life at the farm" type of normal) after his ride yesterday, he's chipped a hoof.  As I turned him out, he turned to run off, and stepped on a rock JUST right, to take one hell of a hunk out of his hoof.  It's just so dry out here that every one is chipping up, and a rock was not what he needed.  He's not lame, but it's a HUGE chunk missing. 

And Rachel has been here a couple of days this weekend.  She rode Ash yesterday, and Ash is just not quite right.  Something is aching for her, and I think it's her left front elbow.  That grey cancer is putting lumps and bumps all over her, and it's just something I have to deal with.  Now, Ash is 21, so I've been expecting to retire her soon, but I don't really want to.  I'll have to see how that turns out.  Not making any permanent decisions (since Ash will die with me, I can always saddle her up if she's able).

And Sorry Rachel, this is about the only picture I got that isn't from behind! 

But Rachel also came up today, and did a lesson with Poko on his neck reining.  She's been my western guru, and has shown me how to teach the horses to neck rein.  It's easy!  Just takes some repetition.  She tuned in Pokes, and helped with a couple of other horses, and hung out in this AMAZING weather.

Now, you might remember Cayenne, my little Orphan quarter horse that's all grown up?  Well, she's the one I traded a while back for a draft, and was returned because she was lame.  And YES she was lame in a serious way.  So, Cayenne has been getting treatment and care, and love, and all that stuff.  About 2 weeks ago, Cayenne got her first set of shoes, size 000!  They are the cutest little things I have ever seen!  Keep in mind that most of my horses are size 3 and up, but Cayenne is full grown at a true 14.0 hands - and not a smidge more.

Anyway, my little pony here is doing so good in her shoes.  She's moving out better, she's carrying herself, which allows her to remuscle her hip, and that's letting all the healing finish up.  My farrier told me 2 weeks after her shoes I was allowed to ride her, if and only if she could carry me (and all the other pros signed off).  And today I climbed back on.  First I lunged her out for 10 minutes or so, and she moved out like she felt good.  When I climbed on she was lazy, and a bit tense, but that's all.  I think it's been about 4 months since she was last ridden (when did I do that trade?  I rode her the day before) and she's a little rougher around the edges then she previously was.  She isn't neck reining so good, and she's slow on the seat and leg aids, but all in all she is calm and well natured, and tried hard.  We rode for a whopping 10 minutes or so before she got tired of carrying me.  She's just a tiny thing after all.

And then Lady.  Here's the girl out playing in the arena burning off a bit of excess energy.  It's been insanely windy the past 2 days, which of course has some of the horses a bit hyped up.  Lady of course thought that energy should best be used to show off!  We all sat around and watched her roll and play, and basically look lovely.

I can't really say that she's coming along well in her training, as she's not really at the point of getting training yet.  It's really more exercise riding, and refitting her muscles to be able to hold her.  She's kinda pudgy, and a bit soft, but she tries so hard.  I will say that this horse learns faster then most any other horse I have worked with, so that also makes it hard for me to know what I'm teaching her, and what she already knows.  I ask for something, she might try and fail once, but then she nails it from then on.

She's now lunging at all 3 speeds, when asked, and reversing when asked.  Oh sure, she makes mistakes, and will try to reverse instead of change speed, or turn in for praise instead of reverse, but the first day I lunged her she ran in a circle like a... well... an Arabian!  (I can say that... I love my arabs!).

She's got her walk/trot work down pretty good, but she tires out quickly.  What I LOVE though, is that she's nicely on the bridle.  When she was here last, Lady had a habit of going behind the vertical, and trying to rolkur herself.  We fixed that up, and now she accepts contact, and moves off nicely.  The downside is that her soft muscles make it oh so easy for her to want ME to hold her up.  As she gets tired, she gets sloppy.  If I relax the contact at all, she hollows out.  Self carriage is something we want her to have, but she's going to need hours of trot work for that.

