Monday, March 13, 2017


We decided to freeze brand our horses after reading, and hearing, so many sad stories about stolen horses being killed or abused, with little hope of being reclaimed. Bron and I knew we wanted a very unique brand that symbolized our farm, as well as being hard to alter, so thieves couldn’t change it. She had already designed our farm logo and built our brand based on it. It’s a large brand, easily visible and very unique.

The brand represents the two spotted breeds we own, Appaloosa and American Sugarbush Harlequin Drafts. The one spotted butt belongs to either and then each head shows either draft or sporthorse horse traits. The three “points” of the brand, as well as the crown, represent our farm name, which is Trinity. On the logo the spot that looks like a snowman is modeled after our senior stallion, Colida SkipNTwist, he has a grulla spot just like it on his left hip.

We contacted Branding Irons RC on facebook and sent them a brand design. We got our custom iron back very quickly and we were delighted with it.

Freeze branding is not something to undertake lightly. It’s less painful than hot branding, but takes twice the prep work. And prep work is important when you planning to put a permanent mark on your horse. Whether you have your vet do it, a freeze branding expert or do it yourself you need to make sure that everything is ready by the time your horse is ready to brand. Hunting around for tools or materials can just make it more stressful and difficult. We had 17 head to brand, so we decided to do all the prep work the night before. This allowed us to work slowly and precisely, without worrying that our liquid nitrogen was running out.

First we gathered our tools. We branded in early March because we wanted the brands healed up by show season and breeding season. We also didn’t want a bunch of bugs around to bother healing brands or make the horses itchy so they would rub against stuff. It also meant we had to clip through a lot of hair. We have a big brand and it was going to take a lot of clipping.

1)      With 17 head to clip we knew we need to keep the clipper blade clean and lubed. However, you can’t use something that will leave a heavy residue on the skin, so we opted for WD40 instead of greasier clipper oil.
2)      Hairy horses need a good stiff body brush to get the dirt out of the coat. The cleaner the coat the better your blades will work. As cold as it was bathing was not an option.
3)      Shedding blade to get loose surface hair off.
4)      Flashlight to make sure there are no cuts, abrasions or skin problems. You need to closely examine the area you are going to brand. Putting a freezing brand over an injury is not a great idea. The flashlight also allows you to work indoors or in a dim area.
5)      Toothbrush, to clean out your clipper blades. You will be using a very fine #40 surgical blade and it will gum up quickly. After 17 head of horses my blade was pretty unhappy.
6)      Black Sharpie to mark your template area onto the horse. This works on light horses.
7)      Chalk, also for marking template, on dark horses.
8)      Square level, taped to template, to make sure design is level.
9)      Plastic template. Our design was big and kite shaped. So just clipping a big square on the horse was not going to work. We need something that would help guide the brand head, because you only get one shot to get it on perfectly straight.
10)   Clippers, don’t use crappy ones. You need ones strong enough to power through heavy    
 hair and stay cool. These are Oster A-5s with a Buttercut brand #40 blade. Do NOT   
 skimp on the clipping, it is the difference between a good clear brand and a blurry one.
11)   Brand, get a good one with a proper built in hand hold and wood handle. 
12)   Not pictured: heavy insulated gloves, paint pen for marker dots, several liters of    
 Isopropyl Alcohol, at least 90 %, buy more than you think you will need. Stainless steel bucket for holding alcohol, sponge to apply it.

The night before freeze branding we clipped and examined each horse to make sure each branding site was clean, and clear of scratches or injuries. We opted to brand on the shoulder instead of the hip because our Appaloosas and Sugarbushes usually have white butts with spots, and we didn’t want to have to deal with the brand being interrupted by spotting. We branded the horses we had bred on the left shoulder and the horses we had bought on the right shoulder.

We first brushed and cleaned the area.

Then ran a slicker over the area to remove more dead hair and skin flakes.

We worked out where to place the template

Then traced the template with our Sharpie, because it’s a lighter colored horse

The marked area shows up nice and clear and gives us a good guideline for placing our brand

Before you start make sure your clippers are lubed so the blade will clip smoothly. Spray before the first clip pass, but NOT the second. The blades will still be oiled enough, but spraying before the second pass clip through will leave oil residue on the skin surface and you do not want that.

 After lubing, brush the blade to make sure it gets between the teeth and is spread evenly. You do not want big drops of oil getting on your clipped patch. 

In order to make crisp edges and to get a good idea of what your pattern will look like, I recommend clipping down with the grain of the hair first. This lets your clipper blade edge create a nice straight line at the top of your pattern. Clip all the way down and across to clear the area.

