All About Little America

Little America: One family’s journey to breed the world’s smallest horse

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By: Lauren Giudice, Lily Morris and Joshua Fechter (reposted from: http://multimedianewsroom.us/2013/11/25/little-america-one-familys-journey-to-breed-the-worlds-smallest-horse/)

For over 50 years, Tony Greaves has been raising miniature horses. His love for horses began when he was young boy. His father raised Shetland ponies and horses.

Greaves and his family now own Little America Miniature Horses. He and his wife, Carol, live on their 200-acre ranch in Buda, TX. The two raise miniature horses to sell them or show them.

The number of horses they have varies, but they currently have 170 miniature horses. Greaves said miniature horses are created through selective breeding.

“When I first started 36 inches was considered little,” Greaves said. “I would pick a mare and a stallion and hope that their baby would be smaller. I also want every generation to be better. I look at the good points and the bad points of the horse. If the mare has bad legs I want to make sure I breed her to a stallion who has good legs.”

Bloodlines, color and size determine the price of the horses. The smaller the horse, the more expensive they are. Prices of Greaves’ horses range between $500-$50,000. Horses that are sold as pets are less expensive than those purchased for the purpose of showing or breeding.

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People who show horses seek out the bloodlines of Greaves’ horses.

“They want my bloodlines to put in their line,” Greaves said. “I’ve been doing it for so long and I’ve gotten them so small that people who really want to breed small want a small stallion. Usually people have larger mares and breed them with a smaller stallion. But I have such a large group of little mares that I get more little babies.”

Greaves said many people confuse miniature horses with ponies. But, Shetland ponies are up to 48 inches tall and miniature horses are 34 inches or smaller. He prides himself on the fact that all of his horses are under 34 inches and 80 of them are under 30 inches.

Little America is known around the world and Greaves has sold horses to people in Russia, Australia, Scotland, Belgium and France.

The Internet has revolutionized how Greaves does business. He said 60 percent of the horses that he’s sold over the past five years have been purchased over the Internet.

Greaves’ goal has always been to raise a herd of 22-inch miniature horses. Recently, he bred a 24-inch horse named Fan Man. Greaves still aims to breed that perfect tiny herd.

“As far as I am concerned, the object of breeding any miniature animal is to breed the smallest, good confirmation animal that you can get,” Greaves said. “My goal is to breed the smallest perfect horse.”

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An Aerial Tour

Last month while we were showing at the Fort Worth Stock Show, our good friend, the show manager Nancy Braesicke introduced me to a friend who was a pilot.  It was just my luck that during my week off from school this month (Spring Break), he was in Central Texas and had the time to take me on an aerial tour of Buda and our ranch, and let me bring my camera (well, three actually) along!

While we have photo tours of the ranch available on our website, I thought it might be fun to offer an aerial tour as well.

Little America Miniature Horses

view from the east

The picture above shows most of the ranch; it’s just missing one corner, the pasture where we keep the stallions in the winter.  This is the only photo that shows the back pasture where we keep many of the horses in the winter.

Little America Miniature Horses

view from the southeast

You can see evidence of the drought we’ve had in this picture, it’s been a very dry year!

Little America aerial view

view from the south

We have three major barns that we use for the horses.  The one at the top of the photo above is our main barn.  The show string, our geldings, yearling and two-year-old colts and fillies live here.  The barn farthest to the right in the picture is our hay barn as well as a shelter for horses in that pen/pasture.  And finally, everyone’s favorite, the foaling barn is at the bottom of the photo.  The foaling barn has six stalls with closed-circuit cameras that run to the house where we can watch for mares to go into labor.  The mares who seem to be farther from foaling spend the night in the lot to the left of the barn so they can be checked on during the night.

LAAerial__4

view from the southwest

The view above really points out the terracing of the land, which helps prevent erosion in those pastures.  That land is split into several pastures by electric fences.  During breeding season, we put one stallion and a specific group of mares in each of these pastures.

view from the west

view from the west

pilot

the pilot

A big thanks to my friend Matt for flying me around the ranch and putting up with all of my cameras!

