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, April 27, 2012

When is "good enough" actually good enough?

I had a discussion with a friend today about my herd.  She got to meet many of the horses for the first time, and shared her views on them.  Now, later on, she apologized for being honest (really?  Seriously?  That's something to apologize for now?) because she actually acknowledged their flaws.

Some of this was in reference to the new kids, some in reference to other horses, but all in all, it turned out that no horse here on my property was perfect.  For me, this is what I call a "duh statement".  No horse is ever perfect.  If you look hard enough, you will find a flaw of some kind.  As a breeder, it's my job to know those flaws, and breed as few of them as possible.

Later on though (about 2am if you look at the time this is posted) it got me thinking about what is truly "good enough" when it comes to breeding.  For me, this is even more true.  There are no "ideal" examples of my breed to breed to.  "O" has his flaws, plus he's the sire of most of my SDHR horses.  Other draft breeds lack even more of the ideal (usually).  This is because there is nothing really like the Sugarbush Draft Horse out there.  We're gene locked right now, and working to fix that, but there isn't a "similar" breed of horse that happens to be a draft horse with angles and lines similar to a warmblood (small w, meaning most light breeds of horse).

I've talked about this before with conformation clinic posts.  Draft horses are usually designed to pull weight.  Because of that, they have specific traits to help them do their job with out causing damage to their bodies.  Things like a straight shoulder (allows the horse to lean into the weight) a longer back (allows the horse to get its hind legs under for more push) turn out on the hinds (prevents the horse from striking its own front feet) and short necks (which help with leverage, and keeping the center of balance on the shoulders).  All of these are BAD traits for a Sugarbush Draft Horse. 

So, we the breeders are left looking at mutts and mixes, contemplating crossing back to light horses and draft crosses, and trying to find the lesser of the evils to improve the breed.  Oh sure, some times we find a rare gem.  For me, that is "Red" (aka BLC Jokers White Russian) the American Cream Draft colt I have high hopes for (pictured above).  Is he perfect?  Nope!

His neck is totally average (which is long for a draft horse).  His back is totally normal (which is short for a draft horse).  He has very little turn out in the hinds (which is bad for asking him to haul excessive weight in a harness).  Well, you get the idea.  But for me, he'll improve my girls, and bring more refinement, heavier bone, and a great personality into the mix.  In other words, he's just an amazing young colt, for what I want.  Now, if I was looking for the next cutting horse champion, well, he wouldn't be so great.

But then I look at my girls.  Lets take Sweetie as an example.  She's a bit long in the back, and her hip isn't as well muscled as I would like.  Her legs are lovely, straight, and well boned, but her head is "plain" and even slightly roman nosed.  I wish her neck was longer, but it's right in the middle of "average" and she's a bit sickle hocked.

Oh, but we could talk about her color.   She's carrying LP (she's actually a snowcap, so homozygous) and she's a chestnut.  So, ok, she has a boring base color, but can pass on spots... is that a good enough reason to breed her?

Or we could talk about her gaits.  She has lift and suspension.  She carries herself evenly balanced, and has power from the hinds.  She's a bit lazy, but when asked gives what is requested with out balking or fussing.  All in all her movement is "nice" but not "amazing".  Is that good enough to breed her?

If there were a zillion horses in my breed, I would likely say no, but there aren't.  So instead, my goal is to improve upon her.  I hope to see a baby form her that has all of her good traits, and all of the sire's best traits.   I hope to see a horse even closer to the ideal Sugarbush Draft Horse.

It all comes down to why are we breeding.  When you can't find a horse out there that is what you need, I think the standard of 'good enough' changes.  It's not like I'm breeding Paints and can't find an APHA approved stallion, so can then go look through AQHA's stud book.  Sure, I can look at other breeds, but I have 2 options:

1.  Breed back in the typical "draft" traits that we've been working for decades to remove.
2. Breed to a lighter boned horse, and lose some of the "draftiness" of the breed that makes it what it is.

Neither is a good answer.

