A top staycation activity for me this summer has been to walk a friends Falabella ponies. Living in a semi-rural location means walking is an easy way to enjoy the better weather, spot local wildlife as the cornfields are harvested, note the fruit beginning to mature in the local orchards, whilst skirting the muddy puddles following the recent deluge of rain on what was sun-baked, dusty earth. Walking in these open spaces near home seems a perfect thing to do in these strange times. So, when the Falabella ponies wanted their daily walk, I put myself forward as their companion walker.

Miniature ponies are so cute

Their irresistible cuteness has made these miniatures very popular amongst horse enthusiasts. But when is a horse a pony? Technically, a pony is an equine that is shorter than 14.2 hands, or 58 inches tall at the withers. Most miniatures are 34-38 inches tall which puts them in the pony category. Falabella’s are considered to be more of a horse type because of its body shape – as argued by many a horse enthusiast. But everyone agrees on their beauty and cuteness! Today these miniatures with their gentle ways, gregarious natures and long-life spans are increasingly being used as service animals. They have been trained to assist blind people amongst others with additional needs, visit elderly care homes, become pets and companions to other breeds. Falabella’s have even been used in search and rescue with success.

A bit about Falabella’s

These sturdy creatures originate from Argentina in South America. In the early 1800s Patrick Newtall and his son-in-law Juan Falabella bred these ponies from a mix of Criollo, Welsh pony, Shetland pony, and other small thoroughbred breeds. They are able to pull a small cart, be ridden by a very small child, can learn to jump (without rider). Their undeniable beauty and intelligence have made them a popular choice.

So, what is great about taking one for a walk?

Winston Churchill has been quoted as saying: ‘There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man’.

Observing their movements and mannerisms is fun, walking them is physical exercise, patting them is soothing to us humans and welcomed by these lovable creatures. It is a chance to focus on the world through their eyes while also chatting to your fellow pony walker or friend who has come along.

Horses and ponies have given so much to humankind in terms of service over thousands of years to help us create the civilisation we share. But our relationship has not ended or become unimportant because equines continue to respond to the human need for empathy, cooperation, physical challenge – or to put it simply, in spite of living in the midst of today’s modern technical advancements in every area of our lives, our need (in the West) for ponies has changed but not gone away. The growing popularity of these creatures as guide animals or companions says we want to welcome these generous, intelligent, heart-warming and loyal creatures into our lives because they offer just that.

Walking ponies is good for our health and wellbeing while connecting us with the natural world. For others, miniature horses and ponies can become essential guides and companions.

 In the end, we don’t know what horses can do. We only know that when, over the past thousands of years, we have asked something more of them, at least some of them have readily supplied it.            Jane Smiley