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.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It's a BOY.... and a GIRL!

So, I had mentioned that we've been on night shift to keep an eye on the mares.  Over the last few days, Dream has been grumpy.  There was nothing I could put my finger on, but my gut said that she would pop soon.

Dream was bred and raised by Sig before she came to me, so she has the best manners.  She really is a lady, and no matter how uncomfortable she is, she lets me do what I ask.  Well, the night of April 5th was no different then many others.  Around 10pm the mares got looked at.  They were in the paddock gulping down grass.  Dream was in her "holding pattern" that she's been in for a week.  Nice full udder, tail head is soft, but the baby was still so high and wide that she barely looked pregnant.  If I hadn't been feeling the baby move, and of course the full udder, I would have had problems believing she was pregnant.

Here's what she looked like only a few days before.  Now, if you stood in front of her, well THAT was a different story, but still, she wasn't hugely wide, just wider then Dream normally is.

So, around midnight, we put the mares up for the night.  Since they have access to the outside doors of their stalls, I just started putting grain in, and waited for the mommas to come to bed.  Cayenne (who is not pregnant, but lame from getting kicked in the shoulder) comes running up (yeah, not that lame evidently) and the ladies waltz in behind her.

As they find their stalls, I close them in, and then feed the stallions, and other horses, so make a couple trips up and down the barn aisle.  Jinx dove into her food like a champ.  Dove ate well, but not with gusto, and Dream took one bite and went to look out the back side across the yard.  I didn't think much of it, since she had just been stuffing herself on pasture all day, and there's obviously not much room at the Inn.

Jae finished the watering while I checked the ladies progress in the light, mainly to determine how much sleep I'd get that night.  Jinx was no where near ready, she doesn't even have a full udder.  Dove had made huge leaps over the course of the day though.  Her baby had dropped, and her udder was full.  Dove's milk was just starting to get cloudy, so I knew it would be a long night with the mares, but nothing really said Dove was in labor yet.  I figured she might pull off a day baby, or maybe the next night, but my theory is that while many mares are fine, these mares were carrying half draft babies with wide shoulders.  A 5% chance of complications is more then I'm willing to risk when something as simple as pulling a leg could be the difference between happy mare and foal, and a dead mare and foal. 

So, then I checked Dream.  Lady like Dream who always lets me check her udder was not happy about it.  Of course she didn't kick, but she would step sideways, front, or back just so that I didn't touch her udder.  It hurt, she said.  Yet, I had felt her udder, and couldn't get milk from it.

So, I walked up the aisle for something else, and as I passed Dream again, something caught my eye.  I had just checked her 5 minutes before, but when I looked, there were drops of milk on her nipples.  She was just starting to wax up.  I told Jae I wanted to watch her a bit, and asked him to grab the supplies.  I needed clean towels in the barn (I used all the others for washing horses... bad me!) my camera and phone (because the world will expect to be notified) and...

Dream's water broke.

Well... Jae hadn't even made it out of the barn!  Of course, at that point he hurried off, and while he was at it he told my mother that the baby was coming.  Keep in mind, this whole time Dream was standing quietly.  Minimal pacing (no more then most horses do) no butt against the wall, no "up and down".  She just had sad face, and wanted to be held.  I know, most mares want to be alone, but many of my girls prefer to have the human there.  I make ouchies better, so they hope I'll fix the discomfort.

I rubbed Dream's back, I hugged her neck, and she leaned into me, sighing.  We stood like that, alone in the stall for a bit, until she pulled away from me.  I stepped back, and she laid down and gave a push.  There it was, the bubble!

At that point I heard mom and Jae come out.  I yelled at them to be quick or they'd miss it (and Jae had both the camera AND the towels!).  A few short minutes later, with a very easy and uncomplicated birth, I got to meet this lovely little man.  A Colt!

While he was wet, he was a beautiful silver color all over, with a perfect dun stripe down his back.  He has stripes on his legs that are very obvious, his head was a slight shade darker then his body... just like the perfect grulla color.  Only one problem, his mom is a Seal bay leopard, and daddy is a black blanket.  There's no dun for generations, so he can't be dun!