Every day I do this, I am so thankful that I chose to get that education in genetics.  It's only a BSc. but it's still more then trying to muddle through the mysteries of DNA blindfolded.  I can't even imagine how breeders in the past managed to do it.  Just think of the people trying to start the American Creams back in the early 1900s!  They were doing it all by "feel".  No special notes or spread sheets or reference links to check themselves with.

All in all, you have to think, it's pretty amazing what we've managed to do with horses that were "good enough".

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Future is Bright

Wow, how things are changing.  Last year I bred my mares to 'O' hoping for some new blood to help me bring my herd closer to the ideal for breeding Sugarbush Draft Horses.  This spring, I got my wish...times three.

Linus is a dream come true.  While he's "only" a Stonewall Sport Horse, he's unrelated to most of my solid mares, has excellent conformation (so far, he IS only 2 weeks old) and a kind personality.  If he stays like this, he will bring back both substance, lineage, and color into the Sugarbush Drafts, with out forcing me to breed to O year after year.  Each generation I move away from O, is a generation heading toward the future.  Not to mention the leopard pattern that was lost to the breed a generation ago, and he's homozygous for LP.  His sweet nature will be a perfect cross to my hotter bred mares, bringing back the willingness that the Sugarbush have shocked me with time and time again.

Raven shocked me though.  I never expected a snowcap from that cross, let alone a filly.  And those were my thoughts before she even stood up.  Once I saw her in all her glory, I was shocked.  She is a true treasure for me, being everything I had been working toward - the presence, the talent, the athleticism - from Everett's lines, and perfectly matched to the lines I had been creating.  While crossing her to Red in the future will lose the black that is always so popular, it will gain so much more.  I have day dreams of little bay spotted babies running at her heels in the future.  She has presence, something that Sweetie and Katy hide well (they gain it under saddle though) and something I think the breed should be known for in it's girls as well as the boys.

And of course, Oubliette.  With the first 2 babies being so much more then I could have hoped for, I expected to get a solid colt.  What I had hoped for was a solid black filly.  Imagine my shock when I realized Jinx had yet again given me a girl!  And then, she's so much more then I had even dared to hope for.  Jinx has flaws.  Flaws that I had chosen O to breed away from, and yet "O" has flaws as well (all horses do).  I never expected to correct every problem I saw in a single cross from them.  And yet, Oubliette is exactly that.  Oubliette is a Sugarbush Draft Horse, and all that I had ever hoped to have in one!

So now, I have been sitting at my desk, looking at my spread sheets.  It appears I have done it.  I am where I had dreamed of being, and ahead of where I thought I'd be by now.  I have a wonderful breeding herd - I'm not finished yet, but it'll take me another couple of generations before I reach the next mile stone.  I am already making plans to geld my older Appaloosa stallions (over time of course, since the babies are still, well, babies) and reduce the number of horses I had been working with.  I have 10 "brood mares" (if you can call these young girls mares yet) and will be down to 4 stallions next year, and 3 the year after (if you can count Red and Linus as "stallions").

I have another lovely acquisition that I'm excited to announce soon (just as soon as the deal is finished, since I really don't want to jinx it) and plans for my riding horses.  For years, I have been working toward a goal, and now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  All because of the birth of these 3 babies.

It's a hard thing to explain to non-horse people, and not even all horse people "get" it.  But, for years now, I have been in awe of the Sugarbush Drafts.  They are everything I ever wanted in a horse, and some things I didn't even know I wanted, all in a lovely package.  So few of us are breeding them, and the market isn't exactly flooded with buyers, so we can't just breed masses of them, and hope to "rake in the dough" from a fad.  Instead, we breeders (all what, 4 of us?) need to remember that we are charged with keeping the breed as true to form as possible, while improving on the ideal. 

