Small Is Beautiful
from issue: 31-1
Small Is Beautiful – Mini Horses
by Arthur Bolduc of Howard, OH
Frederick Schumacher, an economist, once wrote a book, “Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.” It debunked the “Get Big or Get Out” mentality that small, private businesses and farms are inefficient and better left to large corporations to run than the individual citizen. Schumacher humanized the dismal science and reminded us that “getting the most from resources that are scarce” is not limited to what can be measured in dollars and cents.
A neighbor, Becky Zeune, probably never read Schumacher, but she uses good economics to find expression for her life with a herd of miniature horses that she shares with other horse lovers not as fortunate as herself.
Becky keeps about twenty miniature horses, a couple of donkeys, two llamas and an assortment of barnyard poultry on her family’s farm near Danville, Ohio. Becky is not into breeding commercially or showing, she is one of those individuals who find that “there is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a person.” And since she needs to have horses and other animals in her life, the slightly less than three foot high miniature horses are economical in more ways than just feeding and housing.
Becky and her family also have a couple Standardbred horses, and she has owned many other types of horses. Several years ago a frolicking, yearling Standardbred accidentally kicked her in the face and broke her cheekbone. In fact, it caved in the side of her face. The pressure on the nerves numbed much of the pain from the blow, but when the bone fragments were pulled back into place surgically and the pressure removed, the pain really began.
It was a traumatic, painful experience, but it never diminished her love for horses, it just made her more cautious. A broken leg also helped reinforce that lesson. But with her children grown and no longer there to share her hobby, she finds the little horses easier to care for, safe to handle, and can be kept in appropriate numbers.
Becky finds them something she can share with her grandchildren and others who love horses but for many reasons can’t keep any of their own.
Being only 32” high, the little horses are the ideal size to introduce small children to the joys of riding and driving horses. At that age they quickly bond with the animals and develop a mutual understanding, a magic that only children and young animals can share when they are very young and can never regain once they are grown. With little coaching, the children will learn to ride like the wind, and never fear, but always respect their mounts. It’s a time when animals and children alike are ripe to accept discipline, not the misguided conception of discipline taught by scolding or even worse, the lash, but the subordination of the mind to a learning mode where, being the animal with the big head, children will learn skills, mental and physical, learn to use their sense of wonder to appreciate the wonders of the world, and most of all, to learn to think, to make learning a lifelong habit.
The miniature horse’s size make them convenient to transport to retirement homes and children’s parties, and they are also less intimidating to small children and those not familiar with horses. They are also welcome and add a new dimension to parades, street fairs and other events.
Every spring there is a new crop of foals on the pasture, and the grandchildren, like Becky, delight in welcoming each new arrival into the world. After the children leave, Becky still has something to lavish her maternal love on.
A nurturer by nature, Becky knows that horses are social animals, like children, that need the herd to grow and develop into affectionate, well adjusted creatures. A pair is the minimum number of horses that should be kept together, and to be at their best they need the herd and a place in the social order. Like humans, horses need role models. Becky can see to their feed and water and certain health needs, and she can train them to lead at halter and be driven in harness and under saddle. Their dams can nurse them, and even groom them to a certain extent and make them behave if they become too obnoxious. But foals need other foals to run with, to fight mock battles and develop good moves, should they ever need them. They need the older mares, the aunts and grandmothers to scold them and keep them in their place when their dam is out of reach and to teach them the social skills required of herd animals to live in harmony for the survival of the herd. Becky will tell you that it takes a village to raise a child, and a herd to raise a foal.
So what happens to all of those foals born every year? Their pasture is next to the road and people stop all day long to watch and admire the extended family of miniature horses at play. Becky has a waiting list of buyers.
Becky appreciates the Standardbred buggy horses she sees going past her house and on the neighborhood roads and village streets, and she admires the one ton draft horses she sees in two, three and four-horse hitches that her Amish neighbors use to work their farms, but her husband, Charles, and the rest of the family feel much better about her having the miniature horses. They believe “Small is,” truly, “Beautiful,” and safer.