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, 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.


  1. You should be happy and pround - you've accomplished so much already!

  2. Such accomplishments toward a goal.  Good going!  Keep living the dream!

  3. Wow that is exciting!   I know I love my Belgians, but not to ride and not to really cross cause they still end up drafty, so to know you have a perfect cross and its all coming towards your goal is amazing!