For me, I think I can do that easily now.  I watched Katy and Sweetie running in the pasture today, and was shocked at how fluid and graceful they look, while retaining the power of the draft horse.  They really are like nothing I have ever seen before.  I have been working with a large herd, hoping to steal a few genes from this mare, and a few others from that stallion, to bring them all into the breed.  Nothing "crazy" or new mind you, just reintroducing leopard, with out losing the conformation, or shortening the back and lengthening the neck, with out losing the overall look of the breed.

There is one "new" gene I will be adding to the breed, but I don't think it's going to alter much. Red has exactly the conformation a Sugarbush Draft Horse should have, but he carries 2 dilute genes, creme and Champagne.  These base coat colors have never been seen in the breed before.  Yet, color is only a personal preference, and all base colors are accepted, so I don't feel as if I am making too crazy of a change by using him.  He's completely unrelated, yet he has all of the traits we've wanted.  Finding him, and the chance to be a co-owner of him, has been very lucky for myself and the SDHR, I think.

Now I know I'm carrying on about color a lot here, but that's simply because I don't want to get distracted with the technicalities of conformation.  How rude would it be of me to mention flaws in horses I don't own, or shred the conformation of mares that I plan to sell soon.  No horse is perfect, but each generation I strive for conformation and temperament over all else.  So far, I have been lucky to get it.

For the next few years I am at a stalemate though.  My "breeding herd" is very young...too young to actually breed.  I have a few crosses that can produce quality Sugarbush Draft Horses, but most will be Stonewall Sport Horses.  While the SSHs are great, they aren't the end goal.  I hope that one day I can convince someone to purchase a few potential breeding horses and start up their own herd moving forward for their own lines of Sugarbush Draft Horses.  For now, I breed for myself, and only horses that I feel are a step to saving a nearly endangered breed.

And then in 5 or more years, I will be replacing all of my Stonewall Sport Horses with my second generation of Sugarbush Drafts.  My herd will shrink yet again, but that should be my last "overhaul" of the program.  After that, I should have my dream.  Sugarbush Drafts of the best quality, with the best bloodlines I can give them, producing babies from SDHR x SDHR breedings. 

Just imagine that for a moment.  A herd of Sugarbush Draft Horses.  In one place.

That's my dream.  That one day, owning a "few' of these horses will not be an exceptionally uncommon thing.  That one day, every one will know what they are, and respect them as a quality breed of horse.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll have a few that are showing well, and changing people's minds about both color and draft horses in competition.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Baby Pictures!

What can I say, I love taking pictures of my new babies.  Raven (black and white) is the super model, always wanting to post pretty, and get fawned over.  Linus (white) is the shy one, usually hiding behind his mother, or if he decides the group is small enough, coming right up into your face.  There's no middle ground with him.  And Oublie, (Black with blaze and socks) she's every one's best friend.  You can't go anywhere with out her.  Most of these pictures were taken either from a distance (for Oublie's) or with Oublie right next to me, trying to chew on some part of me.  Evidently she really thinks I need to be groomed.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

She has a name, and some teaser pics

I would like to introduce you to Oubliette d'Acier.  She is a full Sugarbush Draft Horse, out of a foundation dam, by the last stallion from Everett Smith's program (Jinx x Sugarbush Harley's Classic O).  She is a "solid" or shows no characteristics or LP traits of any kind, and will be black with white face and leg markings.   She will be a BIG girl, being 83% draft (multiple generations of selective breeding went into this girl) and with both parents standing 16.1 hands, we have a good idea how tall she will be.

I spent the day yesterday searching for a name for her.  I had some cute ideas suggested (Black Gold was one I loved, but was struggling for a barn name for it) when Jae reminded me that I wanted to use Oubliette.  Problem is, I made the "rule" that all foals would have metal based names this year.  The name has to have some reference to metal, as a tie in the Iron Ridge, our farm name.  I tossed up a question on Facebook, to see if any one had any ideas, and Flora Floen came back with Oubliette d'Acier - dungeon/prison of steel.

I thought it was cute.  Jae and I joked about what we'd call her for short (Oublie) and then I moved on to other suggestions.  I had been trying out names on her, and nothing was sticking.  Shortly after, we headed to the barn. 

