Sugarbush Draft Horse Registry
Dedicated to Preserving one of the last American Draft Horse breeds
America's Other Draft Horse
As draft horses lost their place on the American farm, many of the remaining horses were put to use in carriage companies. They pulled decorative carriages for weddings or sight seeing in large towns. One such company, The Suigarbush Hitch Co. was operated by Everett Smith of Ohio. Mr. Smith felt that a fancier horse would draw more attention to his business, and looked at a relatively new breed of horse gaining popularity called the Appaloosa. Many of the Appaloosa horses showed classic signs of draft influence, often being quality draft crosses suitable for carriage work. We look back now, and wonder if those could have been offspring of the Nez Perce dispersal.
Having been born at the end of the Great Depression, Mr. Smith knew the value of a draft horse wasn't always based on it's pedigree, and so began breeding towards a goal. He chose the finest Percheron bloodlines available to him, and crossed those with quality Appaloosas; those showing the traits he desired. Often times the desired traits were considered flaws in their own breed. Mr. Smith selectively culled his breeding stock, always aiming for a true draft horse with excellent conformation as well as color.
As these horses gained local popularity, they became known as the Sugarbush Horses, after the carriage company which used them, and the name stuck. Many enthusiasts fell in love, and began their own breeding program, working towards a full draft horse with appaloosa type coloration. These programs were often based around either a single stallion or mare from Mr. Smith's program, and cross breeding to various breeds of draft horses. Other breeders loved the idea, and made their own crosses working toward the same end goal.
The Percheron Stallion Valley Vista Knightime was an influential stallion in the foundation of the Sugarbush Draft Horse.
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This page was last updated: June 6, 2013
In the 1960s, Michael Muir began breeding a similar cross, which he called the Stonewall Sport Horse. Mr. Muir's goal was for a medium sized horse with eye catching color. Everett Smith and Michael Muir soon began to work together. While Michael Muir desired a draft cross harness type horse, Everett Smith had dreams of a pure draft horse with all the exceptional qualities shown in the crosses to date. The Sugarbush Draft Horses could be crossed to light horses to achieve an ideal medium driving type horse, while the Stonewall Sport Horses, already carrying many of the desired traits could be crossed to Draft Horses to achieve a Sugarbush type horse. The expanded the available genetics, and quickly accelerated both programs; their own as well as those of other enthusiasts.
In the 1982 Everett Smith realized that there was a need for a formal registry for these polka dotted draft horses, and officially formed the Sugarbush Draft Horse Registry. Horses both from his program, and from other similar breeding programs across the country were soon registered in a central location. To the surprise of many owners, the breed had attained a loyal following who were devoted to the advancement of this unique horse. A side effect of the early use of appaloosa crosses resulted in a draft horse that was ideally built for riding more then pulling weight. While these horses excel at light carriage work, their conformation differs from the traditional European breeds of draft horses used in the original crosses, such as Percherons and Belgian drafts.
Always striving to improve upon previous generations, Everett Smith's horses became the foundation of the breed, and the most sought after of the Sugarbush Draft Horses. Unfortunately, as the Sugarbush Draft Horse gained its popularity, draft horses as a whole were falling out of favor with American horse owners. Draft horses in general were often not built to be a comfortable ride, and required everything to be larger then the more common light horses. This stigma also affected the Sugarbush Draft Horse.
The Sugarbush Draft Horse, though, still carried traits of those fine coursiers bred by the Native Americans so long ago. The sloped shoulder, longer neck, moderate length of back, and more upright hooves meant that the Sugarbush Draft Horse was not only good to look at, it was also comfortable to ride. And with the preponderance of draft breeding, the Sugarbush Draft Horse has a willing attitude, a strong work ethic, and a loyal personality. It is the best of both worlds and truly unlike any other breed of horse.
The birth of a striking leopard colt with 7/8ths draft blood was considered the culmination of Everett Smith's breeding program. That colt was named Sugarbush Harley Quinne. The decline of the draft horse was still working against the Sugarbush Drafts, and the tradition of breeding for quality above all else resulted in low numbers of foals born in years with little demand for heavy horses. Images of Sugarbush Harley Quinne brought attention back to the breed, but numbers of registered horses continued to decline.
Sadly, Harley died in 2006, leaving only a single intact colt, Sugarbush Harley's Classic O, remaining to the breed. Mr. Smith began to look towards retirement without allowing his life's work to fall into obscurity. He continued to breed a handful of horses until 2008. Always striving to improve upon the amazing quality horses he had already produced.
As Mr. Smith announced his retirement, the Sugarbush Draft Horse Breed Registry's headquarters was moved to Whitesboro, Texas. The last of his breeding herd traveled with the generations of documentation he had kept, and the horses were placed for sale through Iron Ridge Sport Horses. These wonderful horses were made available to new owners and enthusiasts of the breed in the hopes that the breed would soon experience a revival.
Stonewall Rascal, a Stonewall Sport Horse stallion who became influential in the advancement of the Sugarbush Draft Horse breed.
Sugarbush Harley's Classic O, shown as a foal with his dam. A wonderful example of the ideal Sugarbush Draft Horse, "O" is the last stallion of this breed, and a wonderful candidate to bring the Sugarbush Draft Horse back to the popularity it deserves.
Sadly, with only 12 horses left, this fine and magnificent breed of horse is in real danger of dying out. Often being mistaken for a recent designer breed of horse, the Sugarbush Draft Horse is actually one of the few truly American breeds of Draft horse and has over 50 years of continuous recorded history.
Many breeds of draft horse have already been lost. Amongst those are the Conestoga Horse, and the Vermont Drafter. Both breeds were lost to cross breeding to the general horse population. Like many breeds, the Sugarbush Draft Horse began as a crossbreed, but multiple generations of breeding like to like, and even crossing to other draft breeds has shown that the Sugarbush Draft horse is a unique breed, with characteristics that consistently pass on to future generations.
For those born at the end of the Great Depression, the value of a fine work horse was priceless. As technology swept the United States replacing living breathing horse power with something more economical, many of the millions of horses previously used were no longer necessary.
Around the turn of the 20th century there were over 13 million horses in the United States, over half of which were draft or part draft horses. When the US calvary disbanded the herds of the Nez Perce, history holds that they crossed draft horses to the horses of the Native Americans, and dispersed the resulting offspring to be used as plow horses. Those resulting draft crossed foals were amongst the many horses counted at the turn of the century.
Sugarbush O Rosamunde, showing extreme bronzing. This coloration can be seen on black horses with LP genetics.