Here are some video clips from the flight:

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How to: Build jumps

We use a couple of different types of practice jumps in our arena.  These directions are for jumps that are frequently used at AMHA shows.  The AMHA rulebook gives the option to use 1-1.5″ diameter, PVC pipe; we use 1.5″ and I wouldn’t go any lighter.  Here is what the rulebook says:

“Jumps for Hunters and Jumpers will be made of 1-1 1/2″ schedule 40 PVC piping or other suitable light-weight material with jump cups, not to include pegs, nails, bolts, etc.  All jumps must be a minimum of five (5) feet wide… Jumps thirty-two inches (32) or more in height must have a second rail added.  All post and rail jumps must have a ground pole.  Uprights are to be a maximum of forty-eight (48) inches in height. …Any decorations or jump wings must not protrude more than twenty-four (24) inches from the uprights.”

Finished jump with hunter uprights.

Supplies

  • ??– 10′ length of Schedule 40, 1.5″ diameter PVC pipe (Use the underlined totals in the directions to calculate how many 10′ lengths you will need according to how many jumps you want to make, and which height of uprights you want–hunter and/or jumper.)

    Tools for building miniature horse jumps

    Tools for building miniature horse jumps

  • 2-4 — 1.5″ PVC caps (2 for hunter uprights, 2 for jumper uprights)
  • 2– 1.5″ PVC T connectors
  • 2-6– 2″ PVC T connectors (For jump cups. 2 for hunter uprights, 4 for jumper uprights because jumps over 32″ in height must have a second pole added to keep horses from running under.. trust me, I had it happen at a show once when the rule wasn’t followed!  I like to have a cup/D-ring on both sets of uprights so I don’t have to change them out when I switch from hunter to jumper)
  • 4– 1.5″ PVC Elbow connectors
  • 2-6– D-rings (To hold jump cups. 2 for hunter uprights, 4 for jumper uprights. I like d-ringto have a cup/D-ring on both sets of uprights so I don’t have to change them out when I switch from hunter to jumper)
  • 12– 1″ Sheet metal screws
  • Saw
  • Drill and bits
  • Screwdriver

Directions

  1. Cut the 1.5″ diameter PVC into the following lengths:
  • Long side of base and jump pole length: 5′ (x3 for hunter, x4 for jumper) = (15′ of PVC used for only hunter, 20′ if doing jumper for an extra jump pole)
  • Short side of base length: 10″ (x4) = 40″= (3.33′ of PVC used)
  • Jumper uprights: 4′ (x2) = (8′ of PVC used)
  • Hunter uprights: 3′ (x2) = (6′ of PVC used)

2.  Now it’s time to assemble the base!  Attach one 10″ piece to each of the two opposite ends of the T (x2) to form the sides of the base.

3.  Attach the elbows to the open ends of the 10″ pieces that are attached to the T (x4), with the open end of the T facing straight up so the uprights can go in later.

4.  Use two of the 5′ lengths to attach the two ends of the base and complete the rectangular base.

5.  Place the uprights in the T on the jump.  Put a cap on the top of each jumper or hunter upright pole.

7.  Use your measuring tape to mark where you will drill holes on the uprights:

  • Hunter: By AMHA rules, hunter jumps have a minimum jump pole height of 18 inches and maximum of 28 inches, so I recommend starting with a hole at 18 inches, and ending at 28.
  • Jumper: By AMHA rules, jumper jumps have a maximum jump pole height of 44  inches, so you don’t need holes past 44 inches from the ground.

8.  Time to drill holes for the uprights!  Grab a bit that’s bigger than the peg of the D-ring you’ll be using.  It’s hard to get the holes aligned perfectly through the upright and through the cup later, so you’ll want some wiggle room.  Get them as straight through both sides of the pvc as you can.

9.  Now onto the jump cups.  Take your oversized Ts and cut out a little more than half of the  section that branches out (see below).  You want it to be a little over half gone so it makes it easier for the jump pole to fall down.  That way your jump doesn’t get broken when a horse hits it!  Then drill a hole through both sides for the D-ring to go through.

