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.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Let me catch you up to speed

March was crazy! You know how one thing leads to another?  Well it seems like that is the case with 2012.  My "slow" time of year (after Christmas) was not slow.  My busy time of year was even busier.  And now, it's spring, and babies are on the way!

Last year I bred 6 mares.  It was going to be a HUGE foal crop for me, but I had planned for it.  With only 1 2010 foal, and no 2011 foals, I figured I could do 6 in a year.  So, I bred 5 mares to Sugarbush Harley's Classic O, and 1 mare to my young stallion Scorch.

Then the drought hit.  When I say there was no hay available, I mean no hay that I felt safe feeding to my horses.  "Good" hay was suddenly dusty bales from the back of the barn, and that was snatched up fast by the large farms here.  "Bad" hay... well, it looked like it would more likely kill my horses then help.  I made the decision to go on "drought rations" and use complete feeds with beet pulp.  I had a high fiber feed (33% fiber) added salt and minerals, soaked beet pulp for roughage, and the horses did well enough.  From the looks of other local horses, my herd wasn't doing too bad at all.  It wasn't perfect, but it kept them near my ideal weight.

It sucks seeing all your horses get thin, watch their hair loose it's shine, and each day to have to check for signs of complication, but I did it.  The local sales lists went stagnant, free horses appeared every where, and I simply stopped advertising.  There's no way I would dump any of my babies into such a horrible market.  My feed bill was astronomical, surpassing even my mortgage, but the horses maintained their weight at "kinda light".  I learned about nutrition, I researched ways to make it better, and there at the end, I realized I was missing one little thing in their diet - oils.  Omega fatty acids, it seems, are vital for that "finished' look.  Hay has some, but processed feeds and beet pulp has very little.  I added in a top dressing of vegetable oil, and the horses all began to look beautiful again.  Sadly, I didn't figure it out until the grass was starting to peek it's head up, but I now know what to do in case a drought like this happens again.

But, that means the horses had less then ideal nutrition.  So, when spring came, some of my mares just weren't looking very pregnant any more.  Of those 5 mares I bred to "O", 4 of them were confirmed in foal.  Amber was confirmed in foal to Scorch.  Babies were looking good at early pregnancy, but while 3 of my girls began to show, 2 of them didn't.  The vet got called to double check things for me.

Nazar, one of my foundation SDHR mares, was now open.  She had dropped a lot of weight, very suddenly, a few days before - which is what triggered the vet's visit.  Apparently, she miscarried the foal.  She is healthy, and is expected to have no complications, but I had been so excited about that baby.  Amber, the mare bred to Scorch, just never looked pregnant to me.  The vet confirmed that she too was open, and likely had resorbed the foal early on.

Very depressing, but with hindsight, probably a good thing.  The market is not exactly great, and my big plans to have a "big' foal crop was poorly timed.  So long as my girls are healthy.  That's all that really matters.

So now, I only have Jinx (Foundation SDHR mare), Dream (ApHC) and Dove (ApHC) in foal.  All 3 of them are doing great, have BIG bellies that are more wide then deep (as you can see in the pictures) and are taking their time cooking the kids.  For Jinx, this will be her 3rd foal.  For Dove, her second, and it will be Dream's first.  I'm so excited!  Naturally, my level of excitement has translated into their level of comfort.

All 3 of my ladies are in NO hurry to have those babies.  They range in "due" dates from April 1st to April 7th.  So, um... any day now.

All 3 of the ladies have their foaling stalls prepped, and get run of the barn yard during the day.  Truth be told, this works out well for me, because I don't want to MOW that grass around the barn, but they do.  During the day, their stalls are open, and they can come and go as they want.  At night, they are bedded down, and separated for evening and morning feed.  My family makes sure that someone looks at them about every 2 to 3 hours (more frequently if they act uncomfortable or near labor in any way).  Now, my "shift" is the night shift.  I check on the ladies all night long, getting them used to the sounds of me moving around, and sneaking in an extra meal for them in the wee hours.  Seems they like the deal.

Right now, it looks like Dream is in the lead, with Dove close behind, and Jinx is still working on cooking hers a bit more.  Granted, 2 days ago, Dream was in the lead, with Jinx behind her, and Dove looking like she was in no hurry.  I always say, "you'll know when the baby is going to be born when you see it's feet".  Doesn't make me any less anxious though!

And, just to keep things interesting, I'm totally revamping my sales list!  I want to focus on the Sugarbush Drafts.  I might have a Stonewall here or there, but my plans are to only breed Stonewalls that I can use to further the SDHR.  Granted, not all will, so some will go for sale, but that's my goal. 

So, I'm completely renovating the website. My sales list currently has 1 horse on it (I have more for sale, but the list isn't current yet).  I've been grooming, bathing, and working horses for the last few weeks.  Ya know, I'm always shocked at just how nice some of these horses are to ride.  Makes it kinda hard for me, especially when I don't really WANT to sell many of them, but know that they need more time then I have.

