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This page was last updated: September 20, 2013
The Sugarbush Draft
The Sugarbush Draft
Established by Everett Smith 1957
Returning from the Brink of Extinction
Rare breeds are exciting and capture the imagination of horse owners and lovers alike. Sadly, the reality is never as romantic as the history.
In 2008, the Sugarbush Registry began a head count, and could only track 12 living horses in the breed. Many of these horses share similar blood lines, and only one purebred and unrelated breeding pair was left. With out serious intervention, the breed would be decimated in only one more generation. With so few dedicated breeding farms, and a tradition of breeding only for excellence, finding a solution to the lack of genetic diversity has not been easy. Our plan was threefold:
- Increase awareness of this exotic and rare breed of horse.
- Encourage the registration of Foundation Horses, many of whom could be descendants of Sugarbush Drafts lost to the Registry.
- Work to increase consistency of type in offspring
By increasing awareness of this breed, we hope to attract new members and Sugarbush Draft Horse owners. No breed can survive with only a handful of people dedicated to it. Horses need humans after all. Awareness will also bring knowledge of the ideal Sugarbush Draft Horse. We should never sacrifice quality to get quantity, and by allowing easy access to information on the Sugarbush Draft Horse, we hope that the standard of the breed will be kept true to type.
Because of the shortage of unrelated horses, crossbreeding has been our only option. After heavy consideration, we realized that the physical traits that make the Sugarbush Draft Horse ideal as a riding horse are not often found in many other draft breeds. Again, our gene pool was limited because this breed is simply like no other in its conformation, so the decision was made to allow breeding to light horses, and a system set in place to encourage breeding back up.
With the options available for increasing genetic diversity through breeding, we also know that many Sugarbush Draft Horses were lost through the years. Others have bred quality horses with a similar idea in mind, not realizing that they were simply following an American tradition. For years our culture has prided ourselves on improving upon what came before. Is adding unique color and altering conformation to suit an alternate discipline any different? So we accepted a limited number of Foundation horses. These are horses who exhibit the characteristics of the Sugarbush Draft Horse, but are not directly descended from a known registered horse. The Foundation program was closed in 2012, and the SDHR now has a sufficient number of horses to breed forward with out the risk of hidden genetic anomalies from recessive genes.
We know that reviving a breed from the brink of extinction will not be easy, but the members of the Sugarbush Draft Horse Registry are determined to try.