Hannay Miniature Horse Farm

City Slicker

By Linda J. Haley

(Cazenovia, NY – Sept. 2012) Did you know there’s a miniature horse farm just outside the village of Cazenovia? It’s true! The Hannay Miniature Horse Farm. One minute I was cruising Route 13 and, in two short turns, I was there.

A winding driveway opened to pastures and barns I never knew existed. In the driveway was a woman on a no-mercy weeding mission. She had a pile going that would make any gardener rejoice. She saw me, smiled and waved, introduced herself as Mary Smith, sending me in the direction of her husband Gene while turning back to the trembling weeds. Go, Mary!

Gene gave a warm greeting, and we set off to tour the farm. I started with the obvious question: How did you get involved with minis? Gene looked at me and with all seriousness, said “We thought this would make a nice retirement plan.”

I looked at him surrounded by barns, horses, feed, and equipment and laughed. Some retirement!

One thing I have learned about farmers: they can’t retire; it’s in their blood. Gene explained he formerly raised Highland cattle, Halflingers and Morgans so, to him, minis are smaller, easier and less work, speaking from a size and quantity point-of-view. Gee, when you put it that way. Gene says what he enjoys most is their sweet and gentle disposition.

We walked to the horses in the front pasture. Whoa, suddenly I feel like Alice in Wonderland. They really are mini, aren’t they? I’m 5’10” and these little guys came to my mid-thigh at their tallest point. Curious? They couldn’t wait to investigate the newcomer. I feel ridiculous towering over these animals; I’m used to working with draft horses.

This is plain weird, but nice, too. Gene informs me that according to Mini Horse Association standards, minis can’t be any taller than 34 inches at the withers. According to the Shetland Association, it can be up to 38 inches, but anything over 38 inches is a pony. Think about that: a yardstick is 36 inches; these horses are shorter than a yardstick!

My inseam is just two inches shorter than the horse at full height. Awkward! What do you do with a horse this small? Lawn ornament?

Mini’s are primarily used for driving carts, but are also popular for jumping and arena exercises and beautiful to show. (Check out those lush tails.) They are excellent therapy animals for nursing homes and hospitals and have even been trained as “seeing-eye horses” for disabled people.

Before you ask, yes, they can be housetrained to take care of their personal business.

Mini horses are truly easy keepers; you need only two acres of pasture per horse to keep a mini happy. At Hannay, they feed one 40-pound bale of hay twice a day for 26 adult minis. Anyone who has had to feed a full-sized herd can truly appreciate that difference. There are 28 horses at last count, but its baby season with two newborns in the barn the day I stopped in.

Can you even imagine a mini-mini? Tiny, fluffy, friendly and sweet, the fillies are tucked tight to mom. Even mom was friendly and OK with me touring and taking pictures. They really do have a whole different temperament. The same herd dynamics exist as full-sized horses, but with none of the ferocity or intensity.

Disputes in the mini herd were more like a rumble at the salon than a battle to the finish.

It takes some adjustment seeing smaller pens, halters, fencing … everything. When we enter the pasture, the herd comes rushing over. I try hard not to laugh. Seriously! I’m respectful of all animals, but it’s hard to be intimidated by well-fed, furry little horses that barely make it to your waist, all nickering and nuzzling up.

Who wouldn’t fall in love?

Gene has a close working relationship with Cazenovia College equine students, and local equine groups who help out at the farm. Sounds like every kid’s dream to me. I was on my way out when I met Bonnie – the BLM adopted burro – what a character.

Hannay is a truly special place. I really enjoyed my visit and it’s got me thinking about finding space in my life for a little love.

Thanks, Gene and Mary!

Linda J. Haley is a freelance writer specializing in rural and agricultural topics. She can be reached at linda@m3pmedia.com.

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