As he dried, the silver faded to white.  His head is the "muddy" look of his mother, his leg markings are exact copies of her, right down to the lightning marks, and he has a couple of polka dots on his hip, neck, and head.  I think 4 or 5 in total.  What at first looked like a case of "who the hell was the sire?" was instead a perfectly marked fewspot colt.  I can't tell you if he's black based or seal bay (not enough base color to tell) but while he was wet I thought I saw tan around the muzzle, which makes seal bay most likely.

Dream was so excited to have her own baby.  She licked and kissed, and didn't want to take her nose off him.  When he nickered, she nickered back.  Oh how I love watching new dams with their babies!

And then Dove laid down. 

When I peeked over the stall wall, I saw her pushing a bit, then roll and get up.  So.... it was definitely going to be a long night!

Dove who just an hour before had been a "not yet" was now ready to go.  Milk was white, and there was no doubt she was in labor.  We brewed the coffee, got more towels, and got comfy.  After a couple of hours of "hold me, no go away" she got down to business.

Her baby was larger, but Dove is one of those super easy foaling mares.  I gave a tug on one leg to be sure that the baby was going to come out easy (sliding one leg before the other can prevent a shoulder lock in the pelvis) and all seemed well, so I merely cradled the head (because Dove of course laid down right where she'd been pooping and peeing constantly for a couple of hours).  My mom assisted with towels and photos, and lots of petting of Dove (yeah, for her first baby, she held off until she saw me, so we gave her tons of attention and cheered her on, and she feels safer).

And then she arrived.  A lovely black filly, with a crazy pattern.  I can't tell you if she's a blanket or a snowcap yet (did I mention that her pattern is crazy) but as soon as she lifted her head I could tell that this one is special.  She already has the "look of eagles" and the presence to match. 

Once Dove's baby was on her feet, I made a quick retreat for coffee, and more clothing.  It had gotten cold over night.  While inside, I downloaded all the pictures from the camera (because it's nearly full!) and posted the announcements to facebook, then headed back out to make sure both were nursing well, pooping, peeing, and all the good stuff.

By this time, it was morning.  Both babies were perfectly healthy, but rather crumpled up.  I can't tell you a thing about their conformation, yet, hence why I remarked so much on their color.  The filly is very impressive, but something about the colt makes everyone want to hug and kiss on him.  Dream and Dove are taking all the attention in stride, and being very mannerly about letting us know when they have had enough of us, and need "private time".

Both of these mares were from my mentor Sig Ricco.  I had Dove on lease when she passed away, and inherited her, and had purchased Dream from her when Dream was a yearling.  These mares are special to me because of that.  These aren't the type of horses a young breeder can normally get her hands on.  Their bloodlines are great, their conformation is excellent, and they were well handled and trained right.  I often think of Sig, and how lucky I was to have known her, and how much I miss her advice on breeding and moving forward.  When the little boy arrived, he was a lovely silver color, with a perfect stripe down his back, and with all the memories and hopes he carries with him, his name just seemed to come to us.

He will be called Silver Lining. 

The filly, I am not yet sure of her registered name, but I can't help but call her Raven.  The pride in her stance, her inquisitive nature, and well... the fact that the bird name kinda goes along with her mother's name of Dove... just seems to fit.

As I closed up the barn to give the mares time to bond, I was happy.  Two lovely, healthy mares and foals in one night is all I could hope for, but the colors and look of the babies surpassed my expectations.

Jinx is taking her time still, and will be my last foal of the year.  Yesterday, the babies had a stream of visitors, and awed everyone who saw them.  Today will be their first day out on the town (so expect more pictures!)

Thank you to Heather Crispin of Livin' Large Farms for the chance at the babies.  Both are sired by Sugarbush Harley's Classic O, and will be instrumental to helping to bring back the Sugarbush Draft Horses.  It's already been decided that Raven will stay with us.  Linus, the colt, will have his future decided by Jinx's foal, and how he matures, so there's a chance he will be offered for sale, but I'm not sure of that yet.  Either way, I'm so thrilled, and as you can imagine, a very happy pony mommy!


  1. Congratulations on 2 beautiful healthy babies! My Ritchie mare is a "cuddler " just before she foals, I have to have her in the pen  by the house , so she  can see me and call me the last day or so before  foaling , and she will  call me to  rub her belly and behind  for hours 

  2. Great news and a pair of beauties - glad everything went well!