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, October 19, 2011

The difference a little rain makes

The drought has been hard on my pastures.  Yes, that's putting it mildly.  Basically, I have a bumper crop of dirt, and that's about it!

I took a few pictures the morning of the Iron Ridge Appreciation Party.  I can't remember what made me decide to take them, but that evening it rained.  Looking at the changes, it's simply shocking to me how much difference a little bit of rain has made!

So here's my pasture (Yeah, I'm sitting on the tractor when I took this).  You can see that there's absolutely nothing growing.

And this is the same area (although taken from the ground, and from further away) only 10 days later.  Do you see it?  The green tint to the ground?  At the time this picture was taken we'd had only ONE day of rain, probably about 2 inches total.  Within days we could see something popping up, and now it's actually looking like grasses and clovers!

If you look at the back of the building there, you can even see some "real" growth!  The horses of course are happy with having something to do with their free time, and I'm thrilled that the grass isn't completely dead.  I figured I would have to start over from scratch to get anything growing again.

How about another before and after:

These pictures were taken in the same general area, probably within a few feet of each other.  Granted, it appears that I lost a lot of topsoil when it rained (all the sand/rock was under the topsoil) but I'll take it.  I'm not even sure what that IS that's growing, but it's nice to see life.

I was getting pretty distressed about the condition of the property.  Normally, from March until about December, I have no need to hay or grain the "pasture" horses (i.e. everyone but the stallions).  The pastures are so lush that I worry more about founder then anything else.  But here's what my poor pastures looked like only a few weeks ago.

 Above is the main horse pasture, or what I call the "big pasture".  That hint of yellow/green stuff out there is the dreaded bitter sneeze weed.  The horses won't touch it, and I've been trying to kill it since we moved here.  It was a hard decision, but we chose to leave it alone this year because it was the only thing holding the ground together.
 And here is more of the "house pen".  This is the area that I am planning to cross off for the stallions.  About 2 acres of super lush ground, that usually supports 4 horses with no problems.  All of my natural irrigation makes this area bad for easy keepers.  It tends to be covered in clovers and rich grasses.
And that area of green is what should be my pond.  That's some form of weed growing in there, and I have no idea what it is.  Where the green is, should be water....not plants!

As a comparison, here are pictures taken in years past of those same areas:

 This is the pond, as viewed from the side.  Lots of green growing around it, filled with water, and looking like a lovely place to hang out.  Unlike the dirt and weed pit above.
This is the house pen area before it was fenced off.  That picture was taken in the worst part of summer, and still the grass is green, lush and growing.  The horses love that area, and would gladly stand there and eat themselves to death if we let them (hence why we chose to fence it off!)

And that is the main pasture in a normal year.  Weeds, poo, and some over grazed spots, but nice and green.  This is how I expect to see my pastures.

It's been hard to look out at the land, and see the damage being done to it by lack of rain.  So while my hint of green might not seem like a lot, for me it is really worth celebrating!  Even better, we just had rain the other day (Monday night) and have more in the forecast for this weekend.  I don't think a single one of my pony party friends will be sad to get rained out, especially if it means grass will return!

We missed the winter grass planting season though.  I've been debating on whether to take a risk, and plant some winter rye, or wait until next spring.  If it grows, it will be so worth it, but we're a month late already, and who knows if the rains will continue.  Will the grasses get mature enough before the freezes hit this winter?

So how has the weather been in your area?  I know our drought has gotten a bit of attention, but the North East has been soaked all year, and I'm sure we're not the only area crying for rain.  Is any one else worried that this year's weather will ruin their whole property, or is it just me?

Either way, I still plan to celebrate the green I have.  It's all about the little things.


  1. I wish I could make all this rain that we are getting here in Ohio down to you guys. I'm so sick of wet, but after our drought last year we do need it. I pray for more rain for you guys soon.

  2. Laughing Orca RanchOctober 19, 2011 at 9:15 PM

    Last year ruined our pastures. We're used to drought here, but we count on a good monsoon season to happen around the beginning of July and continue until the 1st week of September. Last year we had a poor Monsoon season with only a few good rain storms for the entire 2 months that we receive rain each year. And we didn't get much snowfall during the previous winter either.
    This summer our monsoon season didn't arrive until late July-early August and didn't give us any deep soaking moisture until at the end of August. We did get some grass growth, but it was suffocated by a new weed that has taken over our pasture due to the previous year's drought: Purslane.
    While Purslane is a useful livestock feed, it's just not as nice as grass to have in a pasture: it's weedy looking and spreads across the ground fern-like.
    But we were grateful to have something for our horse, llamas and goats to chow on for a few weeks.
    And it was still raining during the second week of September, but by that time, the nights were getting cooler and the grass growth stopped and the Purslane started turning purple and then brown.
    Now that it's late October, the temps are down to 28F at night and 50-60F during the day, so, now everything is brown again, and we won't get anymore rain until next year July/August. And although we really need some good moisture this winter, I'm not looking forward to loads of snow.

    Your before and after photos offer a stark contrast. I'm glad that you're finally getting some moisture and I hope it continues until your pastures are thick and green again.