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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Oh Sweetie!

Sweetie is getting some extra time spent on her training.  Why?  Because she has decided to be silly.  Seems the Sweetie is now scared of, well... everything.

Her saddle pad is terrifying.  Her saddle is a monster.  Fly spray is evil.  This all just happened one day this weekend.  No idea what set her off, but she's not been my favorite horse!

Ok, I still love her and all, but I do wish the 'fear factor' would go away now.  It seems that no matter what I ask her to do, she finds a way to be scared and spook at something.  She's tried pulling back a few times.  She tried spooking at something on the other side of the arena fence, and she's just not been all that into "work".  I almost wonder if she's hormonal or something (not that it's a reason to let her get away with all this).

Eventually though, we got through each lesson, and we did make progress.  I spent 45 minutes touching her with the saddle pad.  At first she jumped away, then she just turned, and finally, she let me pet her with it.  So then we moved to putting it on her back, from both sides.  Well that wasn't nearly as bad as walking up to her with it!

I think that much of the problem is that I've always used to the same 2 tack sets for her.  English, or Western, and always the same pads, girths, etc.  This weekend, I moved to a lighter weight pad (because her back is finally muscling up, and she doesn't need a heavy wool pad under the western saddle any more).  First, I tried to gold one (shown in the pictures).  That was scary, but ok.  The next day, I used a green and black one.  OH BOY!  Vivid colors!  TERRIFYING!

Everything has been like that lately with her.  This back corner of the arena... scary!  So, I spent time reassuring her, and praising her for doing what I asked, when I asked it.  And then I would spend some time desensitizing her.  Things like making a noise (yeah, I sounded like a moron, but that's ok) or jumping in place.  Anything to give her the chance to "win".  If I "spooked" her, and she stopped, lifted her head, and looked at the scary thing, then she got praise.  If I "spooked" her and she tried to bolt, we just do it again.  No punishment, no praise.  I just act like it never happened and keep on.

It's not a quick thing to fix, but when you spend time like this, consistently, it can be fixed.  The key here is the consistency!  I gave Sweetie the "weekend" off (we take Sundays and Mondays here, where Sundays are for play, and Mondays are for laundry).  Today, we're going to be back at it.  And tomorrow, and every day after that until Sweetie is ok with working again.

And, in all of this, I realize that she has grown again.  She stands 16.0 hands now, and still looks like she has room to grow.  She has started to (finally) fill in, and bulk up.  She's not "pretty" yet, but she is getting there, and I see many moments that lead me to think she will be stunningly beautiful soon.  The poor kid has just spent so much time growing awkwardly, that none of her parts ever fit themselves.  I bet, in 2 years, that she will look like a white version of her father though.  Now if she would just learn to stand up square for a picture, that'd be great.

And, now for some gratuitous puppy pictures.  my "Barn Help" found the grooming supplies, and thought that was more fun then they had seen before.  Jango looks more like a pitty every day, while Boba looks more Rottweiler.  Can you believe they are full brothers?  Love my boys!


  1. Young horses just do this.  I've trained many of them and they all go through this as some point, to some degree.  Mares usually have hormones involved to a degree.  I find that usually, if you've done your homework before hand, it is simply "testing the waters" to some greater or lesser degree.  The more standoffish personalities tend to act fearful, and then there are ones like my super alpha filly who is going through the "Um, no.  I don't want to do that." phase right now. LOL  Kids... gotta love them! 
    Hint: I try a lot of different tactics whe I run into this.  Some do better with patience, some with persistance, and some with everything being very black and white (ie- Yes! Super! or Absolutely not!).  Calm assertive in some form and I swear on trail riding and "fun things" which are out of the ordinary.

  2. She still doesn't fit her head.. she's gonna get taller yet is my bet.

    Rosie's stint of that was short lived.  like you I ignored the spook and praised the good.  I just had to be alert because Rosie's reaction to fear is to push through it or run it over.