This will leave a short layer of hair which will need a second clipping, but will clearly show your work area

Next clip up against the grain and create as hairless an area as possible. You may have to go back over it a few times to get all the hair. Your flashlight comes in handy here as you can shine it up against the grain and spot stray hairs.

A nicely clipped clean area, ready for branding.

Measure the brand against the clipped area to be sure it fits in well.

Dot your brand points with a paint pen so you don’t have to second guess exactly where to place your brand. Use a paint pen, because the alcohol you will use to cover the area prior to branding will clean off any ink or chalk. You can see that the back of the brand is about a 1/4 inch bigger all the way around, so the end brand area is smaller than it looks.

Ready to brand, marker dots in place, clipped and clean. This amount of prep work will pay off so much when you finally get ready to place your brand.

The next day we made sure everyone was still in good shape, shoulder patches clean and brushed. I picked up the liquid nitrogen and parked next to our stocks. The nitrogen will chill the brand to -320 degrees, so it’s not something to mess around with, handle it carefully and be aware that even a small splash can cause scarring. When you place your brand down into the liquid nitrogen it will smoke and bubble a lot. Leave the brand in until the handle starts to frost up really good and the boiling stops. At the point the surface is calm and the bubbles are not bigger than pencil tips it’s ready to go. You can plan on the first chilling taking about 15 minutes. Once it’s been well chilled it will take less time between brands to re-chill it.

We used our stocks to hold the horses because we wanted them to remain as still as possible. This worked for all of them except our big 17.2 hand Sugarbush Harlequin Draft mare, as she doesn’t fit in the Priefert Stocks and the draft stocks have a cross bar at just the wrong height to block branding her shoulder. So we branded her in the wash rack and thankfully she was calm enough to stand. We brought each horse up and once in the stocks we each had a job and focused on it. Bron was in charge of holding the horses and timing the brand and I sponged on the alcohol and then branded them. I recommend wearing a plastic or latex glove when handling the alcohol, because if you have any cuts, scratches or hangnails you're going to get a painful reminder each time you pick up the sponge. We ended up using two full liters for 17 head. We opted to also twitch the horses with a humane twitch to keep them still. It’s simply too much trouble to sedate 17 head, and the wake up time would slow things down. 

The prep work certainly paid off. From the time the first horse entered the stocks, to the last horse took us 2.5 hours, so about 8.5 minutes per horse. Most of the time was taken up by re-chilling the brand. For the white horses we left the brand on for 50-55 seconds, so the hair would fall out and the skin would show through. For the darker horses we left it on 30 seconds so the hair would come back white and show the brand in the horse’s coat.  Once Bron called time I removed the brand and we snapped a photo.

Bay Varnish Roan mare

Dun Leopard Mare

Solid Dun Mare

When the brand is first removed the skin is indented. But just a short time later the area swells and the brand site becomes raised.

Older Snowflaked Dun Mare

A week later we have a nice clear brand and the hair is starting to slough off. We’ll post more photos as the brands come in either dark or white.

We're very pleased with how our brands turned out and proud to have our horses exhibit our farm logo and history on their shoulders.

Tracy Meisenbach
All photos and writing copyrighted and cannot be used with express written permission

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tracy Meisenbach- PVC Blanket Rack

Horse people are usually a thrifty bunch. We like to reuse and wear things out before buying new. And often what we want or need can't be bought unless it is custom made, which gets substantial. My biggest problem besides being a massive bit hoarder is I collect saddle blankets. All kinds; English, Western, Saddle Seat, Navajo, therapeutic, plain, colored, natural and artificial files. It's an addiction, there is no treatment.

Unfortunately the photo I found on Pinterist had no explanation or project list, so I had to wing it. So this is my composition to fit in the corner of my tack room.

24 feet of 1.5 inch PVC pipe, anything else will bend the stalk or the arms.
1- 1.5 inch PVC drain/trap
8- 1.5 inch PVC T's
2 inch wood screws about 12
4- 2 inch Lag bolts
1 Can PVC primer
1 Can PVC Rubber Cement
8- 1.5 inch PVC end caps ( trust me, during wasp  and spider season you will want these)

Drill with screw head and bit to put in lag bolts
Wrench for lag bolts.

(This is pre gluing and screws)

Measure your area, you may need more or less pipe. Mine has an 18 inch base stem, 6 inches between T's and 13 inch top stem. You can increase the width between T's, or add more arms if your area is higher. The arms are 26 inches due to space requirements. It is long enough for even big pads, but leaves the aisle way clear.


Pop the middle out, you might use it later!!!!! :) Pre-drill holes to fit your lag bolts and then carefully screw them in. Be careful not to crack the plastic.