I turned around, and there's Jae, climbing into the stall with her, and giggling like a school boy from her kisses.  She headed right up to him, and thought he was the best toy EVER.  I think Jae even blushed when I asked him if he was enamored of her.

All day long he had been sneaking in to see the little girl.  A pet here, a sniff there, and even a few comments.  Now, Jae loves the horses, but he tends to love ALL the horses, and not show favorites, so this was a bit out of character for him.  Sure, he'd played with the other babies earlier, but he didn't beam from ear to ear with them like he did Jinx's filly.

So later on, as I'm sitting at my computer looking at name suggestions, I asked him what he thought of a few.  About the 3rd name, he looks at me and says, "She already HAS a name!  She's Oublie!".

My jaw dropped a bit.

You see, Jae named his mare, Dee (Deadly Shadows, after one of his favourite games) but he hemmed and hawed about it a bit.  He named Max, an orphan foal we had, but only because I told him it was HIS turn (and I was stumped).  Max just popped in his head he said.  Besides those, he's never even made a comment about most of the names.  I'll ask his opinion, and he says "I dunno, what do YOU think?".  Grr.

So for Jae to be adamant about a name, well, that's cool!

Needless to say, I thought the name was cute too, and have no complaints about it, but Jae named her.  And seriously, you can't even SAY "Oublie" with out smiling a little.

As for what the name means, well, an Oubliette is a deep hole, used as a prison or dungeon, commonly found in medieval castles.  the d'Acier part is french for "of steel".  So since she's black like a deep hole, and needed a metal reference, the name is perfect.

Did I mention that it's French?  Jae's father is a French Canadian.  Hmm...

And today was her first day out.  Oublie is very advanced for her age, and seems to be almost as far along as her 2 week old siblings.  Her mother is a bit protective of her still, but has been great with people.  Oublie thinks ALL people are her personal toys, and is already addicted to the butt scritches.

I'm smitten.  I'm tickled.  I'm also a bit in shock that I got EXACTLY what I wanted from ALL THREE babies!  Can you say over the moon?

And yep, I'm headed back out to shoot some pictures of them all.  Expect pony spam soon.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jinx had her baby, any guesses about what gender?

Well, if you were like me, and said "it's GOT to be a boy this time" .... we were all WRONG!

It's a lovely, healthy, very well "cooked" baby girl.  She is black, with 2 high whites on her hind legs, a white sock on her left front, and a nice pretty wide blaze.  No, she doesn't have polka dots, and shows no traits for LP either.  She's a "solid".

Me, I'm THRILLED with her.  She seems to have all of the traits I wanted, and none of those I didn't.  She's also HUGE.  I can't wrap my fingers around her cannon bones, and she's more then waist high on me, and she hasn't even unfolded.

But, as you might have seen, I was starting to get really tired of foal watch.  Jinx was 11 days over due, and I've been ready to be up early and RIDING.  With that said, I wasn't willing to just pass out and take the risk of missing a problem, and waking up to a dead mare or foal.  So, I stayed up.

But earlier, I had this thought.  Maybe Jinxy needs to walk a bit.  That's supposed to help women in labor, right?  I'll turn her out in the paddock with the other 2 mares and foals.  They all get along, and there's so much grass and clover in there, even if she DOES foal, it will be a nice clean bed.  Keep in mind that I've never been able to catch Jinx foaling.  The first time, I had to pee.  I was in the HOUSE looking out a window, and some how she still knew when I looked away!  The second time, I needed a coffee.  Yeah, again, looking out a window.

So this time, I stopped staring.  I checked on her every 2 hours, from a remote location (I walked up the street side, and looked through the black house, or between the garage and the black house) then headed back inside if she didn't show any signs of labor.  My thinking being that since she's done it alone before, i just need to check for a problem.

