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, September 14, 2011

She once was great, and will be again soon!

When I got into horses, I wasn't able to afford the super nice ones.  I learned how to find the diamonds in the rough and make something of them.  My very first horse was a back yard bred Arabian, and my second horse was a 9 year old brood mare who had never been broke to ride.

I learned how to start them, how to fix bad habits, and how to break problem behaviors simply because I couldn't afford anything but someone else's rejects.  I began helping friends with their horses, and because I worked at a vet clinic, I eventually began to take in "unwanted" horses, and make them into a wanted horse. 

So I can't say that my Second Chance program is a new thing.  Rather, it is older then my breeding program.  Second Chance horses are something I have always been passionate about.  There's no such thing as a bad horse, just a bad past.  While not all horses are able to overcome their pasts, so many could - if someone would be willing to give them a chance..... a Second Chance.  And so the name has stuck.

Most dog breeders do some amount of rescue within their breed.  With horses though, it seems that you should either breed OR rescue, but never both!  I have never understood that, and I refuse to play by those rules.  I will only breed when I think that the market can support it, and when I have time/money/room for those babies for the rest of their lives if I judged the market wrong.  Even then, I often find myself with more space and time then horses needing it.  When this happens, rather then breed more, I simply keep my eyes open for horses in need.

Some come to me, some I stumble upon, and others are pointed out to me by friends/family/clients.  That was the case this time.  As Jae and I were walking the pasture, making plans for the next step of our property improvement, my phone beeped.  I checked, and had a text from Rachel.  She knew that I was not looking to buy, since I am basically out of petty cash due to the recent hard month, but she wanted to know if I was still interested in horses needing homes.

Of course, I told her.  Then I get this link to a craigslist ad.  Paint mare, bred pretty decently, in need of a home.  The owner was ready to load her up to whom ever showed up.  We're in the middle of a drought, and there are rather a lot of free horses out there, and we're pretty close to Mexico.  Needless to say, it's a haven for the kill buyers.  Smile, say nice things, and make a lot of money selling meat.  This horse though, just grabbed me.  She was raced, and retired to brood it seemed.  Lovely mare, decent build, sound, and sweet.  Something about her just spoke to me.  And what ever that was, it was screaming at Rachel.

Come to find out, this mare is just down the street from me.  Less then 15 miles away.  I hooked up the truck and trailer, and headed out.  When I arrived, there were a few people, and they didn't seem overly interested in the horse.  No crying, no sad faces, just that look of "oh good, she's about to be gone".  Now, I don't mean that they are bad people, but this obviously was not a loved and treasured pet to them.

She was thin, but something about her screamed potential.  She's 14, and in the prime of her life, and on top of all that, she's a pretty color. (or will be)

I asked a few questions of the owners, got her papers and a signed transfer, and traded out halters.  When I walked her to the trailer, she snorted and blew like it was a monster, but walked in with out missing a step.  Her ground manners are excellent, and I just get this "please love me" feeling from her.

Got home, and snapped a few pictures of her for my records.  Moon, as we call her, should be a black and white tobiano, but currently she's kinda tan/poo brown and white.  She's thin, but her hooves were recently trimmed.  And she's covered in rain rot.

Yeah, in Texas, where we are in the middle of a horrible drought, she has rain rot.  And sun burn.  And did I mention that she's thin?  I'm also thinking she may very well be pregnant.

But besides those LITTLE problems, she's a complete angel!  She's a bit long in the body, but not as bad as the pictures make it seem.  We didn't really bother to stand her up all nice for a conformation shot or anything.  Mostly we just wanted to document all 4 sides.  So forgive my bad distracting backgrounds.

I also wanted to make sure that I have records of her improvement in weight.  My "concerned party" who lives next door, just loves to call Animal Control on me.  This mare is skinny.  She's not "I'm about to die" skinny, but I am not seeing anything extra on her at all.  Tomorrow we start the deworming process, then the sand clearing process, and the whole time we will be refeeding her and treating her rain rot.

And Moon thinks she's in Heaven.  The whole time I bathed her, she didn't know if she should be excited, freaking out, or melting in my arms.  She wavered between all 3.  She whinnied to the other horses, she woudl stand up and look all around, and then put her head in my arms for love and more of that scratching thing.  She isn't really a fan of treats, but she loves to be talked to sweetly.  And she has the best manners!

We trimmed her mane and tail up already.  Yeah, I will likely end up shaving off her mane (it's in bad shape, and I think starting over might give the best results) but I think horses just feel better when they are kept groomed.  Just like the perfect little black dress makes a woman feel pretty, a bit of pampering makes a horse feel loved, and Moon deserves to be VERY loved.

I know she's broke (the first picture up there shows her racing) but it's been a while since she's been ridden.  Once we get her back to weight, we need to get her back in shape, and then we will begin to retrain her.  I am betting it won't be hard to get saddle time on this girl!

