The Falabella Miniature Horse
People had been already engaged in breeding pint-sized horses in the middle ages. Later in the XVII-XVIIIth century the most beautiful specimens were given to kings and princes. These little beings were real spectacles with their special size and color for medieval men. They became the ornament of the court of noble families. In Europe people have been keeping a record of miniature horses for more than 300 years.
The size of horses became larger with the evolution. The long legs, with which they could run faster, helped them to escape from predators and stay alive. On the other hand within natural circumstances it could have also happened that e.g. cold weather or the lack of food effected the decline of size in certain regions.
Miniature horses of our age are results of conscious breeding. Their size cannot exceed 96,5 cm. There is a group ³A² (maximum size: 86,4 cm) and a group “B² (size: 86,4-96,5 cm). Miniature horses are ranged into five main sections:
The average size of falabella is between 70 and 75 cm. They press about 20-30 kg. The size of foals is 41-52 cm at birth. They are real tiny tots among miniatures. Earlier there was a theory which said that falabella is nearer related to Eohippus (the ancestor of horses) than other horse breeds. But later researchers disproved this supposition. It is also a false view that falabella belongs to ponies. Its calm character, its build and the proportion of its body makes falabella the nearest approach to normal sized horses. They are like a small full-blood. Among the legendary origin-stories the story of the Falabella family seems to be the authentic.
The first representatives of falabella were noted down in 1845. An Irish jockey whose name was Patrick Newton (some resources mention his name as Newtoll or Newtail) discovered a prominently small-sized stallion in the south of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The redskins of this area had known the very small horses but they could not tell the origin of the animals. Newton thought that maybe because of the special climatic and natural conditions the maverick and feral horses of the Spanish conquistadors evolved partly spontaneously. On the pampas of Argentina they freely drifted, and had to face with the strong sunshine, the cold southwestern winds (El Pampero), heavy storms, essentially dry weather and the danger of predatory pumas. They had to come huge distances to get food and water. We can call this period of the evolution of falabella the ³natural selection². In this time maybe because of isolation and inbred there had been a genetic mutation which caused the further diminution of the size.
Using his knowledge, which he had gotten from Ireland, Newton started to breed the accidentally found small stallion. In 1879 he had already had a small stud of miniatures, which he handed to his daughter¹s husband: Juan Falabella. The Falabella family has been breeding the falabella breed since that time. In the firs part of the XXth century the stable was interbred with smaller arabesque full-bloods, Shetland ponies, and criollos. Julio Cesar Falabella handled the breeding form 1927 for more than 40 years. He started to keep the first natal and birth record about his horses from the 1940¹s. This early register was restructured in the 1960¹s. After his death, in 1980, his wife continued to manage the Falabella Family Enterprise (Establecimientos Falabella). She made important changes in the register and laid down principles which are valid to this day: Only those horses can get into the register which¹s ancestors come form the Falabella family farm, from Argentina.
In the 1950¹s the breed started to spread all over the World. Earlier the Falabella family carefully paid attention to put off breeding outside their ranch. In 1971 the first specimen were imported to the United States of America. These horses were officially registered in 1973, this is how the first Breeding Association was born outside of Argentina. (American Falabella Miniature Horse Association). Later in February 1977 the first falabellas arrived to Europe, England by favor of the Fishers. They visited Julio Falabella in Argentina and bought four stallions and a few mares, which they took to the Kilverstone Wildlife Park in England. In 1985 Sebastian F. Fitzmaurice and the Fishers established the International Falabella Miniature Horse Society in order to reserve the breed. This Society recognize as a falabella miniature horse only those specimen which are under 86 cm and have a demonstrable Argentinian origin both on mother¹s and father¹s side. In 1991 the Fishers closed the Kilverstone Wildlife Park. All their falabellas including the World-famous Menelek (imported to England in 1978) and his panther laced son, Pegasus were taken to the Greenwoods Farm in Holland.
