Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Sugarbush Draft - Breed of my Heart

Stonewall Rascal, registered Stonewall Sporthorse (even though he's 3/4 Percheron, 1/4 Appaloosa, allowed to be registered as Sugarbush Draft). Sire to Harley Quinn, thus grandsire to Harley's Classic O. Gelded and currently residing at the Kentucky Horse Park (on loan) as a trick and dancing horse representing the Stonewall Sporthorse breed.
In model horse showing, one popular breed assignment many people have been turning to for their draft models lately is the Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Horse. Usually looked to because of the fact "it's an Appaloosa colored Draft," especially for those with too much feather to be a Noriker (which don't have that much feathering and have a very distinct, medium bulk body type)

However, there's a little more to it than that.

More focus came upon the breed when the Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Horse Registry (please check out their Facebook Page) sent probably the most famous individual of the breed to Breyerfest in 2013: Harley's Classic O owned by Flint Ridge Ranch. Everyone knows this stallion and several have painted his likeness on everything from an original finish Peter Stone Standing Draft to various resins and customs. He is one of the last pure breeding stallions from the original lines of the Sugarbush breed. He is also currently considered the best example and ideal of the breed (even though he's not perfect... I mean, what horse is?)

Harley's Classic O

This breed holds a very special place in my heart. As a long time lover of "gentle giants," being a big and tall woman, and having a fascination with appaloosa color since I was a kid, I truly believe that if finances were more in my favor, THIS is the breed I would be breeding. Seriously. And it's DEFINITELY on the bucket list to make one my own horse some day. I feel there's always room in this world for more family friendly horses that also possess athletic ability that is suitable for almost anything a big and tall rider may need.

Originally, the breed was the marketing plan of Everett Smith in the 60's to create a unique, eye-catching hitch for his carriage business to stand out from competitors. They were created from "heavier" Appaloosa stock and Percherons, rebred back to Percherons until proper draft type was reattained (even now, in order to be approved to be a proper Sugarbush, an individual must have at least 51% draft blood). The breed fell to the wayside until it was rediscovered and revitalizing efforts took effect in 2008. Only 12 purebred horses remained at that time, so steps were taken to properly breed between the remaining stock without inbreeding and to introduce new blood in a responsible and controlled manner that kept true to what the breed is about.

Harley Quinn, sire to Harley's Classic O.

Up until December 31st, 2012, individual horses could have been presented for an approval process that judged conformation, attitude and Draft blood to be considered for registered Foundation Stock. Appaloosa coloring was also sought from Knabstruppers for their warmblood style and superior riding conformation. The Sugarbush Draft Registry approved many horses as Foundation stock to help add new blood to increase numbers for the breed. This included Shires, Clydesdales, Percherons, Belgians, American Cream Drafts, grades, mixes and crosses of various kinds (most draft-to-draft, or mostly-drafts with proper conformation), and one Friesian stallion (Darktanion). There's even a red roan Ardennes mare in Scotland approved. Because of this, the breed currently has a wide variation at the time.

Books are currently closed to outside blood. The exception is currently pre-approved Stonewall Sporthorses crossed back to pre-approved drafts/Sugarbush foundation stock. Stonewall Sporthorses are usually 1/2 draft, and 1/2 appy-colored critter to make Appalossa sport horses, but since they only have half draft and not the required minimum 51% (to prevent straight up 1/2 and 1/2s from being considered full drafts), its kind of considered a stepping stone breed, somewhere for the "halfbreed" to be in since they can't be Sugarbushes, but certainly have a lot to offer as talented sport horses!

Appalshire Southern Cross ("Appal"), registered Stonewall Sporthorse (1/2 Shire, 1/2 Appaloosa)

A true Sugarbush is a well built, riding-type of conformation, but in a Draft package and type. Proper riding (not *pulling* as is common with Draft horses) conformation is highly valued and awarded. Since most draft horses in America are bred to pull, their conformation reflects that. Outcrossing to Appaloosa stock horses, Knabstruppers, and Freisians helps to correct too steep croups and excessive bulk associated with pulling horses. Attitude is also extremely important, as the goal is to have a proper riding horse that is suitable for anything from competitive disciplines to a family or trail horse, both mentally and physically.