The jump cup made from an oversized T with a portion cut out and a hole drilled through.

The jump cup made from an oversized T with a portion cut out and a hole drilled through.

10.  To keep the base together, I recommend that you use sheet metal screws.  You DON’TSheet metal screws want to use PVC glue, because if any piece gets broken, you’ll have to cut it off and splice it together.  With the screws, everything stays together but if something gets broken, you can take it off without cutting.  We use screws at every connection point on the base except where the uprights go in.

Securing the base

Put screws on either side of the elbows to keep them from coming apart.

Secure the jump base

Put screws on either side of the T to keep it from coming off or falling flat.

11.  The final step is to put the jump cups on the up uprights, pins in, and adjust the length of your jump poles.  For measuring everything out, it’s easiest to use 5′ for jump poles, but for them to fall out of the jump easily, they need a few more inches taken off.  Just put the poles in the cups and see how much you want taken off, it should be at least two inches.

Finished miniature horse jumps

Finished miniature horse jumpsIMG_0690

12.  Congratulations!  You’re now finished and can enjoy your jumps!  To learn how to make striped jump poles, visit our other blog post, How to: Paint Obstacle/Jump Poles.

Poles paintedUse colored duct tape for stripes.  I did this for a friend but haven't used any myself.  I'm afraid that the tape would get gooey in the sun.Easy no-bags option. Just put tape on the pole (more strands of tape for thicker stripes) and paint, then you're left with white stripes!

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Annual visit to the library

Through the many years that we have bred miniature horses we have found that one of the best ways to introduce our horses to the public, other than by participating in shows, is taking them where groups gather, especially to libraries.  We have taken them to many libraries and are on the summer schedule for our local library.   Every summer, usually in July, we bring some horses to the library for their summer reading program.  Through the years our crowd have increased every year and last year or the year before we were asked to add a second program because the crowds were getting too big for one session.  We start out in a meeting room in the library with the kids who are mostly five to eight years old, sitting on the floor and adults in chairs around the rim of the room or standing in the hallway leading to the room.

This year our first group, which we usually plan on approximately fifty to seventy, was huge.  The librarian told us that it was the biggest group that they had ever had for one of their programs.  She tried to count, but finally gave up and estimated that we had almost two hundred there.  Almost as many waiting outside as there were inside.  Inside we talk about miniaturestheir use, colors, size, “what do you do with them,”  “horse terminology” i.e. stallions, colts, etc., and general care.  The kids usually come up with interesting questions.  Lauren has been helping with the presentations since she was little and does a great job with the kids.

This year, as for the past three or four years, we had some of the Thursday Kids help with the sessions.  One of the three who helped this year was actually one in the audience two years ago.  The program so caught her interest that he mother brings her about thirty miles to our ranch every Thursday and she has bee showing with us the past year and a half.  I checked through some of our pictures and found her in a few of them from 2010.

Buda Library 2010

Casey, a future Thursday Kid, walking off in the turquoise shirt after petting Rainbow, held by Kameron, one of the Thursday Kids, helping his first time at the library in 2010.

After our session inside, we lined up and went outside where the kids sat on the sidewalk and we introduce the horses we brought.  The first, brought out by Anijah, who is helping for the third year with the program, was Little America’s Da Vinci Memory, a tiny appaloosa yearling filly.  She measures 24″.

What a crowd admiring Memory!

Kameron, Casey, and Anijah talked to the kids about their favorite things about miniature horses and shows.  Here are Casey and Kameron waiting to bring out Bar B Destiny’s Over the Rainbow who demonstrated jumping, backing, side-passing and pivoting.  Casey is holding two year old Little America’s Fan Man, also 24″.  This is Fan Man’s third visit to the Buda Library, having come as a foal, then as a yearling, and now as a maturing two-year-old.

Kameron with Rainbow and Casey with Fan Man.