So, a storm was expected to blow in tonight.  I spent the evening on the tractor, mowing the pasture, trying to knock down some weeds before it rained.  about 9:45pm, I quit (city ordinances and all).  When I headed back into the house, I stopped and checked Jinx over.  Her udder had shrunk to almost nothing.  I thought, well, she can only hold out 10 more days or so, right?  I actually had the conscious thought "it can't be tonight" and headed in.

I had dinner, I had a very nice long hot bath, I goofed off a bit, and then at midnight, I stuck my head out to look at the girls.  The storm wasn't expected for a few hours, so I thought "I'll just leave them out a bit longer".  At this time, Jinx was about half way down the paddock, under a street light, very visible, and eating grass very well.  No signs of anything out of the ordinary.  In fact, it was some what disheartening.

So, about 1am the thunder started.  I decided to check on the babies again, and see how Jinx was doing.  It wasn't expected to do more then sprinkly according to the weather channel, so I thought "if Jinx is still acting normal, I'll leave her out too".  They have a shelter.  The babies will be FINE.  Me and my trusty flashlight went wandering the paddock, counting noses.

I got 3/4 of the way down the paddock, and spotted a horse in the dark.  My poor little LED flashlight doesn't light up distances very well, but I could see white and dark... it's Dove and Raven.  Ok, looks like Raven is up and nursing, so she's fine.  Called to Dove, and she didn't come to me.  Now, THAT is weird!

As I'm headed to check Dove, Dream comes up on my other side.  How a leopard mare with a white foal can "sneak" in the dark is beyond me, but she's good at it.  Linus nibbled on my sleeve, and he and Dream looked perfectly happy.  I kept walking to Dove, and was looking for Jinx.

Then I realized what Dove was staring at was Jinx.  I pointed the flashlight in Jinx's direction, but only got some faint white markings lit up.  I pointed at Dove, and she and Raven seemed ok.  Raven was wanting to nurse again, but Dove was VERY interested in Jinx.  Back the light goes, between one horse and the other, while I'm walking and talking to them, getting closer each step.

About 100 feet away, the weak little flashlight picks up extra white below Jinx.  Wait... Jinx had too many legs!  I got closer, and kept seeing extra white socks under Jinx.  A few steps more, and the baby could be seen.  "It" was up and nursing, and Jinx was NOT her normal quiet and calm self.  She was on high alert.  I made sure to talk to her, put the flashlight on ME, so she could see it was a human, and kept a discrete distance until her body language changed.  At one point Dove took my approach to mean SHE could come closer too, and I got to dodge out of the way as Jinx stormed past me.

Now, keep in mind, getting run over by horses is one of the few fears I have no yet overcome.  I admit, my heart beat faster, but I also realized that Jinx, while protective, did NOT charge ME.  She actually went AROUND me.

As I caught my breath, I saw Jae walk out the back door of the house.  I yelled at him, "We have an extra horse!" and he walks right back inside.  I knew he had heard me, and also knew he was putting up the dog he had been about to let out, and coming to assist.  Jae's good like that.

I stood there talking to Jinx, and keeping Dove away while Jae made his way to us.  I tried to see the baby, but Jinx turning kept the baby turning.  I thought I saw 'dangly bits' and since I had assumed it would be a colt, I began using the pronoun "he".  Jinx let me pet her, but it was very obvious that she would prefer I didn't play with the baby yet.  Since she was trying to be good, I didn't push the issue.  I croned at her, and petted her head and neck, and waited for Jae.

Just as he got close, Jinx realized her OTHER person was there, and started marching.  She headed off in the direction of the barn.  By this time, the storm was coming in.  Thunder was close, and a few drops were falling.  We followed her most of the way, and Jae jogged ahead to open the gate for her Majesty.  My job was keeping Dove and Dream (and the other kids) from getting too close and getting stomped.  All was well until we hit the alley.  Jinx had to stop and show Nazar her newest foal, and Dove wanted to see too.  A bit of arm waving, some jumping, and a bucket of grain being shook, and she was back in motion.

