The Falabella is the smallest breed of horse in the world. The elegant miniature horses from South America are particularly popular in the USA due to their small size.
There they are often kept as pets, although the idiosyncratic horses have the same demands and needs as their larger conspecifics. In fact, keeping a Falabella is a hobby, because small horses are not suitable for riding.
Larger specimens are able to pull a carriage, but the dainty miniature horses are not really suitable for this either. In the 19th century, tiny horses were discovered and captured in the Buenos Aires area.
The Falabella family took a liking to the tiny horses and through targeted breeding and crossbreeding of other horse breeds, the already tiny horse became even smaller.
What was originally a nice idea was at the expense of the Falabella. Selection based purely on size ensured that health fell by the wayside. The Falabella is not as robust and resilient as many horse owners would like it to be.
They, therefore, have special demands on their owners and especially their keeping and require a lot of attention and care. The elegant miniature horses pay back this effort through their character.
You are extremely people-oriented, friendly, open, and intelligent. The Falabella is the perfect horse for people who don’t focus on riding and who like to look after a horse.
Size: 75 – 90 cm
Weight: 50 – 65 kg
Lifespan: 25-30 years
Color: All colors allowed
Dressage, leisure, therapy
Origin and breed history
Today’s Falabella has its origins in the Argentine mountains very close to Buenos Aires. Presumably, the ancestors of today’s Falabellas are Iberian horses, which the Spanish conquerors once left behind in South America.
These, in turn, mated with local horses. These mixtures have adapted to the natural conditions and have become smaller and more resistant over the centuries.
Around 1840 the little horses were discovered and captured by the Irishman Patrick Newell. The horses were not small enough for him, however.
Researchers have found that Falabella carries blood almost exclusively from Shetland pony.
It can therefore be assumed that Newell purposefully crossed the captured horses with Shetland ponies in order to get horses as small as possible.
In addition, he appeared to have crossbred English thoroughbreds, which gave the Falabella its elegant appearance.
Newell’s son-in-law Juan Falabella continued the very selective breeding on his ranch Recreo de Roca and gave the tiny horses their name. The Falabella only got recognition as a separate breed in 1970.
The size problem
When breeding and selecting their horses, the Falabella family, unfortunately, disregarded the fact that this one-sided selection can harbor certain health risks for the horses.
Since the Falabella cannot be ridden, the health diseases of the miniature horses do not seem to be the top priority for many people.
Due to their small size, they are popular children’s horses that are often not properly perceived as full-fledged horses. In the past, the mating of horses was handled correspondingly carelessly.
The appearance of the Falabella
The Falabella is the smallest pony in the world. Due to the selection in breeding, the size is around 70 to 90 cm, the Falabella must not become larger than 106 cm.
At this size, a Falabella weighs around 65 kg. The smallest adult Falabella was only 12 inches tall.
A foal is usually around 30 cm tall and weighs 10 kg at birth.
Despite their small size, a correct, well-proportioned, and, above all, elegant physique is important in breeding. It differs from a mini Shetty primarily in its type.
While the Mini-Shetty is clearly in the pony type, the Falabella can be described much more as a miniature horse. The Falabella’s head is particularly striking.
It is fine with a concave nose line that is extremely pronounced in foals. The nostrils are large, the ears small and flexible. The mane and tail are abundant and bushy.
The Falabella’s legs are small and delicate and often appear a bit short in relation to the body. The back is short with barely pronounced withers, the croup sloping and the neck often has a clearly pronounced lower neck.
The Falabella comes in every imaginable color. Tiger piebalds are also possible. Bright colors such as marbles, piebalds, spotted horses, horses in Appaloosa colors, and in marble shades are particularly coveted and popular.
Temperament and essence
The Falabella is a very people-oriented horse with a pleasant and calm temperament. The ponies are characterized by their good nature and friendliness. At the same time, they are extremely intelligent but have an idiosyncratic character. At times they can be a bit stubborn.
Husbandry and nutrition
Due to its height, its low weight, and its origin, the Falabella has special requirements when it comes to keeping it.
The petite ponies from Argentina cannot be kept outdoors without hesitation. Due to their low weight, they tend to freeze.
In the USA, miniature horses are often kept indoors due to this fact. Despite its small size, a Falabella is to be regarded as a full-fledged horse.
It has the same demands on social contacts, movement, and eating like a 150 cm horse.
The Falabella feels most comfortable in a herd with other ponies of its size. In winter you should make sure that the Falabella can stand dry and warm.
For example, keeping them in a playpen that is protected from drafts and littered with warmth is conceivable.
Under certain circumstances, it is advisable to cover the Falabella if you are sensitive.
Many horse blanket manufacturers have now adjusted to the fact that miniature horses and mini Shettys are becoming increasingly popular and have to be covered.
The Falabella can be prone to obesity if it is not exercised enough and has access to food around the clock.
The problem with the Falabella when it comes to feeding is the low weight of the animals. It is generally recommended to feed a horse 1 kg of hay at 100 kg body weight.
In the case of a Falabella, that would mean that it shouldn’t even get 1 kg of hay. However, this is far too little for the horse’s digestive system.
Horses are permanent eaters and can develop stomach ulcers if they take long breaks from eating.
When it comes to feeding the Falabella, you need to develop a little creativity. Hay nets are ways to slow down feed intake. Offering branches can also be a way to shorten eating breaks without unnecessarily adding calories.
Education and care
A Falabella is an intelligent and people-related horse, which is typical of a pony with a stubborn head. With loving consistency, however, you will not have any problems raising your Falabella.
The Falabella pony is only bred for a hobby. Use as a riding horse is out of the question due to its small size. Even the petite build is not suitable for pulling loads.
At most, two or more horses can pull a carriage with an adult.
Due to their human focus, size, and intelligence, however, their use as a guide horse for the blind has recently become more and more popular.
Her quick comprehension also predestines her for floor work, circus lessons, and clicker training.
As a miniature horse, the Falabella must be looked after and cared for in the same way as, for example, an English thoroughbred. