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, June 12, 2012

I had a bad day again

Life tends to happen when you least expect it. At least it does for me, and it's always filled with ups and downs. I keep thinking of this song, and it's been stuck in my head, and fits, since yesterday was a very bad day.

You see, I lost my darling Indira. Indi was supposed to be the light of my life. From the first moment I met her, she reminded me of Ash all over again. The way she held her head, the way she looked at me, the way she tested me, I just felt like we had a connection. I was SO excited to get my lovely warmblood, and one my size (15.3 hands) who wasn't a "dumbblood"... no offense to warmbloods, but I rarely find many with personalities that just match with me. Indi did though.

She settled in like a pro. I began playing with her, and working with her, and was nothing but astonished. She just got everything I asked. Now Indi wasn't an easy horse by any stretch. She was willful, she was very intelligent, but she wanted to please.  Not to be someone's servant - oh no!  She wanted to be a partner in crime!

And she was.  Indi and I spent many hours just hanging out, talking.  When she wanted something, she came to ask, and always knew where to find me.  I didn't have her very long, but in such a short time, she meant so much to me so quickly.

And then, the worst happened.

Yesterday was my "day off".  This means that I don't work horses, I just do the basics, and spend some time doing things for me.  Nothing glorious mind you.  Laundry, playing games... anything, so long as it's not pressured to DO.  I need to have some "me time" or I end up burning out, and feeling like the horses are no fun any more.  I chose Mondays.  6 days a week, my time is the horses', but on Mondays, I get to do what ever I want to do.  Sometimes that's play with horses, sometimes it's just nothing.  Yesterday, I got sucked into a few conversations on facebook.

That morning, when I let the pups out to potty, Indi was standing at the fence, and looked fine (teasing the boys actually).  I laughed at her, and thought, those geldings can't help you girl, and then went about my day.  Around 1:30pm, it started getting hot and muggy.  Jae and I headed out to put up the boys (they sunburn) and check the waters.  Jae wanted to put the goats in shade, so walked down to the round pen (they were grazing the fence line there for me) and released them.  I was at the barn, caught them up, and put them in a stall with a fan and hay.  I turned on the water, to fill their bucket, walked to grab the end of the horse, and didn't see Jae.  I looked, and looked, and then found him, at the pond, waving for me to come.

That's never good.

From the angle I was at, I couldn't see what could be the problem.  I turned off the water, and ran down there.  Jae was wading into the water.  Not good.

I crested the hill, and saw it.  A grey side sticking out of the water.  Now, in my herd, a "grey" side could that color could be a few horses.  Shadow, Katy.. Indi.  The water was about a foot deep, but the horse was obviously dead, yet Jae was still trying to grab the horse's head, and get it above water.  When he did, I realized who it was.  MY girl.. my Indi.

Thinking back, I don't know if I would have felt any differently if it was any other horse.  I love them all, but Indi was so shocking.  You see, Indi loved to swim.  She would wade out into the water, and take the wettest path from point A to B, just to get wet.  To find Indi, dead, in shallow water, was just baffling!

We managed to get her out of the pond, and realized that she hadn't been gone long.  We searched for something she may have gotten stuck on.  A reason why she would be dead in that shallow of water, and could find nothing.  The bottom was sandy, offered good grip, and all she would have needed to do was sit up and her entire neck would be well above water.  It made no sense!

And then we looked at her body, searching for a sign.  There were no signs of struggle, no hair ripped off, no abrasions on her legs, but her throat, at the throat latch, was swollen.  Very swollen.  My first though was that some how she had broken her neck.  Jae lifted her head, and on the bottom side, I saw blood seeping.  Because we were frantic to know what may have happened, and paranoid that we now have an open death trap in the pasture with all the horses, we HAD to know what happened.  I had Jae roll her over.

There, about a hands with behind her jaw, right at the jugular, were 2 punctures, approximately a finger joint apart, about 1.5 centimeters.  One was slightly torn, and the blood was pooling from it still.  After a talk with the vet, and some pictures sent, it was determined to be a snake bite.  And a very big snake at that (4 - 5 feet).  The vet is currently checking to see what type of snake would cause that type of reaction, but we've narrowed it down to either a water moccasin, or a copper head.

Dr. K said that due to the location of the bite, there's nothing we could have done anyway.  The chances of venom being injected directly into such a large blood stream are astronomical, but if that is what happened, death would be quick, and relatively painless.  He said that from the appearance of the images, the wound would have begun to swell, reducing her oxygen, and causing a euphoric feeling.  The venom would have made her somewhat delirious.  Since she collapsed into water, the likelihood of a blood test being definitive was greatly reduced.

From my assessment of the area (tracks in the pond edge, etc) it looks as if she was heading to people.  She felt funny, and wanted her person, so she was headed to our spot, when she collapsed in the pond.  The pond, the shortest route from where she was, to where I was.  Where I was, is the spot that the entire herd considers "safe".

 And so, I did something that I've never done before, and save only for the most special.  I had her buried here, on the farm, next to the pond she so loved. 

