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, September 2, 2011

Fear Friday: Meeting Expectations

Do you ever feel like you have certain obligations to those around you?  When you're at the barn, you are expected to clean the aisle when you're finished grooming your horse, or when you're on the trail you're expected to move over when someone is headed toward you.  But it's not just these little courtesies that we heap up on ourselves.

I have found that I heap expectations on myself for others.  As an example, I always feel that I should be up and at the barn EARLY.  Now, I am not an early morning person - ANYthing but!  It's easier for me to be at the barn early by staying up all night, then it is for me to wake up before 8am.  My clients know that I'm not a morning person, and if I have to stay up late to get it done, it DOES get done.  No one expects to see me mounted and working at 6am.  That just wouldn't be fair to the horses (because I am GRUMPY in the morning).

And yet, I still feel this pressure to wake up earlier and earlier and be in the barn by the crack of literal dawn.  Now, for me to hit the barn at dawn, that means that I'd need to be up and dressed at least an hour before hand, and push 2 cups of coffee into my system.  Now, in summer I actually HAVE to be up early, or I will hurt my horses, and that's completely different then just my laziness.  Normally (in summers past) I simply work through the hot part of the day.  I work the wimpy heat hating horses early, and those who could care less in the middle of the day.  It all works out, and I don't have to see a sunrise.

But there are other expectations that I feel.  Most of these I put on myself, but I feel as if they come from outside.  As a horse professional, I have to be nice.  Constantly.  Ok, not necessarily nice, but at least cordial.  I get some crazy emails, and I have to respond to them in at least a professional manner.  Things like people who take the time to let me know that my breed of choice "isn't" a breed.  They let me know that these horses are "just" a cross between an Appaloosa and a Draft horse.  Uh, well.... they were, and we're having to infuse a bit of that again, but if THAT is your basis of a breed, then nothing created in North America counts then!  AQHA, APHA, ApHC, and American Cream Drafts all currently allow outcrossing, so they aren't a breed by that definition.  Rocky Mountain horses, Tennessee Walkers, and Missouri Fox trotters all were made from selective crosses.  North American Spotted Drafts have a similar history to the SDHR.... well, I think you get the point.  So why do they dislike the SDHR?  Even weirder, why do they bother to take the time to send me an email, trying to make me feel bad?  Totally mind boggling, but I have to respond in a kind and intellectual manner, it's expected of me.

But all of this actually does relate to my riding and my fears.  You see, these expectations are the same type of thing I feel in the saddle.  I feel like I have to take the bad horse when we're out trail riding, like I have to go first through a scary  place, or like I have to help deal with behavioral issues.  I "am" the horse professional amongst my friends after all!  Never mind that I could be scared to death to cross that ditch.  I have a better seat.  I'm younger.  I'm... what ever it is at the time.

I guess this kinda goes back to the ego thing.  My ego hurts so bad when I can't or just won't do it - what ever it is - that I make myself do it.  Oh sure, that's a good way to start progressing in dealing with your fears, but not really the healthiest way.  What's even worse, is that these fears aren't truly put on me by anyone else.  It's ME that does it.

I know it's me, but still I feel like it's others pushing me.  I've taken to the "deep breath" theory.  Take a big deep breath, and as you let it out, just blurt what it is that you don't want to say.  Whether that's "I'm not riding that horse" or "I'm terrified".  It works for me, and makes me able to admit to my fears.  And oddly, no one has had a problem with that yet.  Well, except me.

I do so want to be the best at what I do, yet I know that I never will be.  There's always some one younger, smarter, stronger, or what ever who will come and do it better.  I don't need to worry about that pressure.  Instead, I need to worry about being the most honest person I can be, and trying my hardest to be as good as I can.

I'm about to get back in to backing my babies myself.  I have expectations of what I should and can do, and it's driving me crazy to not just be able to DO it.  I feel the pressure to make more money (in this drought, it's not likely) from myself.  Not anyone else.  I feel expectations to sell horses, save horses, and know everything there is to know about training the babies.  I don't, but I want to.  And I know that all of this comes from inside me.  Now my question is, how to deal with it, and still be a good horse person.

Because in the end, if I let these self imposed expectations push me more then I can truly do or give, then I will merely end up as another short cut trainer caring more about the dollar then the horses.  That's the last thing I want!  I need to balance who I am, with what I feel I truly CAN do.  And learn to be happy with the the result.


  1. I'm the same way... I put such high expectations on myself.

  2. The good news is that fall is coming and it won't be triple digits by 10 am so we can go back to better hours. As far as being nice, well, I can't help you with that one. We all have to be nice at our jobs. Just the way it is, I'm afraid, regardless of how much you may want to throttle people.

    As far as your barn buddies, I hope if you have a problem with any of us that our relationship is such that you can speak up. After all, it's your barn. Abd that's what friends do.

  3. And I love that my barn buddies are the type that I can be honest with, and not worry about it!

    Being nice, being early, and all those things are just part of Real Life. You know, that thing that happens when you grow up and get responsible. But in truth, those expectations ARE self imposed, not a "rule" or "law" that we have to follow.

    The same is true with the expectations I put on myself for riding. Being first, being tough, being brave.... no one else puts that on me, nor expects it of me, but it sure FEELS as if it comes from outside.

    I think that some how my self imposed expectations are related to mastering the last of my riding issues, but I'm not exactly sure how yet.

  4. Laughing Orca RanchSeptember 5, 2011 at 7:08 PM

    We all place high expectations on ourselves I think. It's a serious job to maintain some kind of balance with reality, though. It's always never ending.

    Hang in there,

  5. I know this is an older post, but hopefully you will see it. Those expectations you place upon yourself is only the most important part of your psyche. It is courage. That meddling push to go first, the thought that makes you mount the hissy fit, whatever reigns in what you really think in an email... All courage. Fear is something I welcome, because it keeps us stay alive right? But courage let's us live.

    It does work two ways though. You need to have the courage to say no too. You need tou have the courage to slow down and think, to dismount and walk across the stream, to tell someone to mind their own business without beating around the bush.

    My trainer, whom I adore and is super talented, recently told me she wouldn't ride Ace anymore because she doesn't trust him. She will coach me through working on issues, but she feels he's only trustworthy with someone he trusts, and that is me. She assured me he would run off a cliff if I asked him to, but he's a known bone breaker, and he fights, and I'll find a way to ask him to cross water in a way he feels safe because I know and trust him. He'll just fight her, which means shes in a bad position and he's not learning. Shes not interested in building that type of relationship with him, because he already has one, and she doesnt think hes too open to another. Now, that took courage if you ask me! Just the same type that got my bone crusher crossing creeks, and that helped me feel how to ask him to try.

    You see I asked her for help because I was afraid to approach it wrong. Ace had been beaten across water from what little I know, and my trainer had witnessed Ace crunch a woman's pelvis, as well as other fights. Everyone in the situation was shit scared of Something. Do you think if she had just swallowed it and worked with him and he exploded and she had gotten hurt that any of us would have gotten very far? Nope. As it is, he wasn't hard for me to work with. It took some time, and he shook jjust standing in front of the water for a while and good golly I had to get my boots wet, but he crosses water now, albeit with a few snorting sound effects from time to time. And each time he does he puffs up just as proud as can be, as do I, as does my trainer because her courage and honesty got us there.

    Having the gift to work with animals is something ever changing. Horses are completely honest all the time so must we be. Even when it is hard. Even when it is scary. Even when we don't know what to do. We just cant take it personally. We need to have the courage to not expect them to fill in the gaps for us, and when we loose confidence, that is an easy thing to do. Any horse can be a confidence builder. You just have to have the courage to start small and be happy with tiny changes. Have the courage to admit what you contributed to, good or bad. Have the courage to wait. Have the courage to say no. Or no, thank you.

  6. Thanks Jessica. What you say makes total sense. So far (as of November 2011) I am now able to push myself into "normal" riding (walk, trot, canter, inside the arena, in controlled areas, and working with specific green horses that I know well). I have to say, I'm pretty darned proud of myself for getting this far back in less then a year!

    I have a client though, who has a horse that just freaks me out. I did something similar to what your trainer did. I told his owner I'll work with her for as long as she needs, but that I just can't ride him yet with out making matters worse for him AND me. She understands completely, and.... shock of shocks.... they are progressing better then they were when I was showing him what to do, and trying to get her to mimic me.

    This year has been a wonderful life lesson for me in so many ways. Granted, I'd rather that I didn't have to learn the hard way (or the painful one) but with out this experience, I would have much less ability to understand fear in riders. Now, I feel very secure in helping others to work through it - at their own pace.

    Kudos to you AND your trainer for working so well together, and taking Ace into a wonderful place with caring training.