Next week I will begin tracking down her APHA records.  I would love to see how many times she was raced (she earned a ROM) and how she placed.  I also want to see how many foals she has had, and when.  Who knows, maybe she has other show points back there some where, or an owner who is searching for her from the past.  I will check all of that, and see what there is to see.

Because she appears to have lost a lot of weight rather fast, I am treating her as if she has not had steady grain for a while, and putting her on a refeeding program.  I'm not sure that this is the case, but I do know that the other horses were bullying her.  She will get lots of small meals through out the day for a while, until we can "work her up" to only 3 meals a day.  In about a month, I will have her ultra sounded/palpated (vet's decision on which) and have her teeth checked.  Vaccines will be scheduled based on the state of pregnancy (or hopefully lack thereof).

Fixing up a horse is rarely a quick thing, but I find that it is always a rewarding thing.  She will be offered for sale into an approved home, and she will be trained up for our lesson program.  I'm not sure which will be her future, and who knows, it could be some part of both.  To me it doesn't matter.  This mare just screams greatness.  She may not be the next conformation champion, but she's a saint.  I can totally see this horse packing around an adult novice rider, and doing her best to protect her rider and keep her stable and safe.  I just envision Moon happily munching apples in a green yard with ribbons in her hair, and crazy color matched halter and polo wraps.  This is the type of personality Moon is showing me.

Who knows, with an extra hundred pounds, that could change, but I will bet money that the sweet kind look in her eye will stay.

I thought previously that I was going to be taking on an appaloosa stallion, but he was placed with a family (YAY) before he ever arrived.  Instead, I now have Moon.  Sometimes things are meant to be, and I simply adore this girl already!


  1. That's exciting. I sure hope she works for the lesson program. She could help fill the holes left when Keeley and Ash retire. Can't wait to meet her!

  2. "Most dog breeders do some amount of rescue within their breed. With horses though, it seems that you should either breed OR rescue, but never both! "

    You know I never thought about that - but how true. Being in the "dog" business I whole heartedly agree. I don't know one breeder who does not have an SPCA special including myself. I have 8 pure bred show/breeding Collies, and one 20 pound SPCA special. However, Libby came before the Collies.

    As you know the current plans for one of my horses, I doubt I will ever become a breeder beyond breeding for myself. I will NEVER breed for money, dogs or horses, and I have strict criteria that must be met before I even consider breeding either species.

    As for "Second Chance" horses - I applaud you! In a market like this, in the drought you are in, for taking another horse. For doing it sensibly. My Bonnie is a "Second Chance" horse. The gentleman I bought her from rescued her and her half brother. I guess they were pretty bad shape, as well as having been beat. I still see remnants of the physical abuse in some behaviors but being aware of them I try everything I can to ensure I avoid the triggers. She will live out the rest of her life with me, and for whatever reason that can't happen she goes right back to the gentleman I got her from.

  3. Thank you! I figure that since I'm set up to run 40 head financially and space wise, and I currently own 27 (with Moon), and have a total of 34 on property (client horses included) that I have some space left over. Of those horses, some are not my responsibility to train, some are too young, and others are already well broke, or working on retirement. So my "needs hands on full time" crowd is not that big.

    Add to that the number of people who love to help out! Jae and I work the horses full time. Rachel, Kris, Amy, Sarah... there are a lot of people willing to put some time and love into a horse that deserves it. So my reasons NOT to help a horse like Moon? I can't exactly think of any!

    Every one asks me if I plan to breed her. Uh, besides the fact that I'm pretty sure she's already bred (but not positive until the vet sees her) I can't see why I would want to breed her. She's a sweet wonderful horse, but her conformation isn't screaming "I need to improve my breed" to me. The simple answer is that she has the wrong spots. The true answer is a lot more complicated, but still a NO!

    I'm really hoping she does well in lessons, and I get the feeling she's more broke then I can prove. She reminds me of Keeley, my mother's first horse, and one of our best lesson horses, so I REALLY would like to see her under saddle and carrying some riders in the future. I bet she'll LOVE the attention she gets as a lesson horse!

    And if her perfect home comes along, then it's meant to be. If not, then she's got a home for life. Oh sure, I'll list her for sale, but that doesn't mean that I will let her go to just anyone!

  4. I like the looks of her. I'll be watching for updates

  5. I'm glad you're able to do this - she looks like a nice mare.

  6. Moon is a very lucky girl. She looks sweet.

  7. I wanna see her and Diesel in the pasture comparing notes.

  8. I told hubby that she and Diesel are probably swapping track stories in the barn. :)

  9. I'm really excited about Moon. :) What screamed at me? Not sure. Something just felt really right that she needed to join the program. Meeting her just cemented that feeling.

    Also, let's see..

    Registered Paint, needs good home.. LOVED her color (besides my baby's color-chestnut-a black and white, or tri-colored, tobiano has always been my dream color of horses.

    I'm already envisioning her riding tack as black with some bright accents and saddle blanket that matches the accent. Halters: BRIGHT and FUN.