Horses with big char­ac­ters

THE ACRES FAM­ILY BREED AND SHOW MINIA­TURE HORSE ALL OVER IRE­LAND AND EX­PLAIN THEIR LOVE OF THE SMALL EQUINES WITH BIG PER­SON­AL­I­TIES

Bray People - - NEWS -

FOR the Acres fam­ily of Bal­lykep­pogue Farm the sight of horses of minute stature gal­lop­ing around the place is a wel­com­ing one.

For many years the farm run by George Acres mainly fo­cused on cows and live­stock, with George also en­gag­ing in his love of vin­tage plough­ing, hav­ing rep­re­sented Ire­land at dif­fer­ent in­ter­na­tional events.

How­ever one baby foal soon turned the Acres at­ten­tions firmly to­ward minia­ture horses.

George’s daugh­ter, Suzanne ex­plained, ‘We both got in­ter­ested in it at around the same time. Ini­tially we had two pets and they had a foal. They are just such gor­geous an­i­mals. The foal was lovely so we de­cided to bring him to the Gorey agri­cul­ture show where he did re­ally well. We kept go­ing and ended up win­ning ev­ery­where we brought the foal. That kind of started our whole love af­fair with minia­ture horses.’

Now Suzanne, her brother Stephen and George show their horses at var­i­ous events held through­out the coun­try, and have achieved some ma­jor suc­cesses.

One re­cent vic­tory for Bal­lykep­pogue Stud was ‘Vol­canic Ash of Roth­ley’ who won the ti­tle ‘Over­all Supreme Minia­ture Horse of the Year 2014’ award.’

‘We have around 20 minia­tures of our own now and some of them are do­ing very well when it comes to shows,’ added Suzanne.

‘You en­ter for the love of it and not for the money. Gen­er­ally you would only get around €20 or €30 in prize money. We held a show our­selves last year of­fer­ing €100 for the Supreme Cham­pion. You tend to see the same peo­ple at each show so we would all know one another by now. I wouldn’t re­gard it as a hobby. We do it be­cause of our love for minia­ture horses.’

The Acres have also es­tab­lished their own or­gan­i­sa­tion, the Ir­ish Minia­ture Horse As­so­ci­a­tion, and or­gan­ise spe­cial­ity shows each year.

Mean­while, the Minia­ture Horse Club of Ire­land is the coun­try’s old­est run­ning club for minia­ture horses. The aim of the club is to pro­mote the own­er­ship and show­ing of minia­ture horses.

MHCI shows are held through­out the coun- try where mem­bers can qual­ify their horses to com­pete in the Cham­pi­onship Show at the end of Au­gust.

‘We have been breed­ing for a few years now. At the mo­ment we have a good mix­ture of blends, in­clud­ing some of Shet­land her­itage.

‘Some peo­ple get them con­fused with ponies but they are ba­si­cally a scaled down ver­sion of a large horse,’ con­tin­ued Suzanne.

‘ They are mostly kept as pets. We en­ter the horses in all the top qual­ity shows and have had some ex­cel­lent re­sults.’

The only real dif­fer­ence be­tween a minia­ture horse and nor­mal sized horse is their stature, though the minia­ture va­ri­ety do have a num­ber of ben­e­fits.

‘It’s ex­actly the same rou­tine as with a reg­u­lar sized horse,’ said Suzanne.

‘ They need feed­ing, ex­er­cise and reg­u­lar groom­ing. Apart from their size they re­ally aren’t any dif­fer­ent to a common horse. They all have dif­fer­ent tem­per­a­ments and per­son­al­i­ties de­pend­ing on the minia­ture horse.

‘ They can live up to 35 or 40 years of age, pretty much the same as reg­u­lar horses. Of course how long they live for of­ten de­pends on how well they are be­ing looked after.’

‘It’s eas­ier in a way be­cause you don’t need as much land and a minia­ture horse also eats a frac­tion of what a reg­u­lar horse eats. Minia­ture horses have been around in Ire­land for a long time but we only re­ally started show­ing a few years ago.’

Minia­ture horses are con­sid­ered friendly and in­ter­act well with peo­ple, hence they are of­ten kept as fam­ily pets. While they may be kept as a com­pan­ion an­i­mal, minia­tures still re­tain nat­u­ral horse be­hav­iour and must be treated like an equine.

They were first de­vel­oped in Europe in the 1600s and in the 1700s were fre­quently seen as pets of no­bil­ity. They were also used in the coal mines in Eng­land and con­ti­nen­tal Europe.

Their small stature also means some own­ers don’t ap­pear pre­pared for the amount of work in­volved in look­ing after a minia­ture horse.

Ac­cord­ing to Suzanne, ‘minia­ture horses and be­com­ing in­creas­ingly popular but some peo­ple seem to for­get that they still have to be treated as a horse. Peo­ple see how cute they are but mightn’t be aware of the amount of look­ing after that is re­quired.

‘Once the cute­ness wears off, some peo­ple be­come bored of their horse, which is ter­ri­ble to think of. The shel­ters are full of un­wanted horses which is heart­break­ing to see.

‘It’s down to pure care­less­ness, care­less breed­ing. You have peo­ple breed­ing horses when they have no land for them or don’t have the re­quired fi­nances. ‘If you cant feed them, then don’t breed. Some peo­ple just don’t seem to care. Breed­ing wise we try to foal one horse a year but we won’t ever over-breed them. It’s about re­spon­si­ble breed­ing and we want all out horses to have as long and happy a life as pos­si­ble.’

Visit the web­site www.irish­minia­ture­horseasso­ci­a­tion.wee­bly.com for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on minia­ture horses and events in­volv­ing them.

George Acres.

Stephen Acres and a minia­ture horse at show.

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