Short but Sweet
On 19 acres in Dallas County, 21-year-old Tara Carter trains miniature horses and ponies, and loves every minute. Although living with her parents, Roy and Barbara, Tara is very independent.
“I bought my first pony when I was 14 or 15 with my own money for $350. His name was Jack and he came from a circus. He bucked all the time, but I was determined to ride him. So I got on over and over again.” Tara believes the pony had been abused. He had bad kidneys, possibly from lack of water, and “he was very, very afraid of stuff.” She sold the pony and made a profit.
Tara was hooked on horses, but afraid she'd get hurt, her mother “wouldn’t let me have one. So finally when I was 16, I bought a miniature. It wasn’t a pony. We compromised. It turns out mother was right. I learned the hard way. I bought a big stallion and a gelding, about 15 to 16 hands. We bought them just to re-sell. They hadn’t been ridden for about three years.”
Having never been hurt on a horse, Tara admits, “I was determined, brave, and fearless. I wasn’t scared of them. I got on and it reared up and hit me in the face, knocked me unconscious, and fell on me.” This happened about three years ago at the Springfield Livestock Sale. Tara suffered a broken nose and her cheek was fractured under her eye.
She continued to train regular-size horses even after that incident. But her true love is miniatures. “I buy them, train them, take them from being abused and scared and give them good homes.”
In the last five years, Tara has owned 250 horses. “I’ve had some registered, but I don’t like registering them, so that parents can afford them for their kids.” She explained the price of the horses would have to be higher if they were registered and “then they’d be going for show and I like them to go to homes that want them for their kids and love them.”
Appreciation for miniatures is not limited to children. “They’re for any age. I’ve taken them to nursing homes. One of the neatest things I ever saw was an older lady (at a nursing home) asked to comb Trigger’s mane, and she went up and combed his mane and it was so neat watching her. She said she’d wanted one ever since she was a kid.”
Tara said, “I’ve had regular-size horses, ponies, and miniatures, and I’ve found the miniatures are 10 times easier to take care of.” She would recommend the miniature horses “over anything.”
A few years ago Tara started giving pony rides. Her saddles have adjustable seat belts. In the summer she takes her horses to three different places giving rides each Saturday. She also does pony rides for church events, birthday parties and businesses. Things are slower in the winter, so Tara works as a waitress.
Miniature horses don’t require a lot of pasture. “Don’t put them on too much land,” Tara advised. “That’s pretty important. They will founder.”
“Don’t feed them too much,” Tara said. “I don’t like feeding them sweet feed either, because that has molasses in it and can ruin their teeth. I like the oats because it doesn’t have all that stuff in it, and not too much protein.”
When she first started with miniatures, she asked farrier Randy Cate if they needed shoes. “He said their feet are tougher and thicker and don’t require shoes. So we just trim their hooves every four months.” Taking care of their hooves is very important and Tara watched the farrier and now does all her own trimming.
Another way Tara takes care of the little horses is by using a broken bit. “The other kind hurts their mouths and causes sores.”
Four miniature horses make up her main herd. While others come and go, these four remain. Her main horse, seven-year-old Trigger, is half miniature and half Pony of America. At 37 inches, he is her tallest horse. Four-year-old Goliath is the shortest at 27 inches.