Coat your base socket and the pipe with primer and glue and let it set. Now you can do the next part one of two ways. You can glue each fitting and create a bit long stalk, or you can screw each connecting piece into the T with the wood screws. I have this morbid horror of things I can't take apart so I used screws except for the base. So connect each 6 inch piece to your T's and make your stalk. Some people want the arms to move, I did not. I want them to stay in a perfect line so they don't hang on anything or take up more space. Once the stalk is created check your base, if it's dry sink a screw in it for stability. Now connect your stalk with the T's.


The higher the stalk and the more arms, the more bracing it will need. I added two screws to the middle sections and then screw in the top with a big long wood screw, as it had to attach to a rafter that was at an angle.

Once your stalk is secure the glue in your 26 inch arms. Let them dry over night. If you're going to be pulling pads off and on a lot then I'd add a wood screw to each base.

Add your caps with the primer and glue and then you are done. Cheap, efficient blanket rack. 

Copyright 4-2016 to present
Tracy Meisenbach
Do not copy, distribute or publish without permission.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Tracy Meisenbach- You, your horse and the bit, an unhappy threesome.

There seems to be a prevailing thought that how much you love your horse, or he loves you, determines how your equipment works. It doesn’t. Nothing determines how your equipment works except how it is meant to function. If it’s a snaffle it functions like a snaffle. If it’s a tiedown it functions like a tiedown. Nothing about you or your horse alters that UNLESS you actually alter the piece of equipment by adding or subtracting something to it.
Riders/trainers should also understand that nothing about the horse (barring an actual physical deformity) changes how the equipment works. Different horses may REACT differently, just like some people can pick up spiders and some people run screaming from the room, but the equipment, like the spider, is a constant. Reaction is NOT mechanical. Reaction is not based on a specific forumula. Reaction is based on pain, fear, emotion. So don’t confuse reaction with the mechanics of the bit. Some horses ignore pain, some are hypersensitive. Some tolerate poll pressure, some hate it. Just because your horse doesn’t react adversely does not mean he’s not in pain or anxious. Looking at the mechanics of the bit, plus the horse’s anatomy, can give you clues that his response may be hiding. Because at some point common sense has to kick in and say that X pounds of pressure on anything’s tongue is painful. I’ve bitten my tongue before, and it wasn’t with anywhere near the pressure that most people put on the reins and it hurt like hell. So imagine how the horse feels. And while it is true that a finished horse will react differently to a bit than a green horse it still does not change the way the bit works. A finished horse has a conditioned response to the bit's actions. A green horse is listening to his nerve endings telling him what to do UNTIL he finally connects that the rider is trying to tell him something and if he does it there is a reward of some kind. However, neither reaction changes the mechanics of the bit.

So when you assess your horse, and the bits you use, repeat these things to yourself, because honesty is the best policy when dealing with horses. And stop confusing emotional reaction with bitting mechanics.

Things that DO NOT alter how the bit works:
How much you love your horse
How much your horse loves you
Your relationship is not special, unique or rare. It’s simply a relationship with an animal you like, that likes you back and hopefully will last a long pain free time.
Horse’s breed
Horse’s age
Horse’s color
Horse’s training level
Political party
Sexual preferences
Favorite TV show
Favorite horse event
How much you pay for the bit
How much you win while using it
Celebrity using it
Advertising used to promote the bit
Where you live
How old you are
Whether all your tack matches
Drugs, they alter reaction, not mechanics

Things that will alter how a bit works;
A welder
A hack saw
Blow torch
Draw reins
Gag pulley
The bit breaking
Adding a curbstrap or taking one off

Tracy Meisenbach
Copyright 3-2016
Do not copy, republish or use without permission.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tracy Meisenbach- Pedigrees and generational influences

Those of us that love pedigree research regard it as a never ending treasure hunt for information, validation and piecing together the history of horse breeds. It can give us clues to color, genetic traits, breeding trends, even world events, such as the remount program created to mount the cavalry.We love to find the famous, the infamous, the rare and the building blocks.

Pedigrees can be a source of pride, or concern, depending on who is up close or far back. It's amazing how traits which seem minuscule can travel through the ages, carried by one horse in each generations. There are several Appaloosas that carry a literal trickle of Appaloosa blood, 1/32 or 1/64 and still come out wildly colored. When you consider how much each generation influences the horse in front of you it makes you think about the "strength" or "weakness" of some genes. Some seem to hide for awhile, recessives that only pop up when both parents have it, and then only in the right conditions, such as two chestnut agouti carriers that will not exhibit their hidden genes, yet their foal can produce a bay when bred to a black. Or dominant genes that always appear when present ( although sometimes you have to look really close!), manifesting in homozygous or heterozygous form.