After all the horses had been introduced and questions answered we closed with the highlight, letting everyone have a chance to pet them and have their pictures with the horses.

Anijah sharing Memory with all the kids.

Lauren and Rainbow

Kameron and his dad with Memory at the second session

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How to: Paint Obstacle/Jump Poles

Several months ago, I had a can of red spray paint for plastic laying around from a previous

Colored duct tape can be used for stripes. I did this for a friend but haven’t used any myself. I’m afraid that the tape would get gooey in the sun.

project and decided I’d use it to enhance our obstacle/jump course.  Since then, I was given three more cans of paint (one that’s fluorescent yellow!), so I’m now working on some more jump poles and figured I’d share the main way I go about painting them, as well as a few other options for having decorated obstacle poles.

Easy no-bags option. Just put tape on the pole, more strands of tape for thicker stripes, and paint, then you’re left with nice white stripes!

The following directions tell how to paint poles like these.

Supplies

      • PVC pipe of the diameter and length you want
      • Spray paint suitable for plastic surfaces (one or more colors)
      • 1″ masking tape
      • Several feet of string (length of the pole or could use a measuring tape instead)
      • A pencil
      • Two plastic bags (I use bread bags)
      • A sandwich bag or regular plastic bag (to protect your hand while spraying)
      • Two clothespins
      • A couple of paper towels or an old sponge
      • ScissorsSupplies

Directions

  1. Read the directions on your spray paint can to make sure it’s an appropriate day for painting!

    Don’t spray paint in the wind, even if you’re convinced you’re facing downwind!  I did and ended up with red highlights!

  2. Wet a paper towel or  and clean any dirt off of the PVC pipe that is to be painted.

    Cleaning the PVC pipe

  3. ***For if you want to have a base color instead of white.  If not, move on to question number four*** shake up the paint and then put the sandwich bag on your hand to keep the paint off and spray away!  I hold one end of the pole up while I spray.

    Sandwich bag to protect your hand

    Cover your hand with a sandwich bag or glove to keep the paint off of your hand.

  4. Get a piece of string and cut it to be the same length as the pole.  Decide on a width/spacing for your stripes, then use the string to measure even spaces/stripes by folding in half and marking it with a permanent marker or tying knots in the string at appropriate spots.  You could also use a measuring tape instead and skip this step, I just find the string to be foolproof, I have a tendency to mess up numbers!

    Using a string to measure

  5. Use a pencil to mark the appropriate spots along your rope or measuring tape.

    Drawing a line where I will place the tape

  6. Run masking tape around the pipe along the outer-most side of each stripe’s pencil marks (My pictures end here because I realized that previous poles that I had painted with this paint were fading because the paint was NOT for plastic!  Make sure you use paint that is for plastic.)
  7. Make a hole smaller than the pole’s diameter in each of the bread bags and pull them onto the pole, stopping at the middle of the masking tape.  You don’t want any paint to leak past the tape, so use a clothespin to secure each bag and keep it out of your way.
  8. Follow the directions on your spray paint can to get it ready.
  9. Prop the pole up or just hold one end up with a hand.
  10. Put the sandwich bag on the hand you’ll be spraying with!!  You could also use a rubber glove or bigger plastic bag.  Trust me, if you don’t use something, you’ll end up looking like you have chickenpox or something weird going on with your hand for several days.  I learned this the hard way after doing my first poles in red!
  11. Apply second coat after around 10 minutes (or whatever your directions say), if you want.
  12. Allow it to dry, then move the bags to the next stripe to be painted!

    Finished poles (still looking good after months of use!).

-Lauren Greaves

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Foaling has started…

Monday, March 6, when I went to feed the mares I noticed one mare out in the pasture that did not come up.  She was about one-half mile away in the back pasture, but I noticed something laying in the grass near her.  I had been planning to sort out the pregnant mares and bring them into the foaling area later this week because none were due until about the first of April.  I knew when I saw the mare that she had short circuited me and beat me to the punch, delivering her first foal about three weeks early.

