Ride Around the World Horse: The Falabella of Argentina
In the spirit of this year's Ridefest theme, "Ride Around the World," we're going to explore a horse breed from across the world each week.
Environment: Temperate, controlled
Origin: 20th century
Colors: All, including spotted
The natural reasons for small stature in equines are environmental - severe climatic conditions combined with low feed availability. However, it is possible to breed miniatures or, conversely, very large horses deliberately. Miniature horses have been bred as pets and for their curiosity value throughout history. Today, the best-known example is the Falabella, claimed to be a miniature horse, rather than a pony, on amount of its proportions and character.
Breeding: The Falabella takes its name from the Falabella family, who developed the breed at the Recreo de Roca Ranch, outside Buenos Aires, Argentina. They crossed the smallest Shetlands with the very small Thoroughbred, thereafter deliberately breeding down by crossing the smallest animals and practicing close inbreeding. The aim was the produce the near-perfect equine specimen in miniature, but inbreeding often results in conformational weakness and a loss of vigor. It is said that Falabellas can be used in harness, but they are considered unsuitable for riding. One of the smallest miniatures bred was a mare called Sugar Dumpling, belonging to Smith McCoy of Roderfield, West Virginia. She weighed 30 lbs (13.6 kg) and was only 20 in (51 cm) high.
Characteristics: Conformational defects, such as weak hocks, crooked legs, and heavy heads, are fairly common in miniature stock. The best, however, exhibit many of the qualities of a good Shetland. As pets, Falabellas are sad to be friendly and intelligent, and some attractive coat colors occur in the breed, including spot patterns.
Edwards, Elwyn Hartley; Langrish, Bob (PHT). “Falabella.” Smithsonian Handbooks Horses, Dk Pub., pp. 102-103.