Miniature horses, whose ancestors laboured in the coal mines of Europe are now finding new popularity as pets on ranches and hobby farms in North America.
Miniature horse Miss Ellie got lots of loving attention from children and adults alike when she was loaned to the Rose Lake Miocene 4-H Club for their Easter petting zoo in Boitanio Mall this spring.
While miniature horses are not built for riding they are very strong and adept at pulling carts, says Miss Ellie’s owner Debbie Fadenrecht.
“They can pull twice their body weight,” Fadenrecht says. “Miss Ellie can pull an adult in a 75-pound cart without any problem.”
According to Wikipedia miniature horses were first developed in Europe in the 1600s, and by 1765, were seen frequently as the pets of nobility. Others were used in the coal mines in England and continental Europe and eventually found their way to North America.
“They were born and raised and worked in the coal mines all of their lives, never seeing the light of day,” Fadenrecht says.
Before the miniature horses came into being, she says children were employed to haul the mine carts because they were small and could get in and out of the caves easily. Miniature horses were eventually replaced with mechanical carts that run on tracks.
Today miniature horses are trained as service animals, akin to assistance dogs for people with disabilities, for driving and equine agility, and other competitive horse show events.
“Miss Ellie is my super star,” Fadenrecht says. “I take her to events where kids can pet and groom her, ask questions and learn about equine partners. She is a fabulous teacher for kids who would otherwise never get that chance to be up close to a horse.”
Miss Ellie has been in the Stampede Parade, the centre of attention at birthday parties and will be a live attraction this Friday morning at the Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo’s Cowboy Carnival for children.
“I find her to be very non-threatening for small children due to her size and temperament,” Fadenrecht says.
Depending on the breed miniature horses are usually less than 34 to 38 inches (86-97 cm) tall, to the last hairs of the mane and come in a variety of colours and coat patterns.
Miss Ellie stands 33 inches at the withers and is trained to drive and pull a cart.
Sophie stands 36 inches at the withers and is currently in training for harness.
Fadenrecht lives in town and boards Miss Ellie and Sophie at the Trail Rider’s stables in the Stampede Grounds. She also has a friend with property where the little horses “go to be horses.”
Just like big horses, Miss Ellie and Sophie receive regular farrier treatment and veterinary care.
“They are exercised by doing round pen work or a free run in the arena and I do walk them around the grounds,” Fadenrecht says.
Fadenrecht grew up in Williams Lake and been associated with horses most of her life. She is president of the Williams Lake Trail Rider’s Association and organizes the monthly gymkhanas for the association.
“I am a great believer in volunteering and being involved in our community,” Fadenrecht says.