‘Mini’ enthusiasts say smaller is better

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 18, 2003

When Jim Ramaker of Wells hears the word &uot;mini&uot; he doesn’t think about the old British cars that have made a big comeback. He thinks about horses.

These horses are mini, reaching up to four feet in height.

&uot;They are a lot smaller than the big horses and it’s nice for two reasons,&uot; Ramaker said with a smile. &uot;They don’t eat as much and they aren’t as messy afterwards.&uot;

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Four hundred years ago, miners in England began breeding horses to be smaller and smaller so they would be able to fit into mines and pull utility carts. They were originally meant to be workhorses, but people began to show them in contests.

Today, two groups of miniature horse breeders and presenters put on more than 250 shows per year nationwide.

This weekend, a miniature horse show will come to the Freeborn County Fairgrounds for the first time.

The Minnesota Miniature Horse Club is putting on two horse shows this weekend. According to Ramaker, 80 horses will be included Saturday and more than 120 will compete Sunday. Both shows start at 8 a.m. and are free to the public.

This is the first year Freeborn County has held such a contest.

The yearning to raise small horses seems addictive and contagious. Ramaker said it was his brother’s interest in miniatures that got him hooked.

Growing up on a farm, Ramaker had been around animals. But his father died and the farm was no longer in use before Ramaker finished high school. He went on to become a real estate agent and a teacher in the United South Central school district, where he was for 40 years.

Six years ago, he tagged along on a horse-buying trip with his brother. The pair went to a farm in Canada. Ramaker bought his first miniature and thus began his collection, which has now grown to 13.

Like large horses, the miniatures live 30 years or more.

&uot;These horses are a lot of fun to raise,&uot; Ramaker said. &uot;They’re also really smart.&uot;

As he speaks, his horses wander his farmyard. They munch on grasses and plants. One horse, a little smaller than a labrador retriever, neighs with a high-pitched sound. It almost dances as it walks, seeming light on its hooves like a deer rather than a horse.

The horses are different from large horses in more ways than their size.

&uot;They are just a lot easier to handle,&uot; said LaVon Grau, who owns the farm where Ramaker keeps his horses. Grau used to raise full-sized horses.

The mid-70s-aged woman pats the horses on their sides with a loud smacking sound. The horses get excited, flapping their tails from side to side.

Grau, according to Ramaker, is an encyclopedia of horse knowledge.

Her take on the minature horses?

&uot;They sure make cleaning the barn a lot easier,&uot; she said.

(Contact Peter Cox at peter.cox @albertleatribune.com or 379-3439.)