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The Falabella Miniature Horse
 By Winniefield Park   •   29th Dec 2018   •   1,352 views   •   0 comments


Long before the Miniature Horse came into existence another diminutive breed held the title of the world’s smallest equine. The Falabella is very rare, and it’s thought there are only about 2000 individuals in total. Although originally developed in Argentina, there are a few breeders around the world.

Originally, it was acknowledged that a purebred Falabella would be of a certain size, and the breed did not have a specific standard. There were very few breeders, in fact one family controlled the development of the breed. But, now the registry requires that the size of the horse be included on this document. The most desirable size is in the range of 28 to 34 inches although there is still no exact size requirement to be included in the registry.

The original Falabella is said to have been developed from Criollo horses who were descendents of the first horses brought to the new world by the Spanish conquistadors. There are some legends surrounding how the horses got their diminutive size. One tale claims that a herd of horses got trapped in a narrow canyon with only cactus to survive on. Over time, only the smallest and hardiest survived.

In another tale, a herd of horses were sent to a barren Patagonia plain, somewhere in the southern reaches of Chile and Argentina. By the time someone remembered the horses were still there, generations of natural adaptation ensured that only the tiniest, who could find shelter in and eat the scanty scrub vegetation, remained. Early breeders used methods of line breeding to ensure Falabellas stayed small.

Whatever their origins, and whether the size of the breed is due to human-manipulated or a more natural selection, the original Falabellas are said to be descended from horses, with no ponies such as the Shetland in their pedigree. Later breeders added in pony bloodlines such as Shetland and Welsh to ensure the breed would stay small.

The earliest breeder was Patrick Newell, who on finding these small horses, shared his experiences with his son-in-law Juan Falabella. The Falabella family continued to improve the breed over the generations. In the 1940s, a registry was formed.

Besides their small size, Falabellas are said to be very long lived. The average life span is 35 to 40 years. This longevity is said to come from the fact that they have a horse-sized heart, despite their small size. This may be more legend than fact. Another unusual feature of the Falabella is a longer than average gestation period - some claim up to 13 months. The foals when born, are tiny, averaging about 16 inches in height and can weigh just over a pound.

The average horse has 18 vertebrae, but the Falabella, like the Arabian may have only 17. They may also have one less set of ribs. The come in every different color and some breeders will specialize in a specific color. Appaloosa-like markings are particularly prized by some. Overall, Falabellas look proportionally more like a tiny horse, rather than a pony. They weigh in, depending on their height, at around 70 pounds. And again, specific breeders may breed for certain qualities so that their stock look like mini-Arabians, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds or other types or breeds.

Because of their intelligence and affinity as a companion, they make good guide animals. They can be ridden by very small children and are said to be quite docile, kind and friendly. They are often shown in harness, or in hand by adults and make charming, quick learning trick horses.

Today, there are breeders scattered around the world. The population is growing very slowly. And, along with the growth, some registries are developing new standards. But, all Falabellas will have the original equines from Argentina in their pedigrees.
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