Jinx is kinda spoiled.  She knows which stall is hers, and she headed RIGHT there.  When she realized we'd locked the other horses away, her stress went down, and my good girl started to show again.  The baby got "stuck" going around the outside of the barn, and lost momma for a second, and Jinx just turned to look at me like "well? Aren't you going to do YOUR job?".

Yeah, I escorted her foal up to her hip, and we made it into the stall.  With the lights on, and baby in hand, I took the opportunity to check the kid over.  That "colt" wasn't a colt at all.  With her tail flapping in my face, she was very obviously a filly.  I even double checked to be sure.  Three girls in a ROW?  YAY!

Both mare and foal looked perfect.  Umbilical cord broke just right (and was the dangly bit I had seen earlier), Jinx looked perfect in the back end, and the filly was obviously up and moving well.  After a few minutes, Jinx flicked her ears back, and moved gently between me and the foal, and I knew my time was up.  The little girl showed me that she's got nursing down (front leg, ribs... ah, that's the spot!) and Jinx was being as good of a mother as always.

Jae did his thing... he fed her.  The mares ALWAYS get an extra feeding after they foal.  I got her ample hay, we added an extra water bucket... and the rain hit.  The skies opened up, and dumped.  A quick dart through the storm, and I had enough time to announce the birth on facebook, crab my camera, wake my mother (because she would kill me if I didn't) and get a few (bad) pictures.

For me, this means I get to sleep in tomorrow (today)!  After that, I'm back to a "normal" time schedule, and I get to enjoy the spring days.  I now have 3 AMAZING babies, and I couldn't be happier with them.  I can't believe it's a GIRL!  I wanted a girl SO badly, but didn't think it would happen.  I could squeal I'm so happy.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Foal Wait is BORING!

So, I've wanted to blog, I've had the urge to sit down and write.  The only problem is, there is nothing in my life that is interesting right now.  Evidently Jinx missed the memo saying that all foals would be born by now.  She's now 11 days over her personal due date (so 354 days of gestation for those following along at home).

And me?  Yeah, I stay up all night with her.  You see, my barn has metal siding on half of it (we're slowly replacing it, it's not the GOOD metal type siding).  My barn has very big metal pipes through all of it.  My barn is a wireless nightmare.  This means that I can't use a wireless mare cam to check on her.  The signal is fuzzy at best.  Also "my" house is a cute adorable 100 year old farm house that we are renovating.  Unfortunately, renovation costs money, and I'm in the horse business.  Yeah, it's been put on hold until horses start selling again.  But what all that means, is that I am awake until dawn, because I have to actually go and check on her.  (I sneak into the renno house and look through the windows usually, to prevent disturbing her).

So here's how my days go lately.  Wake up at noon, have coffee, then proceed to have MORE coffee.  Realize how late in the day it is, and rush outside to frantically try to get some horsey stuff done.  Run out of daylight - be shocked by that - then clean stalls.  When finished, it's really dark, so put horses up for the night and feed.  Head inside, start paper work.  Fiddle with websites, break something technical, and fiddle some more.  Check facebook through the evening while I do this, and sometimes get sucked into conversations with friends (oops!).  Around midnight realize that I need laundry done, and that I should eat, so cook and clean a bit (usually Jae cooks, I clean).  Have some withdrawal from riding, and make plans for what to do when I wake up.  Near 2am, start playing games (currently my game of choice is Star Wars: The Old Republic). Wait for dawn, head out, feed horses, and turn over watch duties to my father.

Through this time, I'm checking on Jinx every 2 hours (looking at her usually, just to make sure she's not looking in labor).

See... BORING!

The upside is that I'm catching up with paper work stuff.  The downside is that I'm getting behind on saddle time and haven't even started getting good pictures and videos of the sales horses.

I'm so ready to meet this baby!  I'm SO ready to be riding and training again.  My butt is getting some serious spread on it from all the coffee and sitting on it.  Can't be much longer though, right?  10 days at most?  Please?  Pretty please?  With Sugar on top?

Can I have a nap now?

Friday, April 13, 2012

C'mon Jinx, I'm tired of waiting!

