So many choices . . .

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.

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2. Once I discovered the Toyland site, I couldn’t stay off of it. I dreaded asking for the price list, but I needed to know what we could afford before getting my heart set on a particular horse. I contacted the farm and began a conversation with Laureen, the owner, who was very patient with all my questions. Three things made the decision-making process more complicated.

First, I clearly needed two horses. Horses are social animals and don’t do well on their own. I’ve always felt it was not in the horse’s best interest to keep only one, especially if that horse would be isolated from seeing, hearing, and smelling other horses. In fact, some countries have laws to prevent anyone from keeping a single horse (the US isn’t one of them). Knowing that there would be no horses near us, I needed to find an affordable pair, no small feat since horses really weren’t in our limited budget to begin with.

Second, I wasn’t entirely sure how to go about getting the horses from the mainland to Kona. The more I looked into it, the more difficult (and expensive) it seemed. But I had to know that I could get them here before making the commitment to purchase. For those who hope to move a horse to the Big Island, I’ll provide details on this in my next blog article.

Third, I needed to think about what role the horses would play. Although there’s a thriving horse community with regular rodeo, polo, and parade events on the Big Island, there doesn’t appear to be any organized events for the few minis that live here, so show quality and athletic ability didn’t seem to be major factors. If they were going to just be pets, then the smart purchase was two geldings, something I could enjoy watching (read Appaloosa coat patterns) and playing with, but not necessarily the cream of the crop. The other option was to think about breeding quality horses for sale as a farm activity. This was appealing on several levels – it put me back in my favorite part of the horse business, working with young horses. On a more practical note, it also offered tax advantages and an eventual source of income that made the purchase of the horses more economically feasible. And then the crazy planning/organizing gene that I’ve been blessed and cursed with, makes me think that if I can infuse the miniature horse population here on the island with some Falabella quality, perhaps there’s an opportunity to develop some events and more of a mini-focused horse community in the future.

Either way, I figured the horses could be trained as lawnmowers, coffee picking assistants, cart pullers, and therapy helpers. I could share them with children, seniors, and anyone else who might want to enjoy their sweet personalities and winning ways. And while I don’t think there’s a huge market for miniature horses here on the island, I’m sure there must be more people like me who would love to have some horses in their lives but lack the space for a full-size version. After a lot of agonizing over individual horses and trying to decide whether to breed or not to breed, Tim finally said he would prefer the breeding pair option. That was the nudge I needed. Now it was time to settle on just the right pair.

Although Falabella miniature horses come in all colors, the Appaloosa characteristics show strongly in some and that was what I was after.

A full leopard Appaloosa coat pattern shown by Toyland Comanche (photo from Toyland Minihorse Farm site)
A full leopard Appaloosa coat pattern shown by Toyland Comanche (photo from Toyland Minihorse Farm site)

My full-size stallion, a leopard pattern, had the genetics needed to throw 100% color in all his foals, which seems to be more prevalent among the leopard coat pattern (white base color with black, brown, or red spots over the entire body), so I thought I might find the same to be true in the minis and wanted a leopard stallion. I wanted a mare with a spotted blanket (white over the hips with spots among the white) or a snowcap (white over the hips only), but I had taken so long with the waffling back and forth on whether we could afford them at all or whether we should get geldings or breeding stock that my first choices from the Toyland sales list were already gone. Second choices were also gone. I was down to my third tier – still fabulous horses with all the potential I was looking for at an affordable price. My third choice for a stallion was also gone but apparently the other buyer was also waffling and he became available again. It was a frantic few days as we negotiated with Toyland for the final sale. We ended up deciding on a pair of unrelated weanlings – a leopard colt and a solid filly who was showing some potential for developing a blanket but also showed all other Appaloosa characteristics (mottled skin, striped hooves, and white sclera).

While I could have gone with an older pair so that we could get into the breeding business sooner, I had to also look at the costs of transporting the horses to the island from their home in Illinois. Minis can often travel at half the cost of larger horses because they can share space on a van or plane. At least, they can if they get along and aren’t trying to make babies while in transit. That meant weanlings were the best choice for our situation so that they could share stall space without the complications brought on by hormones.

I didn’t feel I could justify the added expense of a trip back to the mainland for horse shopping, so while I don’t usually advocate buying horses without seeing them first, I felt that I could safely make an exception. Toyland’s reputation and Laureen’s willingness to provide photos, registration papers, pedigrees, and answer all questions to my satisfaction raised my comfort level with the whole process. The only ongoing challenge was figuring out how and when to complete the purchase and ship the horses to Hawaii.

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