This blog site is written by Lisa Brochu and is devoted to my beautiful miniature horses at the request of those who ask about them frequently. I’ll share stories and photos of their growth and training along with information that may help other miniature horse owners around the world or those who plan to bring a horse of any size to Hawaii. I’ll try to update the blog at least weekly or more often when there is an interesting story to tell or photos to show. Please feel free to ask questions or make comments and share your stories as well – I’m hoping to start a dialogue about horsekeeping on Hawaii Island and miniature horses in general more than just talking about me and my horses specifically.
I’m often asked why anyone would want a miniature horse. The assumption is that if you can’t ride it, there’s not much point in having a horse at all. But for many of us who love horses, it’s just being around them that lifts our hearts, watching the poetry of movement, listening to the rhythmic grinding of feed, drinking in the sweet smell of hay. Horses, for many, are much more about sharing of spirit than the need to ride. And so it’s always been for me.
When I was a small child, I yearned for a horse. Every birthday, every Christmas, that one request made up my entire wish list. And every birthday, every Christmas, no matter how many plastic, glass, paper or plush horses I received (and there were many), I was disappointed. I wanted the real thing. By the time I hit my teens, my father had figured out a clever way to deal with my obsession. He assured me he would purchase a horse, as long as I paid for everything else associated with it. With that promise in hand, I started research in earnest.
Since we lived in a suburban neighborhood in northeast Dallas, there was no hope of keeping the horse at home. No problem . . . there was a boarding facility just a few blocks away. But when I started doing the math, it quickly became apparent that boarding plus food plus vet bills plus supplies and tack and all the other odds and ends that having a horse requires would be beyond my teenage-part-time-job-preparing-for-college means. But the dream didn’t die.
Over the next decade, I managed to “borrow” an assortment of horses. I found places to live that came with a resident horse or two that needed exercise. I worked as a vet tech for a clinic that handled both large and small animals and learned all I could about horse anatomy and care. In my spare time, I volunteered to train young horses for those too busy to spend time with their animals. Eventually, I was able to purchase a horse and keep it on my own acreage in the Texas Hill Country. Then, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, I lost the land and the ability to keep the horse along with it.
After a horseless gap of several years, I found myself in a new and perfect circumstance, when my husband and I bought a 13-acre farm in central Texas, allowing me to set up an Appaloosa breeding operation in addition to my work in an entirely different field.
For the next dozen years, we had “The Best Little Horsehouse in Texas,” offering stud services, sales of weanlings and yearlings, and equine massage therapy (I received my certification as an equine sports massage therapist along the way). When my husband passed away unexpectedly, I held a heartbreaking herd dispersal sale and watched as my stallion, broodmares, my favorite gelding (the first foal from my stallion and the perfect horse I’d always wanted), along with a handful of weanlings and yearlings were sold off at less than a third of their value to farms in Wyoming, Texas, and New Mexico. I appreciated the thoughtfulness of the good people who purchased them sight unseen, knowing I needed them to go to good homes quickly since I had two grief-stricken teenage boys to tend to and a demanding full-time job on top of settling a complicated estate.
A year later, I moved to Colorado. Six months after the move, I received a phone call from the woman who’d bought my gelding, wanting to know if I wanted him back. As it turned out, I was living in a condominium in Fort Collins, but I figured this was a sign from the universe I couldn’t ignore, so I had him sent to Colorado and found an affordable boarding situation not far from the condo and my workplace. Within another few months, a house fire that gutted the condo forced the decision to find a better circumstance and I was lucky to find a 2-acre “farmette” on the outskirts of town, even closer to my workplace, so I could have my gelding in the backyard again. In just another month after closing, one of the other horses I had sold became available and I managed to get him to Colorado.
The two geldings recognized each other immediately and life was good for the next eight years, with the exception of worsening cervical spine issues that kept me from riding as much as I would have liked. Still, I enjoyed spending time with the horses and just seeing them every time I looked out the windows did my heart a world of good.
But life is a constant journey and things change. I remarried in Colorado and after our long-standing work relationship ended with a nonprofit organization there, my husband Tim (who’d been in Colorado much longer) and I decided it was time to think about finding a more hospitable climate. We landed in Hawaii in January of 2015, having sold the Colorado farm. Sadly, the move meant we had to leave the horses behind, but we found them a wonderful ranch home in the mountains on hundreds of acres as part of a free-roaming herd eight months of the year, with a little riding work expected during the summer. Horse heaven, really, where I was promised they would spend the rest of their days.
With the move to Hawaii Island, we deliberately planned to downsize . . . the bamboo house we built was ¾ the size of the house in Colorado and the acreage went from two acres to a little less than an acre of coffee farm just above Kealakekua Bay in Kona. Of that, about ¼ is planted in coffee, ¼ is devoted to the house and its landscaping with fenced dog yard and koi pond, and the remaining half we planned to devote to greenhouse activities specializing in orchids and bonsai, tropical fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and tilapia ponds.
The property is beautiful with a great ocean view, but it is oddly divided by topography and rock walls built by the previous owner. We thought we had the site plan all figured out when my brilliant and loving husband, noting my distress whenever anyone asked about the horses we left behind, suggested we might have the room for miniature horses if we reconfigured the garden spaces.
I confess that was something that had not occurred to me but by coincidence I saw that a person on Maui (the next island to the west) was selling a miniature horse and I was hooked. That sale didn’t work out, but now I was on a mission to find just the right miniature horse. It didn’t take long – Toyland Farm in Illinois was advertising its 2015 foals for sale. They specialize in Falabella miniature horses, the smallest breed of horse in the world, with mature heights usually ranging from 28 to 32 inches (7 to 8 hands in horse-speak). Best of all, they feature delicate Arabian style conformation with beautiful little dish-shaped heads and large, liquid eyes combined with a variety of coat colors, including my beloved Appaloosa patterns. Sold!