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
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.
Stephen Acres and a miniature horse at show.