Miniature horses. Like the name implies, they're full-grown horses that
stand thirty-four inches or less measured from the last hairs of their
Miniature horses date back to sixteenth century Europe, where they were
popular pets among royalty. Eventually, they turned into valuable workhorses,
pulling carts through coalmines in England, and later in the United States.
Their small size made them suitable for small spaces. Plus, adds Joleigh
Stribling with Quicksilver Ranch in Solvang, "They're not as scared
as big horses. They can be in closed, confined spaces without getting
upset. And they can pull up to ten times their own weight."
Today in California, miniature horse farms can be found from Petaluma
near San Francisco all the way south to San Diego. Since these little
guys are bred to be friendly, curious, and docile, they're well suited
to children. Joleigh, who's been around "minis" for most of
her life, says they're sweet and affectionate, much like the family dog
or cat. And like dogs and cats, miniature horses make popular pets.
While they can't live in the house, Joleigh has often brought her favorite
horses into her office to keep her company. They've even napped on her
Quicksilver sells its horses starting at around $2500. Feeding a full-grown
"mini" costs a mere $20 a month. But before you rush out to
buy one, remember: this is still a horse and it requires regular maintenance.
Along with feeding, washing, brushing, medical care, and shelter, a miniature
horse needs as much or more attention than a family dog. And while miniature
horses have enough strength to pull a small cart, they cannot be ridden,
since their backs can't take the weight of even an average-sized child.
Among breeders, the goal is a horse that's small but in proportion to
its larger cousins. While "minis" won't get much smaller, their
looks continue to evolve. Joleigh explains that fifty years ago, "minis"
looked more like draft horses, with larger, bulkier bodies and shorter
legs. Now, many of the rougher edges have been bred out of them. The result:
miniatures with the sleek lines of an Arabian, but in a scaled-down package.
A sweet, small package with enormous appeal!
If you'd like to see miniature horses for yourself, Quicksilver Ranch in Solvang (near Santa Barbara) welcomes visitors. The address is 1555
Alamo Pintado Road. Phone: (805) 686-4002.
Another spot we featured in this story was the Winners' Circle Ranch in
Petaluma in Northern California. The address: 5911 Lakeville Highway.
Phone: (707) 762-1808.
For further information about miniature horses, visit the official American
Miniature Horse Association website at www.minihorses.com/amha.