Jessica Wright looked extremely relaxed for a seven-year-old as she rode a horse around the ring at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair in Brandon.
She smoothly steered the horse, Bullseye, around barrels, and he trotted, jumped and stopped on command.
Meanwhile, Jessica’s mother, Susan Wright, who was also inside the ring, didn’t seem concerned about her daughter’s safety. She didn’t have to worry about a potential fall because Bullseye is less than a metre tall.
Wright, who lives near Rapid City, Man., owns five miniature horses similar in size to Bullseye. She also has regular-size horses for the larger members of her family.
“We have both, but I like the miniature horses for the kids,” said Wright, who has raised miniatures for 15 years.
“If the kids go out with them, I know they’re safe … compared to the riding horses.”
The Wrights were part of a group of volunteers at the Winter Fair promoting the small horses and the Manitoba Miniature Horse Club.
“We had over 50 families in our club last year,” said Heather Hart, who has 45 registered miniatures with her husband, Rod, near Carman, Man.
“Our club has been existence for about 20 years, and this is the highest membership we’ve ever had. We have a lot of youth … between 30 and 40 youth members.”
Miniature horses have become popular as older people and families with young children seek a fun and safe activity.
“People like us, who used to have horses, really don’t want to take the risk of falling off anymore…. (Or) some people will have them for a companion (animal),” said Hart, who runs Meadowind Miniatures and is secretary of the Manitoba club.
The Harts don’t ride their miniature horses because they can support only a 30 kilogram child. Their passion is driving horses, and Hart said a miniature horse can pull two adults in a cart for about 15 kilo-metres.
The miniature horses on display at the Winter Fair were definitely a hit because of how cute they are.
Many visitors stopped to oohh and ahhh, particularly at the yearlings, which were only 50 centi-metres high.
In addition to their charm and safety, miniatures are also cheaper to feed than a typical horse.
“Where a big horse would go through a bale (of hay) in a day and a half, a bale will do a little horse for a whole week,” Wright said.
“A round bale will last a miniature horse all winter.”
- Miniature horses are not a breed. They can be registeredas a miniature horse if they are less than 34 inches tall. There is also the “B” class of miniature horses, which must be shorter than 38 inches.
- The popular belief is that today’s miniatures descended from horses that worked in mines. They also draw upon the genetics of Shetland ponies.
- Miniature horses can be used as service animals. Their intelligence and gentle nature make them ideal guide animals for the blind.