Doesn't she know the rules?  She's supposed to have that baby when it's convenient for me! 

She's a few days over her "due" date now.  I say "due" date, because (for those who don't know) a horse's gestation is from 320 days to around 370 days.  342 days is the average, and Jinx has always foaled on day 343 before, but this doesn't exactly make the foal "over due"... unless you're as excited to meet it as I am.

I was just reading a comment from long ago, about someone correcting me in saying that she has no more chance of having a colt then a filly this time.  Well, that's kinda true, and kinda not.  See, there's a 50% chance that this foal will be a boy, and a 50% chance that it could be a filly.  BUT, with that said, the odds of having 3 girls in a row is signficantly less then that of her finally having a boy.

Let me dork out for a second (because I'm a bit short on sleep, and not enough coffee).  See, if we think of this like the odds of flipping a coin, it makes more sense.  Sure, there's a heads, and a tails side.  That means that in theory there's a 50% chance of the coin landing on a specified side, right?  But, there's only a 25% chance of it landing on the same side twice in a row (.5 x .5 = .25 = 25%).  But, that is what she's done so far... 2 girls in a row is only a 25% chance of happening.  Not bad, but not great.

So, for this baby to be yet another girl, would be 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5 = 0.125, or 12.5% chance.  Now, a 12.5% chance is dramatically less then a 50% chance, right?  It's not that her uterus says "oh no, we can't allow any of those GIRL genes in here!" or anything.  It's just that over time, a run of odds tends to even out.

But, let me dork out even MORE on you!  It's not just the stallion that determines the gender. What?  You think I've lost my mind?  I haven't... not yet.  Let me explain:

A mare's overall pH is affected by her diet.  If you've ever heard people talking about giving apple cider vinegar to increase the chances of a filly, well, they have some science behind them.  You see a higher pH, or more acidic body conditions makes the vaginal and uterine environment less hospitable to Y chromosome semen.  A lower or more alkaline body is more favorable to those y chromosomes. 

See, the sperm is made up of amino acids formed into proteins.  These proteins can "denature" or change shape if the environment isn't ideal.  Think of cooking an egg.  When you add heat the 'clear' part turns white.  That is because the protein is altered because of the heat.  When this happens to a sperm, most often, it loses mobility.  In some cases it loses it's casing, or other changes that make it unable to fertilize the egg.  The sperm is made up of half a strand of DNA, and DNA is just a really fancy protein molecule.

So, why do I mention this?  Because last year, we had a drought.  The mares were bred just after the grasses started to wilt a bit.  This means that the protein and sugar contents in the grass were lower, and hence lowered the pH levels of the mare, making her body conditions more alkaline.  This increases my chances of getting boys. 

Does that mean I'm guaranteed to have a colt?  Nope!  I could stack all the scientific odds in my favor, and still never get a 100% chance of either gender.  It just doesn't work like that.  But, you have to admire the beauty of the system a bit.  It's made in such a way so that in less bountiful times, boys (who spread their genetics easier) are more prolific, and in time when the environment is most favorable, the mothers produce those precious baby girls, who spread their genetics slower.  I think it's amazing how it works... brilliance from a non sentient system!

So, ironically, I have some adorable names picked out for the baby if it's a girl.  I'm still stuck on boy names though.  Odds say it'll be a boy, and I'm baffled on what to call him.

As to what I WANT it to be?  Happy, healthy, with 4 legs, and a sweet personality.  And here.... now.  I'm tired of waiting!

But... there's rain in the forecast.  C'mon Jinx, you can do it!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What are your goals?

As I sit here drinking too much coffee, and peeking out the window too much, waiting for Jinx to finally decide that she'll let me meet the next baby, I started thinking.  When it comes to horses we all have goals.  We might not know that we do at first, though, yet when a friend asks if you want to do something, your either do, or do not.

Goals don't have to be big things.  While some one out there might want to win the Olympics, someone else might just want to pick their horse's hind feet with out a panic attack.  Both are goals, and both are worthy.