And this week will be canter work.  I admit, I wussed out today.  With wind gusts up to 30 mph, and sand blowing in my face, and Lady acting all hyped up and ready to go, I went with a lunge lesson on finding her center of balance.  I wanted to do this anyway, but my PLAN was to finish it with a ride, to tie it all in for her... Yeah.....I didn't even lunge her as long as I wanted to.  SOMEONE got TIRED! (ok, and I was getting a bit wind burned, and sand blasted by that point).   She was huffing and puffing, and sweaty... and it was only 83 degrees!

But the great news is that she found her center of balance at the canter!  At first, when I asked for the canter, she would pick it up, but fall onto her forehand HARD.  I mean nose in the dirt type of heavy in front.  I pushed, she lifted, and then it was like a light bulb went off.  Lady realized that it's EASIER to move the way I wanted... cadenced, and lifting her shoulders.  She slowed down, she began to move from the hind, and she did this consistently.   Again though, it's so hard to know what she has already been taught, and what is new, because it only takes once, and this horse has it down.

Tomorrow, I hope to put it all together for her.  I'm betting she won't make a whole hour of canter work, but maybe if we break it up with LOTS of walk inbetween, we can get there by the end of the week.  She's just a great horse to work with, and I really like this one.  And she's easy on the eyes too!

So yeah, that's my update.  I'm back to normal, things are all falling into place around here, and my craziness from the last week is going away.  Nita is doing well, and healing up nicely (and remembering more and more each day).  This high this week is supposed to be 90, which for me, means jackets in the morning, and long days in the saddle.  I'm thrilled.  I'm just so happy, and had the BEST day today.  Here's hoping tomorrow is just as good.


  1. I'll be up tomorrow and that will mean that I have actually ridden 4 out of my 6 days off. Woot!

  2. Had a great time hanging out.. And yeah, not the best picture of me.. LOL

  3. Laughing Orca RanchSeptember 5, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    Thanks for the update. I always enjoy reading about all the different horses. Doodles sounds like he'd fit in well here. Apache needs a pasture buddy and we don't like lots of changes either, and my hubby needs a reliable husband safe trail horse. Of course, poor Doodles would probably only get ridden a couple times a month, though. lol!
    I'm glad you're getting some cooler weather. I was up in Santa Fe over the weekend helping out with an AERC Endurance ride and it rained Saturday night and late into Sunday. The sun finally came out around dinnertime, when I finally drove back home. The entire weekend I was so cold! I had three layers on, plus a fleece jacket and a rain poncho. It never got above 60 degrees! Today it's been in the 70's with sunny skies. I'm missing summer. But it sure is nice to have the cooler weather.


  4. Laughing Orca RanchSeptember 5, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    Oh! And I almost forgot! I meant to comment saying how buff Poco looks now! He looks like a Roman god! Hubba Hubba!


  5. Sorry, but it's better then the others where were nothing but butt! Mom was not good to you in the line of pictures she took. =) Leah only got one as well though, but I have a zillion of Chris and Poko.

  6. Heh, Doodles DOES sound like he'd fit in well! Not only that, but he can be pastured for a year, and picked back up with only minor "bad habits" in his riding.... you know, like being very slow. (He's always slow though). Just lemme know when you're ready to come get him LOL!

    But yeah, I too miss summer, but I expect to see it next week. We didn't get summer this year, just HELL. It went from cool and lovely to crazy hot.

  7. Yep, and I think the "trade off" from Leah to me was wonderful for both he and I. I have a horse I can play around with, who is good sized and middle aged (before I had young or old) and he's in a place where he can get the kind of work sessions he needs to keep him sane. If Poko doesn't work (mentally or physically) at least 3 days each week, he's a pill.

    Ironically, Leah's horse Jaz used to be one of mine. I never really could make Jaz happy. He dropped weight, paced his stall, was anxious.... but with Leah he's happy as can be. Strange how that ends up working out.... AND we both can still see our "old" horses! A perfect solution in my books.

    Now to see if I can get Leah to ride the Poko today... mwahahaha!