We all get to read sale ads or hear brags about horses that go back to some great champion. I can't blame people that like to talk about their horse going back to Man O'War, he's an American hero. However, it is disturbing when they use a horse more than 4 generations back as a huge selling point. It's not. Unless that horse carries a unique genetic trait that can really affect the value of your horse ( and it's usually adversely) then more than 4 generations does not affect the horse in front of you.

Man O'War

So how much does each generation affect your horse? This chart shows how much and how little each succeeding generation contributes to the genetic makeup for your horse. So remember when you cite a famous horse, if he's more than 4 generations back he's not offering much, and if that's your value baseline you might want to rethink your prices and marketability. The average equine generation is 8 years, so from present to Man O'War is about 12 generations. He would be contributing .0244% to your horse's genetic make-up. That's not going to get you in the Derby and doesn't increase your horse's value one iota.

Your Horse
1) 2 Ancestors= 50% sire and dam
2) 4 Ancestors= 25% grandparents
3) 8 Ancestors= 12.5% great grandparents
4) 16 Ancestors= 6.25% great great grandparents
5) 32 Ancestors=3.125%
6) 64 Ancestors=1.5625%
7) 128 Ancestors=.7812%
8) 256 Ancestors= .3906%
9) 512 Ancestors =0.1952%
10) 1024 Ancestors=.09762%
11) 2048 Ancestors= .0488%
12) 4096 Ancestors=.0244%
13) 8192 Ancestors= .0122%
14) 16384 Ancestors=.0061%
15) 32768 Ancestors = .0030%
16) 65536 Ancestors= .0015%

Colida ApHC, Hall of Fame

So enjoy your horse's pedigree, and admire the horses in it. It's the history of mankind's development of the amazing animals we love. Be realistic about the value of distant ancestors when marketing your horse and be sure to check for lines that carry genetic defects.

copyright 2016 Tracy Meisenbach
please do not share or copy

Friday, February 19, 2016

Stark Naked Bits, clinics and expos coming up, Appaloosas and American Sugarbush Harlequin Drafts.

Stark Naked Bits will be hosting two clinics in Virginia in the next few months!!!!!! 

The first will be during the Virginia-North Carolina Horse Festival March 5th, 2016 at the Old Dominion Agriculture Center in Chatham Virginia.  We will be conducting a bitting clinic in the main arena and also have a booth in the vendors' hall to sell bits and take orders.

We will also be doing the breed demonstrations for the Appaloosa and the American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Horse. Stop by our stalls and visit our Appaloosa stallions Heza Docolida and Colida TwistOLena and Sugarbush Harlequin Drafts, Stonewall Rascal and Sugarbush Harley's Classic O

                                                                    Heza Docolida

                                                                Colida TwistOLena

Stonewall Rascal

Sugarbush Harley's Classic O

The second will be during the Virginia Horse Festival in Doswell at The Meadows Fairground on April 1st, 2nd and 3rd. We will also have a booth.

Our clinic schedule is:

Friday, April 1st, 2016
3:00 PM to 4:30 PM in the Horse Industry Board Arena

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016
1:00 PM to 2:30 PM in the Virginia Horse Council Foundation Classroom

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016
3:00 PM to 4:30 PM in the Virginia Horse Council Foundation Classroom

The American Sugarbush Harlequin Drafts and Appaloosas will also be featured breeds at Breyerfest and our lovely group will be representing these breeds. Breyerfest Carnival 2016

As soon as we get scheduling and stalling information we will post it. Stop by and see us, we'd love to introduce you to our wonderful horses and fun bits!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Tracy Meisenbach-Horse Training Cliches and other lies

I've been in this business a long, long time. So long that I can't remember life before having my own horses and can't imagine life when the day comes I can't have them anymore. During this long span I've seen and heard some amazing things and some outright stupid things. It reached the point that when I see and hear certain things the person involved gets relegated to either the cool or stupid column. The stupid column is longer and sadly contains some people that are respected in the industry because they win a lot. Winning does not mean you know everything, especially if you're being judged by idiots that do the same thing you do. Because of all of the misinformation and crap that gets said I decided to compile a list of stupid sayings that automatically relegate you to the stupid column. If you spout one of these cliches as a "training" justification you're stupid. You're stupid, covered in stupid with stupid flavored filling.