I've been a bit of a wreck the past few days.  I cry at the drop of a hat.  The thing is, I'm not the crying type.  When we found her, I called Heather, her previous owner, and cried to her.  She cried with me.  She knew how much Indi meant to me, how excited I was to have her, and how overjoyed I was to find another horse with the combination of spunk and sweetness.

I probably look at death a lot more realistically then many people.  With the number of animals I have, there's always someone getting old, and death is a part of love.  I've never been "touchy feely" about death, and am not one of those people that you shouldn't mention anything about it near me for fear of me breaking down.  That's just not how I cope.  Instead, I rejoice in the life, the love, and the memories.  Usually, I get my cry out the first day, and just have a whole that I carry for a while, until the wound heals.  I don't deny it, but I don't dwell on it either.  For me - and I don't judge anyone else for being different - I owe it to the others I have here to love them every day, and not forget them because of one loss.  I can miss Indi with every fiber in me, while smiling over Raven's antics, or crying into Red's mane and thinking how amazing he is.  Love and loss are not mutually exclusive for me.

Which makes today's turn of events even more ironic.

KatieDid, one of the horses bred by Everett Smith, and the last horse I had for sale from him is about to be mine.

You see, She's been on the market for 4 years, and while a lot of people have looked at her, no one has made the plunge.  Katy is oozing with talent, and in my opinion, a better horse overall then Sweetie.  Why then did I buy Sweetie instead of Katy?  Because Jae was in love with Sweetie, and she has traits that would be crucial to the next generation of the Sugarbush Drafts.  Her size, her neck, and of course her color all make Sweetie an ideal brood mare.

But Katy keeps stealing my heart.  There's something about her, granted, how often do I say that?  But, when I decided to do the Susan G Komen ride for the cure this fall, it's Katy - not Sweetie - that I want to ride. 

I had planned to get her, and then sell her on, to help Everett, as well as a potential buyer, and myself.  You see, the plan was, I would breed Katy to Rico, get a lovely foal, and then sell Katy to a woman in Illinois who has gleefully saving her pennies and ecstatic about her.  But recently, that changed.  The potential buyer had an opportunity she couldn't refuse.  When she contacted me about it, I could only say "do it"... and so she bought a horse, a perfect horse for her, and won't be buying Katy.

Jae of course, being the wonderful and supportive guy that he is, asked me if I'd tell Everett I didn't want to make the deal.  This was a few weeks ago.  I asked Jae what he'd think of owning, and keeping, yet another of Everett's girls.

Jae's answer, "I always did like the mares best".

And so, It was decided that if Everett was still happy with the arrangement, WE would keep Katy.  I would show Katy, and use her - the better show horse - to promote the breed, as well as get a few babies from her.  She was recently exposed to Rico for a 2013 foal, and we're waiting for the ultra sound to confirm the pregnancy. 

And today, I saw the message that Everett is sending out his last transfer... Katy's.  She is mine.  She will stay mine, and she will be the show piece for the Sugarbush Drafts. 

It seems like for every up, there is a down.  I haven't seen a snake on our property in over 2 years, and yet, it's definitive that we lost Indi to a snakebite.

I want to get back in the show ring, I've just needed the horse to take me there at the level I'm at.  And now, Katy will be mine.

I still cry suddenly, and I likely will for days yet, but I am not so foolish as to forget to be appreciative of what I DO have.  I can love Katy, miss Indi, hug the puppies, and enjoy the foals all at the same time.

Yesterday, when a friend, who has also suffered a tragic equine loss, asked me, "Why do we do this?" I had an answer.

We do this because it matters.  We do this because we can.  We do this because for us, horse people, these beasts mean something.  The love they give us, the beauty they inherently possess, and their powerful grace is more addictive to us then any drug.  We do this, because we love it... in good times, and in the bad.

God Speed Indira.  You were my heart, and will be treasured always.  Our time was too short together, but I will treasure what I was lucky enough to have.  I miss you girl.


  1. What a wonderful story of your beloved Indira.  Such a sad ending, but one that was not ended with suffering.  It tells an inspiring story of how these beautiful animals trust their person/people.  Stay strong and if you have to cry every now and then it is OK...it will lessen as time go by, but she will never be forgotten. 

  2. I just wanted to say how sorry I am.  She was a beautiful mare, and that truly was a complete fluke of a way to die.  Reading your blog, I could tell how excited and happy you were to have her, and it's devastating not only  to lose a mare that you love, but everything you were planning for the future with her. 

  3. I am so sorry for your loss - there are no words that suffice.  I hope her memory will provide a source of solace and inspiration.

  4. I'm so sorry about Indira. Godspeed.

  5. I just sobbed my eyes out. You're beautiful words at the end about why we do this...totally perfect and completely true. She was loved until the very end. There is is no gift greater.

  6. So sorry for your loss

  7. Very sorry for Indi and the loss of another heart horse for you.  Congrats on Katy!  I can't wait to see the things you two do!

  8. I am so very, very sorry for your loss!