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. 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. Starting in the 1980s, he began his Percheron program with three horses, a gelding and a pair of mares all registered with the Percheron Horse Association of America. In 1997, his goals changed when he discovered Mike Muir's program. Mike Muir had spent years carefully breeding for a heavy warmblood Appaloosa sport horse he had dubbed the Stonewall Sport Horse. In 1989, legendary Percheron stallion Charlie Degas had come into his possession, and by crossing him on his race bred Appaloosa mares, he produced an exceptional harness horse with a loud leopard coat. Everett was enamoured of the Stonewall horses, and changed his goals from just purebred Percherons to developing a whole new horse for his carriage company. This horse would have the diverse coat colors and hardiness of the Stonewall Sport Horse, on a full draft. In 1998, Everett bred his superb Percheron mare, Sugarbush Felina del Noche, to Mike Muir's upcoming 3/4 Percheron Stonewall Stallion, Stonewall Rascal. In 1999, the first Sugarbush Harlequin Draft was born, a high percentage draft leopard colt- the legendary Sugarbush Harley Quinne! He crossed Felina again to another stallion of Mike's, Stonewall Domino, to produce Sugarbush O Rosamunde. As his program expanded, 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.

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 and Stonewall Sport 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, his program producing both Sugarbush Harlequin Drafts and Stonewalls. In 2003, the next generation of Sugarbush was born, a black blanketed colt by Harley and out of a percheron mare named William's Jewell. This would be the last stallion to come out of the Sugarbush Hitch Company program, but he sired a few foals for Everett before his retirement from breeding.

After years of breeding Everett announced his retirement in 2008, and his horses and registry files were placed in the hands of someone who he thought he could trust with his dream. There were only 12 true Sugarbush Harlequin Draft Horses out of his program to move the breed forward, and the situation was dire. A community was formed, but it was discovered that Everett's dream wasn't safe after all. His horses, his history, and his own name were used to support a money grab. His beloved stock were crossed on low quality animals, and the history of the breed twisted to suit an agenda. A small number of breeders in the community tried to keep his beloved breed from becoming a caricature of itself, but were met with resistance, lies, and low motivation from the self appointed leaders in the breed community. There was a chance that Everett’s unique draft horses would be lost. Things came to a head in the winter of 2013, and a group of like-minded people passionate about the true breed 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 produced top quality horses from careful selection, 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.