I have neglected this blog for far too long. I will try to do better and will begin by sharing some historical articles and information. This one is an article that appeared in The Miniature Horse World April/May of 2008 as “Legends in Miniature”.
Through the many years that we have bred miniature horses, starting with our first, Greaves’ Big Un, in 1963, until now, we have had many wonderful and interesting customers. We had an internationally known Italian fashion and leather goods designer, a former Broadway stage producer, a famous singing Mexican movie star, a founder and CEO of one of the world’s leading sellers of personal computers, and the latest, an internationally known restaurateur and reality TV star.
The latest addition to the Little America family is Lisa Vanderpump, one of the stars of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Vanderpump Rules, and a celebrity on the 2013 season of Dancing with the Stars. She asked her friend, Tina to find the smallest, best conformation, light colored miniature horse that could be bought. Tina, an experienced horsewoman who has trained Polo Ponies and has participated in Polo for years, was the perfect choice for the job.
A mutual friend emailed me about a month ago asking about the smallest and best that we had available and I made some suggestions, but didn’t hear back, so thought nothing of it. Apparently Lisa, on her own had found a horse advertised as the smallest in the world, so they decided that was the one they wanted. However, upon flying across the nation to purchase the horse they found that it was not what they were seeking.
Realizing that time was very short because the horse was to be a surprise for Lisa’s husband, Ken Todd, who was having his 70th birthday on July 20, 2015. The horse had to be there if humanly possible. It is ironic that that is my wife’s birthday too and the twentieth anniversary of buying our ranch in Buda. We were at a horse show with three of the Thursday Kids, my daughter Lauren and her boyfriend, thirteen minis and myself. Tina called but I was in the ring and didn’t check my phone until much later. In desperation she visited a couple of other places, but everyone told her that if she wanted the smallest available, to go to Little America. I finally checked my phone Saturday night and found a couple of messages plus texts from Tina. I called her back that night and said that I would be happy to show her horses when I got back, but that wouldn’t be until Sunday night.
The next morning she called back and asked if there was any way that someone could let her “preview” the horses before I got back. I reluctantly told her that I would contact Armando, who is my right hand man at the ranch, and she could go over. Later in the afternoon when I was watching the kids show, Armando called saying that they, Tina and her husband, Hank, liked two of the horses and really needed to get them the next morning. After talking to Tina on the phone, I agreed and asked Armando to clean the pair, Little America’s Sensational Goldie and Little America’s Galaxy Boogie, up and halter break Galaxy who had just been weaned a few days before.
When I got home Sunday evening, I went to the barn and saw that he had clipped Galaxy and touched up Goldie who had been shown earlier in the year and had also made an appearance with me in February on KXAN’s Studio 512.
He told me that we had to have them at the San Marcos airport at 9 the next morning because they were flying to California to get to a birthday party that afternoon or evening!
When I talked to Tina that night I told her that I needed the contact information for the new owner so I could get the paperwork done. She asked if she could give me that information when she got back from California because she could not reveal the name of the buyer before the presentation of the horses because it was going to be televised and she was not at liberty to tell me yet. She also said that she wasn’t sure, but that she might buy one of them and her friend the other, that she would give her a choice. I said that would be fine and proceeded to get everything ready. She wanted to also buy a show halter that they could use when the horse was presented at the party. I always love a good mystery and was up for it!
The next morning Armando and his son, Gabriel, went with me to the airport. When we got there I wasn’t sure where to go, so pulled into the parking lot and called Tina. She told me to pull out on to the tarmac and gave me the plane’s number. She said her husband and son, their pilot, were already there and she was about 15 minutes away. We pulled our mini pickup and mini trailer out to the plane. When we unloaded the horses we drew a crowd of the workers and each plane that landed while we were there walking them around.
We took some pictures with Tina and her son/pilot, Houston, then loaded the horses into the plane, a Cessna Mustang. Another irony, my nephew teaches pilots that plane at Simuflite Dallas, where he and his dad Ricky are both instructors. They had removed two seats, put down a tarp and had it nicely bedded with shavings for the four hour trip to the west coast.
After the horses made it and the party was done, Tina texted me that the buyer was Lisa Vanderpump and they were gifts for her husband, Ken Todd. A day later I was at the USDA waiting to get paperwork for horses going to Mexico, Ricky called me and said, “Your horses are on TV. They were just featured on TMZ.” From there the publicity has been fun to follow.
It turned out, Lisa was shocked to see TWO horses, but decided that she couldn’t choose between the two, so she was going to buy both. Hank and Tina wanted to buy Galaxy as their gift to Ken, but Lisa insisted and bought both of them. (TMZ reported incorrectly that she got a two for one deal for $3,500. She had planned on one but ended up buying both. Many other sources copied the erroneous info.) It happens that about a year ago after a wonderful evening with Lisa and Ken, Tina asked herself what could she get a person who had everything. Then she thought, Lisa loves animals, I love horses, how about a tiny miniature horse? She discarded the thought, then a year later, Lisa came up with the same idea! What is it they say about great minds?
Guess I will have to set my DVR to record The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills next season so I can keep an eye on our pretty pair! Stay tuned…
Lisa Vanderpump and Tina
The birthday boy, Ken Todd
Goldie and Galaxy with Lisa in the back yard
Their new home under construction
Designed and built by Mohamed Hadid
Feb 23, 2015in on on
I don’t know if there is ANYTHING cuter than a miniature horse. I fell in absolute love with the little guys and gals at Little America Miniature Horses. Tony and Carol Greaves were fantastic hosts and it was great to learn so much about a breed of horses that none of us really had any experience with.
It was also heartwarming to meet Tony’s “Thursday Kids,” a group of young kids from the surrounding areas that come to the barn after school to work with the minis. They learn all about grooming, training, handling, they work on an obstacle course, and several of them practice showmanship.
Among the Thursday Kids is a young man named Kameron, who is legally blind, but comes alive with confidence while he works with his favorite horse Rainbow. Together the pair has won several World Championships.
We can’t wait for y’all to see the segment on Little America Miniature Horses! Stay tuned for updates on when it will air!
Until next time,
Little America: One family’s journey to breed the world’s smallest horse
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.
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.”
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!
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.
You can see evidence of the drought we’ve had in this picture, it’s been a very dry year!
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.
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.
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:
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.”
- ??— 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.)
- 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 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)
- 12– 1″ Sheet metal screws
- Drill and bits
- 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.
10. To keep the base together, I recommend that you use sheet metal screws. You DON’T 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.
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.
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 miniatures: their 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.
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″.
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.
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.
Several months ago, I had a can of red spray paint for plastic laying around from a previous
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.
- 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
- Read the directions on your spray paint can to make sure it’s an appropriate day for painting!
- Wet a paper towel or and clean any dirt off of the PVC pipe that is to be painted.
- ***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.
- 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!
- Use a pencil to mark the appropriate spots along your rope or measuring tape.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Follow the directions on your spray paint can to get it ready.
- Prop the pole up or just hold one end up with a hand.
- 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!
- Apply second coat after around 10 minutes (or whatever your directions say), if you want.
- Allow it to dry, then move the bags to the next stripe to be painted!
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 the 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.
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 to 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.
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.