I quickly finished putting out feed for the mares and drove the Gator back to the pasture to check to see if I was right.  As I got closer I saw a big flash of white on the “something laying in the grass” and thought, “Yea!  An appaloosa hopefully.  Just hope it is okay.”  As I got closer I saw the tail swish and breathed a sigh of relief to know that it was indeed a tiny little appaloosa, and best of all alive!

His dam, Little America Color’s Mandy, is a six-year-old mare and this is her first foal.  She is more difficult to handle than most of our mares and I knew that I would have a difficult time catching her in the eighty-five acre pasture, but figured that I could carry her foal and she would follow us back up to the barn.  When I reached them the foal sat up, but didn’t stand, so I was able to catch him and examine him all over.  I found that he was very correct, tiny, bay with a star and snow cap blanket.  I also found that the lashes one of his eyes were inside his eyes, so I brushed them out and checked both eyes.  They were very red but that is not too unusual for a newborn.

I picked up the tiny guy and put him in my lap between me and the steering wheel.  Mandy started running around the Gator, but I finally got her attention and she located Imagethe foal, so we started driving slowly to the barn.  As we went along I started thinking about a name, first thinking of Little Man, but as I thought more, I decided on Little America’s My Color Man.  We generally use part of the sire (stallion/father’s) name.  Since his sire is Little America’s My Oh My, I used “My”.  His grandsire is Winner’s Circle True Colors, I used “Color”.  And since his dam (mother), I used Man.

Image

Sire:  Little America’s My Oh My

Grand Champion at the Ft. Worth Exposition and Livestock Show in January 2012

Once we got to the barn I wormed Mandy since we worm all our mares within twenty-four hours which seems to cut down on foal heat scours.  I noticed that one of her hooves needed trimming so I trimmed a little on both of her back feet then took the pair to the foaling barn which is next to our house where we can keep a close watch on new babies and mothers for a few days.

When I put them in the yard I watched long enough to note that the dam was moving away every time that he tried to nurse.  Since this was her first foal and she was “ticklish” I guess.  I brought them into the barn and tied her up and held him to try to get him to nurse.  He wouldn’t try because be had been scared trying to nurse before I found him.  I finally decided that I had Imageto get something down him, so milked the mare and luckily he took to drinking from a syringe quickly.  I was able to get about fifty cc of colostrum down him so that was a relief.  At first I had to put a twitch on her to get her to let me milk her.  This went on every couple of hours for about thirty-six hours.  Thank goodness he finally started nursing and she started letting him nurse and is now progressing nicely.

Here he is at six days:  Little America's My Color Man

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Foaling Time Approaching

Many breeders try to have foals as early in the year as possible, but we prefer to have them in the spring when it is not so cold, although here in central Texas weather is not too cold.  With the weather warming up (a nationwide record of 92 degrees in Austin yesterday!), I realize that our busiest and most fun time of year is about to start:  foaling.  We are cleaning out the foaling barn getting everything in order for the time when mares will be put in the waiting pasture.  In a few days we will sort out the mares, putting all the ones that are obviously pregnant in the foaling pasture.  Once there the mares will be checked frequently for signs of approaching foaling.  At night they will be brought into a lighted pen next to the foaling barn which is only yards from our house.

Our foaling barn has six foaling stalls and we have closed circuit TV so that we can watch the mares when they are moved into the barn.  Using Breeder Alert monitoring equipment we are awakened when a mare lays down flat for fifteen seconds.  The pager, which I carry during the day and attach to my pillow while I am asleep, alerts me to check the monitors which are located in several locations in the house, to see if the mare is in labor or just sleeping.  If she is in labor I will quickly go to the barn in case she needs assistance.  You can follow our foaling adventures as I plan to blog about it.  So stay tuned.

While you are waiting you can take a tour of the ranch.

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What can you do with miniature horses?

For some reason, the most common question that we’re asked is “What can you do with a miniature horse?”  The answer is: lots of things.  They are used for companionship, show, as therapy animals, for investment, or any combination of these things.

