History Of the Breed

There is no doubt America grew and prospered from the hard work of the American draft horses. In the days before steam engines horses were the main form of transportation for commerce traveling and war. This all changed with the advent of trains and motorized vehicles. Post World War II created a new economy and many farmers replaced their draft horses for gasoline driven tractors. The draft horses were still used for logging, on smaller farms, and in a nod to nostalgia, many of the remaining horses were put to use in carriage companies.

Everett Smith has such a company, The Sugarbush Hitch Co. in Ohio. There was a lot of competition and Everett thought that a more eye catching team of horses would draw notice to his business. He favored another American breed that was gathering notice and growing in popularity because of their lovely spotted coats, the Appaloosa. Ironically, some of the Appaloosas showed that their breeding carried draft influence, which was brought about by the US government farming programs on the Native American reservations. Everett was born at the end of the Great Depression, and he not only wanted an eye catching animal he wanted one with a stellar disposition that could work long hours and was trustworthy and capable. Several decades ago he selected from the best of Percheron bloodlines in his region, and bred those with exceptional colored Appaloosas and Stonewall Sport Horses. Everett carefully chose his breeding stock, making crosses that would retain the loud color and show the required draft horse conformation. His business grew and gained in popularity, making people request his company and horses by name, and so the Sugarbush horse was born! Good horsemen appreciate a well conformed, highly colored horse and several were attracted to Everett’s teams. These horsemen began their own programs, following Smith’s lead and creating loud colored draft horses.

Michael Muir was another horseman with a similar idea. He was crossing drafts on Appaloosas and calling the result a Stonewall Sport Horse. Michael didn’t want as heavy a horse as Everett, desiring a good medium build, much like today’s modern warmblood, but also exhibiting loud color. The two men began to work together. While Michael desired a draft cross harness type horse, Everett had dreams of a pure draft horse with color, each of their programs complimenting the others. Everett called his horses Sugarbush Harlequin Draft horses. Sugarbushes could be crossed to either light horses, with the result being medium build horse, or to heavy horses and retain the draft build but with the noticeable spotted coloration. Stonewall Sport Horses, half draft to begin with, could be crossed to draft horses and produce a Sugarbush. Both men’s programs increased the gene pool and allowed for more horses to be produced.

Soon it was evident to Everett that there was a need for an official registry to record the lineage of the beautiful horses, so he officially formed the Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Horse Registry. He registered his horses and those from the breeding programs that had enthusiastically joined in his vision.

Everett’s horses were the foundation of the new breed, and highly desired by other Sugarbush breeders. Regrettably, as the Sugarbush gained favor in the public eye, draft horses were losing ground with the horse owners of America. Western events were gaining enthusiasts and horse ownership was more affordable. The breed peaked and then started to wane and people moved toward lighter horses and faster events.

After a lot of careful breeding by both Mike Muir and Everett Smith in their own programs, in a combination of the two Everett finally reached the goal of his own program. A striking leopard colt was born in 1999. The sire was Stonewall Rascal (ASHDA E-00001 SSB F2-#9606) and the dam a black Percheron mare from Everett’s program, Sugarbush Felina Del Noche (PHAA- # 273568). The foal, Sugarbush Harley Quinne (ASHDA E-00002) proved that Everett knew what he was doing; that a colored draft animal with quality and conformation was possible. Unfortunately Harley passed away in 2006, with only one intact colt, Sugarbush Harley's Classic O (ASHDA E-0003). This stunning black and white stallion is now being used to rebuild Everett’s dream and ensure the survival of the Sugarbush. He is now owned by Rebecca Buck of Flint Ridge Ranch.

After years of breeding Everett announced his retirement in 2008, and the registry was moved to Texas. There were only 12 true Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Horses left, and the situation was dire. The registry opened the books and registered drafts horses from other breeds in order to increase the gene pool. Unfortunately, this registry was beset with management problems and had slow growth and a lack of member services. Once again there was a chance that Everett’s unique draft horses would be lost. A group of like-minded people decided to save the horse and ensure its future. The owner of Sugarbush Harley’s Classic O, Rebecca Buck, and the owner of Stonewall Rascal, Tracy Meisenbach, got together and created a new registry with a group of interested breeders. With respect to Everett’s original registry they named the new one the American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Association, or ASHDA. As the Sugarbush is actually one of the rare original American breeds and has a recorded history that spans 50 years, preserving it became the mission of the dedicated owners.

Both hobby riding and competitive showing have taken an upsurge in popularity and the need for heavier horses to suit taller riders has the Sugarbush Harlequin Draft regaining popularity. They are suited to dressage, driving, eventing, trail riding and make excellent lesson or therapy horses. They are heavy enough for the stoutest rider and gentle enough for the smallest. With a preponderance of draft breeding, the Sugarbush Harlequin Draft 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. Like the Appaloosa it gets its color from, it comes in many patterns from leopard to blankets, snowflakes to solid. They can possess any base color, making the possibilities endless.

The American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft will continue to grow in popularity. Despite its size it is a versatile animal. It has very good feet, bone structure and conformation and temperament. You don’t have to worry about soundness issues and because ASHDA is taking a very pro-active stance on genetic defects you can buy a horse knowing that its defect free.

The American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft is a breed that is only limited by your imagination and they are sweet enough for the entire family.