  1. Any bit is gentle in the right hands (no, some bits cause pain without rein pressure)
  2. "I need this bit because he's a ________ horse. You've never ridden a _____ horse of any real calibre or you'd know they need strong bits!" (I've trained and shown horses to top levels)
  3. It's like a hand brake, so I don't have to worry about losing control - he's got a naturally hard mouth. It doesn't stop him with pain, it just gets him to stop.  (Pain stops him, nothing else)
  4. "He was born hard-mouthed." ( No horse is born hard mouthed)
  5. "I don't really need it to ride him. I can ride him in a halter." ( Then do so, overkill isn't needed)
  6. "You just don't know how it works." ( I do know, that's why I don't use it)
  7. "It has a snaffle (broken) mouthpiece, so it's super gentle" (Usually in reference to a Tom Thumb)
  8. “Oh, it's a shanked snaffle, so it's really mild. ( Snaffles never have shanks. NEVER)
  9. "You can't ride X type of horse in a loose ring snaffle." ( You can if you know how to train)
  10. "He's a walking horse, so he has to have a walker bit" ( The breed of horse does not dictate the bit)
  11. "Walkers have to have a walking horse bit to gait." ( Horses gait whether they are bridled or not)
  12. "The correction port is a port so it still offers tongue relief." (Trapping the tongue is not relief)
  13. "I use it because its what so-and-so uses and THEY made the NFR. So it has to be good." 
  14. "It makes his mouth more sensitive" ( Yes, pain does that.)
  15. "That's what my trainer said to use" ( Then get a new trainer)
  16. "Because it LIFTS THE SHOULDERS" (Nothing lifts the horse's shoulder unless you pick up his foot)
  17. "Cavalry shanks are more gentle than regular shanks." ( depends on the mouthpiece.)
  18. "But the hackamore part engages FIRST, so he responds before the twisted mouthpiece engages. That means the twisted wire mouthpiece is only there for emergencies." (nosebands always engage last.)
  19. "But the edges of the twist are smooth, so it's gentle! It's just enough to get his attention!" (if it was gentle it wouldn't hurt enough to "get his attention")
  20. "You have no idea how this bit works, you're just close minded" ( Close minded would be not admitting it's a shitty bit.)
  21. "You have to bit them up and get that mouth sore so they will listen to a milder bit." ( You can't train through pain)
  22. "He's a barrel horse so he needs X bit to stop when we run because he gets too hyped up. At home I ride in a D ring." ( If he was trained he'd work in the milder bit)
  23. "Have you ever ridden X discipline or X kind of horse? Then you can't judge!" ( I know shitty riding when I see it)
  24. "What the hell are YOUR credentials?" ( The list is longer than this blog. All done without drugs, abusive bits, being suspended etc)
  25. "You've never ridden a grand prix horse, so you don't know how hard you need to be with bits to control them. ( Right, so all the winners who didn't use that shit bit were just flukes?)
  26. The Tom Thumb bit is needed so she could stop the horse if it decided to bolt. ( A TT won't stop anything that is serious about running off)
  27. "They gait by pivoting on the mouthpiece," from a trainer that specializes in MFT's. "See how holding the reins tighter collects 'em?" ( Stupidity and anatomy collide once again)
  28. "He has a really soft mouth" (when even a moderately well educated observer can see that he's desperately trying to avoid yanks and punishment")
  29. "They have to balance on the bit to hold a gait. Tighten the reins a little bit" ( A horse does not balance of his mouth)
  30. Lady who rode a very pacey, long-toed TWH around the neighborhood, upon observing Paddy's feet and headgear>>> "Oh, wow. You're riding him in a snaffle. He was trained in a curb, though, wasn't he?" (not the 'question' kind of 'wasn't he'.. but the 'of course he was trained in a curb' kind of wasn't he')
  31. How long has he been barefoot? (all his life, idiot. TWH's don't need heavy shoes any more than a fish needs a bicycle)
  32. How do you control him without a bit in his mouth? (With your seat and legs)
  33. But he's a western horse, he needs a western bit. ( Get him the hat too, it's a set. Cowboy up!)
  34. "You can't run barrels without a tie down and in a snaffle! How are you going to stop her?" ( With my seat and legs, saying whoa works too)
  35. "Your horses are too light mouthed- they'll drive better if you bit 'em down, shorten their checks, and spank 'em into your hand. They gotta brace on the bit to keep their front ends up." ( Stupidity on parade, look how high it can prance!)
  36. "A horse with his head up is ALWAYS hollow in the back!" ( Then why use a gag bit?)
  37. "If he didn't like his bit, he wouldn't let me put it in his mouth!" ( How's he going to stop you?)
  38. "Physics don't apply to MY bit!" ( Because your bit gets a free pass?)
  39. "My Snookums LOVES his double twisted wire ten inch shank bit. See how well he behaves!?" (He's afraid to move.)
  40. "He runs through anything else, so I HAVE to ride him in my chainsaw mouthed hackagag!" (Because you're too stupid to train him to stop)
  41. "It doesn't cause pain if you know how to use it right." (If you knew how to use it, you wouldn't)
  42.  "He's gotten sour, so we HAVE to bit him up more so he'll be safe." (Sourness is created by pain, adding pain just increases the sour)
  43. "How do you manage him- there nothing there to hurt him?!" ( Respect)
  44. “A twisted wire snaffle will teach them to be soft in the mouth because it makes little sores that will make them sensitive.” ( Good thing you're not a teacher)
  45.  "Just tie his head around by the bit. It'll teach him to bend!" ( It will teach him to be stiff and resistant because there is no reward)
  46. "Just tie his bit to a railroad tie. They learn real quick to be soft then!" (? How did this person survive childhood?)
  47. "Of course the horse is giving you trouble, you are not using a bit!!" (A bit was the problem in the first place)
  48. "You can't judge a bit until you use it!" ( Sure I can, I can look at the mechanics and know it's shit)
  49. "I'm so lighthanded, the bit doesn't matter" ( You're deluding yourself)
  50. "Snaffles are only starting bits. You can't ride in one after the horse is broke." ( Said no Olympic rider EVER)
  51. After explaining Tom Thumbs to several people, without fail: "Yeah, but aren't they also called a shanked snaffle? They're gentle." ( Snaffles never have shanks, see #8)
  52. "English is for prisses. You shouldn't be riding in an English bit. They don't work for western horses." ( Bits don't know they belong to a discipline, they are nonpartisan)
  53. "It releases endorphins" ( So do  twitches and lip chains, both are not good)
  54.  Tie downs=better balance ( You cannot balance with your head tied down)
  55.  "This is what the horse is trained in and he goes well in it." ( Because he was trained by an asshole)
  56. "I can't ride him in a milder bit, he will run away with me." (Go back to basics and put a stop on him)
  57. You’re just jealous couch jockeys who know nothing! ( I've never been jealous of bad riders or trainers)
  58. "Well every discipline has bad bits/techniques/riders/trainers etc" ( The bad in one, doesn't excuse the bad in another when used as a way to justify the bits/techniques/riders/trainers of their particular discipline. )
  59. "I was raised riding horses and we always used " X" bit too start them." (Evolve)
  60. "You don't know much about horses do you? You gotta make'm bleed some so they respect the bit. " ( You need to be in jail)
  61. "It is jointed, so it is still a snaffle." ( See #8)
  62. “You can make a curb bit into a snaffle, just don't put on the curb chain.” ( Removing the curb chain makes the bit worse, not better)
  63.  "My old horse went in it just fine, I don't need to spend money on a new bit for this one." ( Evolve)

