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Miniature horses kick it up at Gouverneur & St. Lawrence County Fair

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GOUVERNEUR — Miniature horses can be addictive.

“I started out with one and now I have 14,” said Kay F. McIntosh, Balmat, who brought some of her miniature horses to the Gouverneur & St. Lawrence County Fair. “I have heard they’re like potato chips. You can’t have just one.”

Thursday’s event, which drew close to 20 miniature horses and two miniature donkeys, was the fair’s first official show for the animals, although there have been informal exhibitions in other years.

“It’s been a lot of fun with the kids,” show Superintendent Kari L. Schermerhorn, Gouverneur, said. “We have ribbons and trophies. We have 58 classes in four divisions. We’re showing the diversity of the minis.”

Miniatures were bred down from full-sized horses as pets for royalty, although not all ended up with the wealthy. Because of their size, they also were used in coal mines.

“They were called pit ponies,” Ms. McIntosh said. “Some of them never saw the light of day because they were born in the pits.”

The smaller class of miniatures must be 34 inches or less measured from the ground to the last hair on their mane. A slightly larger class ranges from 34 to 38 inches. Anything above 38 inches is classified as a pony.

Most of the horses at the show came from Ms. McIntosh and Mrs. Schermerhorn, who has a horse farm and gives riding lessons.

“Minis are great for the kids because of their size,” Mrs. Schermerhorn said.

Miniatures have the temperament of a full-size horse, generally gentle and accommodating. Most weigh no more than 250 pounds.

“It’s a lot easier to handle an excited horse when they’re this size. They’re kind of like a big dog,” said Brenda L. Gallagher, whose 3-year-old daughter, Kylie E., was the youngest person to show. “I showed big horses all through my youth. I didn’t show minis until my kids did. It’s kind of a family thing. The older the kids get, the more responsibility you can hand to them.”

Even though the minis are small, a horse is still a horse, said 7-year-old Alexys L. Denesha, Heuvelton.

It’s not really safe “to stand behind them because they could kick,” she said.

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