But I've always felt that knowing what your goals are is a very important step in progressing.  For me, I wanted to be a jumper - until I didn't.  Now, I just want to be a good horseman, with confidence to train my young horses, and the drive to bring my breed back.  I don't care about shows or big awards, except for how they affect my horses.  I gave up wanting to be a great jumper about the time I hit 30.  Oh, I still want to ride over fences, but I'm more worried about safety - for me and my horse - then glory.  Now my mother doesn't know what she wants to do.  She just knows that she loves her horses; up until I ask her if she wants to try something, that is.

So this got me thinking.  Most people who read my blog are "normal" horse people.  Few of us are big name trainers, and even fewer of us are getting rich from horses!  We're just horse people from all walks of life, who have a passion for these amazing critters.  So, what do YOU want to achieve with your horses?

Short term goals, long term goals, it doesn't really matter.  I'm just curious about how "normal" I am as compared to everyone else.  I want to achieve specific things, but overall, I want to enjoy my horses in a way that is good.  I want to have soft hands and a good seat.  I want to have an intuitive feel for the horse.  I want to ride into the sunset with out fear.  Those are my goals.  They don't translate well into words, but if I muddle through enough sentences, I think you can get the basic idea.  I want to ride well, English with a bit of everything else, and I want to experience it all, and have fun doing it.  And I want to do it well.  Not perfectly, just well.

My dreams are different then my goals.  I dream of one day being able to jump a 6 foot fence (it's on my bucket list... I'll wait until I have a terminal illness though, thank you very much!).  I dream of moving up the levels of dressage, on a home bred horse.  Those are my dreams, and they might not happen.... and I'm perfectly ok with that.

But my goals are what I work for everyday, for myself.  I set other goals for my horses (No Linus, you won't learn to buck when I pet you, No Oops, you can not invade my personal space just because I petted you, NO Rico, my hair is NOT hay!) but they all end up working together in the end.  I never wanted to be some fantasy horseman (Alec from the Black Stallion as an example) who has an affinity for horses that defies the odds.  Rather, I wanted to be the wrinkled smiling lady who is still riding at 101 (what's her name, sadly she passed away now).  I want to be the horseman who knows everything there is, and smiles with pride at the next generation, dropping a kind word here and a kick in the pants there.

I want to be good to my horses, and know the right answers - or where to find them.  I want to sit on a horse like I was born there.  I want to be smart enough to enjoy the moments of perfection when it happens.  I think I can achieve all of those things.  I'd like to think that I'm pretty darned close on a few.

And hey, if I happen to score well in a dressage test, even better!  If not, I sure want to have fun trying.

So, how about you?  What do YOU work to accomplish?  What do you dream of doing one day?  Are your goals and your dreams the same thing? 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I had a camera, a nice day, and lots of horses!

It was a nice day out, so I grabbed my camera and headed outside.  I'd been asked for a few current pictures of the ponies, so it sounded like a great idea.  First, I found Soli, enjoying the grass next to the pond.
And of course she followed me, since there might be scratches involved.
Maggie Mae though, was not as thrilled.
Tori thought it was a good excuse to show off.
Red knows that when he sees a human, there's scritches and cookies (or hand held grass) for him.
Maybe that person over there has more!
The girls were staring at the new babies, and Katy wanted to sniff one.
Sweetie though, just wanted more clover.
And here's Moon, the horse that was so thin last fall when we took her in.
Sweetie migrated a bit in her quest for the best grass.
And Soli, Tori, and Melody of course wanted to see if Sweetie was on to something.
The rest of the herd was up at the watering hole.
Or sucking up to my mom for that hand held grass.  You know it's better if a person is holding it.
And of course the babies!  Raven is always ready to have her picture taken.
Linus is a bit more shy.
But his momma finally let the younger girls meet him, but not too close.
And then he had to pass out.  Too much excitement!
But Raven was still going.
Until she wasn't.
It's a good day to be a horse.