Origin of the Falabella Breed:
The Falabella miniature horse begins its story in the meadows surrounding Buenos Aires, Argentina, on a ranch owned by the Falabella family. Unlike many horse breeds, a very different, intensive approach was taken in the early 1800s to develop these miniature versions of the standard equine animal. What makes this breed so unique in the equine world is that it was developed from standard sized horses, with many successive generations becoming shorter with each highly selective breeding. In order to obtain a proportional horse, the progression of selecting shorter dams and sires took many generations. Some of the breeds used in this process include Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Arabians, Mustangs, as well as some draft horses including Percherons and Friesians. It is to be noted that no pony breeds were used in the Falabella lineage. With the development of the first herd, and continued breeding between the miniatures, the horses developed a unique DNA sequence to mark that they were indeed their own breed. However, only the bloodlines originating from the Falabella family ranch are considered the pure Falabellas.
In 1853 the first declared miniature horse was born, and by 1893 the Falabella family had created the first perfected herd. The man responsible for this idea was Patrick Newtall; he passed the knowledge of the breeding practices necessary to create and continue his work down to his son-in-law Juan Falabella. It is said that Juan believed in evolving this breed for the sake of creating a child-sized horse; so that the younger generations could master the basics of horsemanship at an early age. In fact, these miniature horses became the life-blood of this family and Julio Falabella, Juan's grandson, is the man noted for making this breed famous by growing the herd further and establishing the roots of the Falabella Miniature Horse Association in 1940.
Falabellas can be used for a variety of tasks. Other than training children how to groom and ride, these miniature horses have also been used for pulling carts, herd companionship, therapeutic purposes, and even show performances.
The Falabellas were created for their most notable trait, their height. Class A Falabella horses are considered to be within the range of 28-34 inches tall at the withers (7-8.5 hands) at maturity. Also, a distinct trait of the Falabella is that they only have 16 to 17 vertebrae, as compared to other horses which normally have 18 vertebrae, these vertebrae are missing from the lumbar region. Furthermore, these minis are missing at least one pair of ribs, and up to three pairs from the horses directly from Argentina.
To create these minis, many different breeds of horses were pooled in the process, especially since the goal was only to obtain a shorter horse; ergo, many different "breed hallmarks" may appear in the minis. Most commonly traits of the Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Arabian breeds can be seen; however there are lines of the stocky draft-type minis as well. The body structure is very versatile, however to be a Falabella, correct body proportions must be maintained to that of their ancestry. As previously noted, no ponies were used in the creation of this breed, making the Falabella a "true horse" and therefore the proportions are identical to standard horses. Falabellas can be any color including black, bay, grey, pinto, palominos, dun, buckskin, and chestnut. In short, this breed was designed to be the horse for everyone, the body build, the color, their performance abilities, their tractability. These horses have many uses in today's equine world, and their small size continues to capture hearts every day!
Did you know...? :
- Despite their small size, miniature horses can pull up to 3x their weight, whereas their larger cousins can only pull twice their weight.
- Falabellas often live up to 40-45 years if they are healthy.
- Baby Falabella horses weigh about 10 pounds at birth, and grow up to 90% of their mature body weight in their first year of life.
- Although the Falabellas were developed from many different breeds of horses, of many different coat colors, the appaloosa coat pattern was the most cherished by Julio Falabella.
- In 1972, a herd of 29 miniature horses was introduced to Pennsylvania, establishing America's first Farm Park in Gettysburg, Pa. One of the original Falabella's from Argentina still lives there today, at 42 years of age!
- Today, there are less than 900 registered Falabella horses internationally, making them extremely rare.
Where can you learn more? :
*Photos taken at Land of Little Horses Farm Park, Gettysburg, PA: Top Photo (Left to right)-Treasure and her filly, & Summer; Center Photo- Touch of Gold (stallion) ; Bottom Photo- a few members of the miniature horse heard at LOLH preparing for winter, along with Quarter Horse "Tom," and Shetland Pony "Cookie" as comparison (see if you can find them!). Here you can see a sampling of the wide variety of body structures and coloring patterns within the Falabella breed.