    Yes people do say things that are this stupid, these are taken from actual posts and articles. And even worse, they MEAN it. They truly believe that if they say these tired old cliches that some barn fairy will show up, smack them with a trainer wand and impart the wisdom of the ages. It's not true. Being stuck in the cliche rut prevents you from evolving as a horseman. You stop learning. you stop listening to the horse. I have no idea why people got hung up on whispering to horses when we should have been listening to them. Listening doesn't take joining up, or carrot sticks or any special bit. Listening takes paying attention, acting ethically and putting the horse first. There is no ribbon or trophy in the world worth your integrity or his well being. And until people reach the point they will ignore the award in order to work with the horse then abuse, and stupidity, will continue to happen.

    So don't repeat these cliches, they show how limited you are and how far you have to go. Instead of speaking them, shut your mouth, open your mind and eyes and EVOLVE!

    Tracy Meisenbach
    Copyright 2-2016
    Do not publish, repost, or copy without permission

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tracy Meisenbach: The American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Horse

          We've been in Appaloosas a long, long time. My grandfather bought his first spotted horse in 1942, by the time I came along some 24 years later he'd had several more. His farm was in north eastern Oklahoma, not far from where Bill Cass stood Colida. My mom used to play high school basketball against Bill's sister Carol. With this close proximity to one of the greatest Appaloosas of all time you can guess what my first love was. 

Bill Cass and me in OKC

           I grew up around Colida horses and we competed in everything you can imagine. There are very few events we didn't do, whether english or western. We even ventured in to driving and saddleseat. An Appaloosa can do anything his rider can imagine, so they were the perfect horse for us, because we liked to do everything. Along the way we also had other breeds; Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, miniatures etc, but always had Appaloosas around.

            In the Mid 80s Bill Cass got disgusted with the ApHC and got into draft horses. He liked Belgians and he had some nice ones. He kept his Appaloosas, but he sure liked competing his drafts at the pulls. I remember driving out to his pasture with him at feeding time and he called up his herd of broodmares and the ground rumbled as 14 huge chestnuts galloped up for their evening meal. It was amazing how powerful and quick they were. I could see their appeal. At this time I was competing in speed events pretty heavily, as well as cross country and 3 day eventing, and to me the drafts were more of a hobby horse, not something a serious competitor would use.

                                            Bandit, Twister, Cochise, Rogue and Cochise

           Fast forward to 2011 and through strange circumstances I found myself with 4 Percherons. 3 blacks and 1 grey. 2 geldings and 2 mares. The mares were papered and very well bred. I sold the geldings and the grey mare ( something I now seriously regret) and kept the big black mare. She's a 17.2 hand Jaeger bred mare. What the heck does an Appaloosa breeder need with one of those? 
Jaeger's Abby's Gaby

            By now I've grown out of going balls to the wall in speed events, I like to mosey a lot and I want a nice big easy going horse. I also wanted a spotted draft horse. Simple solution, breed my gorgeous Percheron mare to my Colida bred stallion. I think Bill Cass would have heartily agreed, especially after he saw the result. This was not some random"backyard" breeding. My Appaloosa stallion had halter, hunter in hand, speed event points and was 4th in the nation in games. His sire and dam  were both pointed show horses. His grandfathers, Colida, Bright Eyes Brother and Top Hat H, were in the Hall of Fame. The Percheron mare was the daughter of the Canadian Reserve National Champion Stallion and her dam was the daughter of another National Champion. 
                                                                     Colida SkipNTwist

         The result of this cross was amazing. 5 panel genetically clean, homozygous black, dun factor and a conformation to die for. Tyrion Twist is an amazing sport horse and has already made his public debut, wowing crowds at Breyerfest as a weanling and winning second in open stallions at the Virginia State Fair Draft Horse Show. We expect great things from this young stallion.
                                                       Tyrion Twist, ASHDA #-00013

            About the time I decided to cross my two horses, (visions of spotted sporthorses dancing in my head) I met up with some other people that were promoting a breed of spotted drafts. Fortuitous in some ways. Not so much in others. The Sugarbush Harlequin Draft had been started by Everett Smith as a spotted draft. Unfortunately the person that had taken over the registry was just not doing the breed any good, creating an entirely false history that she uses to give her private business validity. Despite this problem, several of us persevered with our horses and helped preserve and grow this really amazing breed.
Stonewall Rascal, SSB-F2 #9606, ASHDA #E-00001

            This leads us to the oft asked question; “What is a Sugarbush Harlequin Draft?”
The answers to that question are really simple. A Sugarbush Harlequin Draft is a horse bred from the original stock owned by Everett Smith or a horse registered in the original Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Horse Registry (SHDHR) or a horse registered in the American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Association (ASHDA). That’s it. If the horse does not meet one of those parameters it’s not a Sugarbush Harlequin Draft.

You can’t get a Sugarbush Harlequin Draft just by crossing an Appaloosa on a Draft horse, or a Draft horse on any other spotted breed. Those are just crossbred drafts. A Sugarbush Harlequin Draft has to meet either the pedigree criteria of parents registered with the original SHDHR or ASHDA or be approved with ASHDA by meeting the conformational and genetic testing requirements of the breed. A Sugarbush Harlequin Draft horse isn’t just a mix, and it’s not a name that can be applied to any spotted draft. ASHDA's standards are high and their approval process is rigorous, requiring conformational analysis, genetic testing and pedigree assessment. We want only the best. So don’t be fooled, if the horse isn’t registered with ASHDA or the original SHDHR, then it’s not a Sugarbush Harlequin Draft. This breed was started by Everett Smith and ASHDA is the only registry endorsed by him to continue on his beloved breed. We follow his guidelines for conformation, clean genetics and stellar pedigrees. ASHDA is  currently producing a documentary video of Everett Smith and his horses in which he answers questions about the breed, his program, and his views on genetic testing, ASHDA and the future of the breed.

 Apache Double, ApHC Stallion

                So where do they come from? Their story actually starts way back in the 70s when a young man named Michael Hanna (Muir) bought an Appaloosa stallion called Apache Double from Iola Hatley. He paid a record price for him, $100,000.00. ( he was the second horse sold for this amount, the first being Flying Star, a Colida son) Apache Double is the first and only Appaloosa to go over the $2 million mark in winnings of his get. He’s a great-grandson of Reigh Count who won the Kentucky Derby and a maternal grandson of ApHC Hall of Fame horse Apache

                                           Charlie Degas, Percheron Stallion

         Along with breeding Appaloosa race horses at his Stonewall Stud Farm Michael Hanna took an interest in drafts and driving. He purchased Charlie Degas, the purebred Percheron stallion foaled in 1973, who became the foundation stallion of the Stonewall Studbook and an important influence in the development of the Stonewall Sporthorse.