Miniatures are great as pets/companion animals.  They’re smaller than “big” horses so they can be kept in the back yard just as you’d keep a dog or cat, and are lower maintenance than other breeds of horses.  They take up less space, eat less, make less of a mess, and don’t require shoes like many other breeds.  They can be handled by children (I started showing when I was 3), or by the elderly (one of our customers bought a mini for his mother’s 96th birthday).  Any age will do.  For people who are intimidated by big horses or had an accident with them in the past, or just don’t have the energy for them anymore, miniatures are the perfect alternative to still be able to enjoy the beauty of the horse.

At shows you can do anything you do with a big horse except for ride.  That might sound like a joke at first, like there’s nothing left if you take riding away, but boy would you be wrong.  The two major associations for miniature horses, the American Miniature Horse Assciation (AMHA), and the American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR) and their clubs offer halter, color, liberty, showmanship, jumper, hunter, obstacle, driving obstacle, and costume classes to youth, amateur and open exhibitors at local, regional, and world level shows.

Many have probably heard about miniatures being used as therapy animals.  The seeing-eye-miniature horse idea got some publicity for a while there.  However, our favorite use of them therapy-wise is done by Hearts and Hooves.  Hearts and Hooves is a non-profit organization that takes miniatures to hospitals, nursing homes, and many other places to provide emotional healing.

Finally, miniatures, like many other animals, can be used as investments.  Developing a winning history in the show ring can increase a miniatures value, as can breeding.

-Lauren Greaves

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Color: Appaloosas, Blue Roans, and Grays

Appaloosa

Many appaloosas are born with lots of color while others are born solid and gradually acquire appaloosa coloration. It is very difficult to know at birth what color the foal from appaloosa parentage will be. Below is an example of a Xenon-Light Van’t Huttenest son that was born bay. When he was sold at four months of age he showed absolutely no appaloosa characteristics. He had no white hairs, no striped hooves, no scelera, and not even a speck of pink skin. Here you see him pictured at four months, three years, five years, and six years. He is Little America’s X- Skipper and is owned by Billie Lindale in New Jersey.

 

Here are some typical examples of appaloosa patterns. Pictured below are a snowcap blanket which is said to be homozygous, although currently there is no genetic test to prove this. The horse is Little America’s Tex Lil Feather, a son of Little America’s Sesquicentennial Tex. The next is a black blanketed app, Little America’s Tex Two Timer LHH, another son of Sesquicentennial Tex.  The next is a leopard appaloosa, also by Tex, named Little America’s Tex Kickapoo. I might add that all three of these colts were born the color that they are shown and have pretty much stayed the same color. By the way, the last two colts are out of solid mares with no appaloosa background!


Blue Roans and Grays

The A photo is a mature mare that is a true blue roan. You will see that her legs and head are black but her body is a mixture of black and white hairs making her appear bluish in color. When she has her winter coat she is mostly black.

The photo B is two grey fillies…. a weanling and a two-year old. The weanling was born black and the lighter one was born silver. Both will be white by the time they are eight to ten years of age.

The bottom five pictures are ALL OF THE SAME HORSE at various ages. C is at one day old. You can hopefully see that he shows some white on his nose and over his eyes. By the way, both his sire and dam are grey.

D is the same colt as a yearling. You will notice that he has lots of white hair scattered throughout his face (and also his body which you can’t see in this picture).

E is about three years of age… notice the dark at the top of his tail and his legs are still fairly dark. He is also showing dappling at this age.

F is about a year older … notice his legs have lightened and the tail is lighter. He still shows some dappling, but not as much as the year before.

G is age six… note the tail is almost totally white but he is still keeping some of the black in his mane but all the dapples has disappeared. He is now eight years old… sorry I don’t have a current picture. He is almost totally white… his mane has a slight greyish tint but the body is totally white.

The horse is NFC LA Egyptian King Rapsody…. by Hemlock Brook Egyptian King and out of Soat’s Lil Rapsady… Here is another dramatic example of the greying gene:

 

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