Like Cayenne.  I love her to death, but really.... what do I need an AQHA pony sized horse for?  It's not like I'm going to breed her (pony drafts?  Nah!) and I'm certainly not about to become a competitive western rider any time soon.  Now, I will be doing some cross training with her though.  A nice kid's hunter who can also ride western and neck rein?  I think that would give her a nice shot at the kind of life we all want our babies to have.

Which leads me back to my fear issues.  I still have them.  Granted, I'm tons better, but I still get freaked out sometimes from silly things.  A while back, I was grooming Quagga, helping to get all the excess winter hair off him in his stall.  He stepped sideways into the brushing, putting me against the wall of the stall, with him between me and the door.  Now, it's Q... he's completely not aggressive, but he's a bit "up".  He liked the bush, so wanted more, and was only leaning into it.  I had feet of room between me, him, and the wall, but it didn't matter.  My heart skipped a beat, my ears started ringing, and I bolted out of the stall like a monster was in there.

Behind me, Q's looking at me pathetically, trying to figure out what he'd done wrong.  I'd never seen a horse pout before!

And yet my knees were weak, and I was completely freaked out.  Fear hits at the strangest of times.  After a breather, I was able to go back in with him, and finish the brushing (and Jae stepped in to help groom the off side) so it's better. 

I think it's the lack of control that gets to me.  I'm not completely sure what I can do, and what I can't do any more, and that makes me feel terrified.  So, I have a plan to fix this!  I'm going to start a couple of horses over fences again.  If I can ride a jump, I can ride just about anything (in theory).  It is something I love doing, and it can only help me (in so many ways).  So, Dear Poko will soon learn to heave his fat butt over a cross rail.  Cayenne will learn to collect before an approach.  Ash (my old retired mare who is feeling GOOD lately) will remind me that I really can do it. 

I figure the fear is something I will never truly get over.  My only hope is that I can learn to control it a bit better (no more bolting from the humans!  I am striving to spook in place thank you very much) and learn to live with.

And now you know why I haven't blogged in a month.  I am hoping to be better, now that things seem to be a bit more consistent, but seems like every time I post that, the world explodes a little in horsey land.  It's a good explosion (lots of interest in the SDHR) but I'm only one person, and am learning that I can't do it all.

And if y'all do me a favor?  Think foaling thoughts!  I'm so ready to meet my babies!


  1. I know what I want to say here, but often I feel like I might be unclear. First sorry about the mare that have come up open, likely as you say for the best but disappointing all the same .Now for the part I will likely screw up, your wreck happened on the ground, so riding , while it is not a bad idea ,m may or may not get you over the hump, I feel like you need to reassert yourself on the ground, somehow  get bigger in your mind and remember and remind them you are BOSS MARE !!!! My young stud  knocked me down at Christmas, 1.because he was being and ass, and 2. because I wasn't paying attention, forst few times I went back in with him I was so  super cautious he was confused then he seemed to be trying me a bit , I had to get big, and get over myself and damn fast befroe it got worse, he is back to normal , and I? well I am still pretty wide awake around him, but in a calm assertive way. forgive me if this seemed presumptuous or I have missed something as I said I know what I want to say  just not sure it reads well 

  2. Me too. Who did you breed to Scorch & Rico for 2012?

  3. maybe try grooming outside,tie your horse to a post and groom slowly,when anious hits step away breath thanreturn pet first than resume grooming pick feet grroom somemore and love your horse your a great woman with a great passion for the horses,like your posts.

  4. Busy woman.  The fear - well it takes time and only you know best how to handle it for you.  

  5. I agree with Sherry and Lucille, especially about grooming outside.  Just do not put yourself in the position that you need to fear.  YOU are Boss Mare....period and if you need to assert that, do so.  Cannot wait to see babies, Sherry's and yours.  I doubt I will ever have a foaling mare again, so I watch for all the others!

  6.  Actually, my "problem" is anything that could possibly put me under their feet.  That means riding where I might fall off (like green horses, or faster speeds, or complex moves).  I'm oddly ok working horses in HAND, but I have moments of panic when the horses are loose and come near me, when they aren't focused on me, like spring time pony games where they all run and buck and play.  They could be 5 acres away, but if they run in my direction, and aren't focused, I panic.

    What you say is great advice in my opinion.  I have actually been doing just that, and have managed to get over many things because of it (and very supportive people around me).  I'm now to the point where 90% of the time, I'm perfectly fine and competent with the horses, but it's that blue moon that gets me.  When it gets me, it gets me GOOD too.

    Even weirder, the horses who were fighting around me.... not a problem at all.  I'm working Diva in hand, and Sweetie under saddle right now, and haven't had even a hint of fear with them. 

    Crazy, right?

  7.  Midnight to Scorch.  Nazar will go to Rico.  Sweetie will go to Scorch.  Princessa is likely to go to O.  I'm not convinced that Midnight will take this year (older mare, we might get into the "fun" hormonal stuff).

  8.  Thanks, but oddly, I've never had that happen at all until Q.  Just a whole set of coincidences that set me off.  I was just grooming him today in the stall while he ate... and no problems.  (I also groom him outside, in cross ties, etc, with no problems).  It was just that once, and just when I thought I was pretty much over the fears.  Kinda a wake up call to me that it can hit me at any time.