          Michael bred Charlie Degas to a daughter of Apache Double called Stonewall Baby Jane. She was out of a Poco Arbol bred mare called Stonewall Dottie West. Stonewall Baby Jane, 23 as of this writing, is a big bay leopard mare, she was later bred to Stonewall Showmaster, another purebred Percheron Stallion and produced Stonewall Rascal, who is the founding stallion of the Sugarbush Harlequin Draft breed.

                           Stonewall Rascal and Bron Stark at Breyerfest 2015

            About this time Michael Hanna had some serious life changes. He changed his last name to Muir in honor of his grandfather’s name, because it was going to die out, and he discovered he had MS. He sold his racehorses ( Ocala Flight went to Australia) and started focusing more and more on driving. In an effort to bring awareness to MS he decided to drive across America with his trio of Stonewall Sport Horse mares, Stonewall Stella, Stonewall Blanche and Stonewall Scarlett. They drove from California to Florida as a unicorn hitch. It was an amazing feat and showed how truly outstanding these spotted draft crosses are.

          Everett Smith also owned a carriage company and had taken up driving as a pastime and part time job. His Sugarbush Hitch Company in Willow Wood, Ohio was using his breed of choice, Percherons. In 1998 he saw an article about Michael Muir and his spotted team and contacted him. The two men discussed their goals and what each wanted in an elegant spotted driving horse and the Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Horse and Stonewall Sport Horse Registry was born. Everett bred his percheron mare, Sugarbush Felina Del Noche to Stonewall Rascal and she produced Sugarbush Harley Quinne, a loud spotted black and white leopard. Harley, as he was known, was Everett’s ideal horse; a ¾ draft with loud color, traceable pedigree and good conformation and temperament.
                                  Sugarbush Felina Del Noche and Sugarbush Harley Quinne

            Sugarbush Harley Quinne gained the Sugarbush Hitch Company a lot of attention and people started seeking out Sugarbushes! Spotted drafts were getting noticed and whether it was the heavier ¾ draft Sugarbush or the lighter ½ draft Stonewall Sporthorses both names had gone into the equestrian vernacular to denote LP marked heavy horses.

          Sadly a twofold tragedy struck. Sugarbush Harley Quinne died leaving only one intact son, Sugarbush Harley’s Classic O. It was then that Everett discovered that Stonewall Rascal had been sold and gelded, so he could not repeat the breeding that produced Harley Quinne. Everett was also facing health issues and after a discussion with Michael Muir they decided to separate out the registry for each breed. The Stonewall Sporthorse Studbook is now in California. Everett took a chance and let another person take over the Sugarbush registry, but that resulted in almost destroying the breed. It was run as a private business and breeding to anything was allowed. In an effort to save the breed a group of dedicated Sugarbush Harlequin draft lovers got together and with Everett Smith’s blessing they have rebuilt the breed using his original lines and making requirements for genetic testing, conformation and other factors.  Today the American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft is a growing breed and gaining international notice. They are invited to appear at Breyerfest every year where they are a crowd and artist favorite. ASHDA has been to the International Horse Fair in Beijing, China and featured at other expos throughout the USA. Articles covering the history of the breed have been featured in the Draft Horse Journal, on various websites and forums.
        The American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft is one of only two draft breeds created specifically in America, the other is the American Cream Draft. It's a breed with a bright future as both a riding horse and a driving horse. The sweet temperament and versatility of the breed make it easily trainable. They are visually eye catching and unlike a lot of draft breeds that are hitch gaited they have gaits more like a good saddle horse. ASHDA does not encourage docking tails, liking a horse to be able to switch flies. ASHDA also does not condone scotch bottom shoes or the extreme squared toes found in many breeds. It's not a "mutt", "grade" or "backyard breed" as some people claim. Most ASHDA horses have pedigrees that can trace back to the 1800s on both sides, unlike a lot of Quarter Horses and other breeds today. There is a demand for them and breeders are usually contacted by people interested in riding age horses, many of which are simply not for sale as they are used as breeding stock. So don't believe the disgruntled rantings of people that have never actually met one of these amazing horses. Sour grapes are extremely bitter, unlike American Sugarbush Harlequin Drafts, which are sweet enough for everyone.