As falabella is one of the most offen falsified breeds, it is very important to be able to filter out imitations in order to keep up full-bloods. To find out genuineness it has been being developed a DNA test, which helps to diagnose if our horse is original or not. This method has been used by the Van Haeringen Laboratory (Wageningen, Netherlands) since 1996. The test has been worked out in such a way that scientists compared the DNA of falabella, Shetland pony and other miniature-sized horses. (The details of this research have been published at the Animal Genetics learned journal).
The ³Asociación de Criadores de Caballos Falabella² came into existence in 1990 in Argentina. This association registers every falabella. They hold the authentic registry of the breed. A horse must fulfill the following requirements to get into this registry:
Falabella is one of the most expensive horse breeds in the World. According to unkind opinions the breeders are strongly motivated by the financial benefit, which comes with these small animals. Heads of state and famous persons like Frank Sinatra, the Kennedy family and Nelson Rockefeller bought the first US specimens of this rare horse breed. Falabella miniature horse is a very rare breed, partly because of its cost. There are about 500 registered specimens in Argentina, 200 in Europe, 900 in the USA. But there are more and more falabella horses in Japan and Canada as well. In Europe the Greenwoods Farm (Holland) and some Belgian farms are the most important. In these two countries there are about 70 registered falabella miniature horses, but there are some falabellas in Italy (Piancalcaio), France and Spain too. The list of the registered breeders and other breeding information is provided for a registration fee by the International Falabella Miniature Horse Association (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). The association suggests that all future falabella owners should make sure that the horse¹s falabella origin is proved, because it often happens that people try to sell their miniatures as a falabella in order to get more money.
One of the most common crabs is that falabella has weak bones and that these miniatures often suffer from faults of limb. Obviously there are specimens with bad leg-structure, but the faults still remain exceptions. Normally falabella horses have a fine and normal leg structure.
In the 1970¹s when this breed became familiar in the USA and Europe, some scientists thought that falabella may have 17 thoracic vertebra instead of 18. Later Italian and Australian scientists confirmed this assumption with their inspections.
Falabella miniature horses are very sociable, friendly and smart. They get bored on their own. There is no such as typical color of falabella. The most common color is black and bay, but, it occurs in stained, chestnut and beige too. What makes this breed so special is that they are like a regular-sized horse in miniature. Their build and extremely good nature differ from Shetland ponies. Because of its size falabella is not suited for horseback-riding. At best the smallest kids can sit on them. But it is possible to use them in setouts. They certainly pull light coaches. They also love to jump. It is surprising how greatly they can do it.
One box is enough for three falabellas. Owners must make sure that the run and meadow are well penned up, because of the mentioned good jumping abilities and because these animals can be stolen if we are not careful. Falabella miniature horse run to fat easily, if we give him too much feed. For the horses the best is to keep them in a stud. But again because of their size we have to be careful not to put them together with big horses, because a strong kick can kill them.
In Hungary the Association of Pony and Small Horse Breeders do not deal with falabella miniature horses at present. In Germany and Austria there are some falabellas. The nearest specimens as I got to know from the secretary of the Austrian Pony and Small Horse Breeder¹s Association can be found near the Austrian-Hungarian border at a private owner, a two-hour distance by car. On the Breeder¹ Association¹s home page you can find falabella horses (with photos, birth and breeding items) for sale. The prices begin at 3000 US dollar (which is about. 750000 HU forint) and it is not a rare thing to find falabellas for many 10000 US dollars. For the price of the prize-winner falabella horses the sky is the limit.
Opinions about these miniature beings split. How much does it worth? For those who want to own a saddle-horse: not much. We can read on one of the equestrian web forums that ³falabella worth as much as many sausages we can fill with it². Those who are more tolerant with miniature horses compare these horses to the dogs: you cannot sit on them, but you can make free-jumping competitions and you can pet them and love them. You can use them as a lawnmower (as people do it in Holland) and they can be the ornament of the garden.
Do not despise this very special breed. Similarly to other horse breeds falabella miniature horse was created by man because he finds pleasure in it.
Ms. Virag Blazsek