Typical pulling draft conformation in a Belgian: slanted croup, straighter shoulder, lots of bulk and muscle appropriately placed. This is what a horse bred specifically and solely for pulling looks like (please forgive the foreshortening of the head and neck in this photo, I promise it's not that small/short)

Same pulling draft in action: all the angles and bulk of a pulling type of conformation work together to create leverage needed to push against the ground and collar in order to pull effectively. However, this makes for not very good (or comfortable) riding conformation.

Eventually, proper breeding practices and selection will produce the ideal type, which is a lighter, athletic draft (much like the Irish Draught or Norman Cob) with an attractive head and neck, a good sloping shoulder, strong back, well put together hindquarters with good Draft-sized bone and solid feet that are ideal for many types of riding or driving. As far as models go, the Peter Stone Standing Draft (below), the Breyer "Little Bit" sized resin "Da Vinci's Horse/A King's Mount," (though he's a tad on the lean end) and artist resins Boreas by Karen Gerhardt and AA Mini Friesian Mare all make good Sugarbushes as for the type they are going for. Bacchus can also make a good Sugarbush, though he is fairly fat (as in actual blubber and cushion) but the structure and base conformation is there to be a proper Sugarbush, but I would say he's as bulky as you'd want to get and no further. I'm sure there are several other models that make good Sugarbushes as well, but that's just to get us started.

Source: StoneHorseReference Site.

Currently, there is no preference at this time for amount of feather or for docked tails (though I'm sure docked tails will be frowned upon in the future). And because there are Shires and Clydesdales approved as foundation stock, this means if you have an Appaloosa Wintersong/Othello or Tiny resin, it can make a fine Sugarbush and that the likelihood of a horse like that happening *IS* within the realm of possibility, even if it hasn't happened yet. However I would be careful not to include *too* much feather, has most real Sugarbushes are "clean-legged" individuals (minimal feather, like that of Percherons), and even when crossed to a heavily feathered individual, will not produce a large amount of feather. Wintersong/Othello is kind of pushing it, but believable in my book. Also, due to the wide variance of draft breeds introduced, influences from say, Shire or Friesian styles are sure to crop up and will have a stamp on what the final outcome of the breed will look like further on down the line.

Zaquaila, Sugarbush Draft filly of Appaloosa, Clydesdale, and Friesian breeding.

Sugarbushes are *allowed* in any color except for Frame Overo and Tobiano pinto. Those colors are disqualified due to avoiding having these pinto patterns covering up any appaloosa spotting (and to avoid lethal white foals from Frame Overo). The current colors known to be found in the breed at this time, besides your normal black, bay, and chestnut (and various shades thereof, including flaxen chestnut) are:
- All types of Appaloosas (blankets, leopards, varnish roans, snowflakes, and snowcap/fewspot)
- Silver (due to one approved grade mare, Bazya, below)
- Grey (Mostly from Percherons, both dappled and fleabitten)
- True dark-headed roan (from a couple rare blue roan Percherons and Mr. Blue, a stallion of Percheron and Boulonnais breeding)
- Cream (palomino, buckskin, double dilutes, etc.) due to a couple grades/mixes
- Champagne due to the infusion of American Cream draft bloodlines
- And Sabino is found from Belgian, Clydesdale and Shire influence.
It is yet unknown if Splash White is present. It may be possible some Bright Eyes Brother lines from Appaloosa stock horses made it in, but it is currently not known if that actually happened.

Bazya, tested silver on bay, of unknown breeding but is a prime example of what the Sugarbush should be: beauty, conformation, movement, and excellent temperament.

The take home message I'd like to make sure gets out there: despite what anyone says, the Suagarbush is NOT just a Draft with appaloosa coloring. Color is not a main priority of the breed, but it is certainly something they are known for (and certainly a fun aspect). They are not to be confused or be interchangeable with the Noriker, in either real life comparison or when breed assigning models, despite the fact that they are both Draft breeds that can be appaloosa in color.

As a breed that is just getting back on its feet and with hopefully a solid future ahead of them, it can be difficult to understand at this time just what exactly the ideal type is, but hopefully this post helped with that. To learn more about the Sugarbush, including extensive tutorials on judging conformation and general musings about the future of the breed, please follow the Drafts with Dots blog, which is run by the Sugarbush Draft Horse Registry (Ironridge Sport Horses). They also often cover the latest happenings in appaloosa color genetics, and why it's important to have solid-colored individuals.

I hope I have educated you all about what a proper Sugarbush Draft is and perhaps even gave you a hint as to why it is one of my most favorite breeds!