Top photo: Mumbai Mirror
(The world’s largest horses are here)
Meet Thumbelina, 17.5″ at the withers. That’s 4.1-1/2 hands.
Outside the horse barn at Kay and Paul Goessling’s Goose Creek Farm in Ladue, a trio of miniature horses is moseying around the mostly grassless corral – thanks to the tramping of many tiny hoofs – nibbling bites here and there. Kay Goessling, 65, who began raising petite equines about 15 years ago, introduces these as Mocha, a blue roan; Rosie, a dark palomino; and White Cloud, a cream-colored palomino. She notes that none of the three stands taller than 34 inches at the “withers” (the ridge between the shoulder bones). Then, to a background of whinnying from stalls inside the barn, another trio bolts into the corral, slipping under the barn gate, which clears the ground by a foot and a half or so. Two of these three are highly energized black cocker spaniels, Duke and Bear, who rush to greet visitors. The third, a little more sedate and quite a bit more portly, is, well, just about the cutest thing you ever saw.
“Meet Thumbelina,” says Kay Goessling with a wide smile. “As of July, according to the Guinness World Record Book people, she is officially the world’s smallest living horse.” The framed certificate from Guinness, which hangs in the barn office, refers to her as a “miniature sorrel brown mare.”
The little creature, born five years ago, stands a mere 17 1/2 inches tall at the withers, roughly the stature of a medium-size dog, and weighs about 60 pounds. She is a dwarf miniature, says Goessling, who helped with the difficult delivery the night Thumbelina entered this world weighing about 10 pounds; a normal miniature horse weighs about 25 pounds at birth. “She was too tiny to nurse; we didn’t see how she could survive,” Goessling said. “But she surprised us by jumping up right away, and doing all the things a normal newborn horse does.” (Because they produced a dwarf, Thumbelina’s parents were not bred again; the stallion was gelded, and both have since been sold as pets.)
From certain angles, at a glance, Thumbelina could be a tiny buffalo. From others, a potbellied pig. She has a barrel-like body, knobby legs with hoofs that turn under but have been corrected by a farrier with layers of acrylic, a lumpy little head with a white blaze down her face, and a serious underbite. And although she is by far the smallest of the farm’s 47 miniatures, she “rules the roost,” Goessling said.
Thumbelina owes her notoriety and status as the “world’s smallest horse” to the Goessling’s son Michael, 39, who two years ago – when the tiny mare turned three and was thus considered adult – “thought it would be fun to see if she qualified,” his mother said. “We knew that the previous ‘smallest according to Guinness,’ also a dwarf, was bigger, 19 inches tall,” Goessling said. “Michael talked with Thumbelina’s vet, Stu Robson, who in turn filled out the necessary paperwork to send to Guinness in London.” After that there was a long wait with no word – until this summer, when a Guinness representative wrote the Goesslings to say a film crew from England would arrive at their farm today to photograph the tiny mare.
And then another surprise from Guinness: On Sunday, the biggest living horse, according to the World Record Book, will arrive at Goose Creek Farm to be photographed with the smallest. The mighty steed, Radar, a fawn colored Belgian draft horse, towers to 19 hands 3 1/2-inches (6 feet 7 1/2-inches) at the withers. Weighing in at 2,400 pounds, he is somewhere around 40 times bigger than Thumbelina, Goessling said.
Born in Iowa, Radar was purchased by Tracy Smith of Priefert Ranch Equipment, and now, when he isn’t “on the road promoting the company,” he resides in Mount Pleasant, Texas, she said. He maintains a busy schedule, traveling in a specially built horse trailer (to accommodate his stature) some 210 days a year, the Goesslings have been told.
The photographers from Guinness also requested a little “cowboy” and “cowgirl” to lend a “nice touch” to the pictures, Goessling said. Grandson Paul Henry Goessling, 4, son of the Goesslings’ son Paul, and Kate Schrichte, 7, daughter of Cindy and Eric Schrichte, caretakers at the Goesslings’ other miniature horse farm in Wildwood, will do the honors, decked out in appropriate costumes, she said. Asked how all the notoriety might change Thumbelina, Goessling said, smiling, “I doubt she’ll notice.”
Already the little horse sees frequent visitors and “loves people, especially children.” And occasionally she is the star attraction at church picnics and other similar events, although “too much attention exhausts her,” Goessling said. The family also plans for Thumbelina to make appearances at several regional attractions (Grant’s Farm and Silver Dollar City are among those being considered), where she could be photographed with admirers. (Information about her appearances is supposed to go online soon at www.worldssmallesthorse.com)
All the fanfare will also probably not much affect her regular routine, which includes getting frequent baths with a hose (not one of Thumbelina’s favorite activities) and other grooming, and wandering wherever she likes “because she’s little enough to get under the fences.” She also chews on untied shoelaces whenever possible, and often goes for rides in the car sitting in the backseat “where she can look out the window.”
And not only does Thumbelina not travel in a horse trailer, she also doesn’t bed down in a stall as the farm’s other horses do. Her mattress is wood shavings in an igloo doghouse in the barn, leaving her free to come and go at will. Her diet includes hay, equine pellets, and “grass when she escapes the corral, which makes it hard to control her weight,” Goessling said.
Nonetheless, unlike most dwarf horses, she has few health issues, and should live to be about 16 (a normal miniature can live twice that long).
“Thumbelina is very special,” Goessling said. “We just love her.”
We had a cat that size once.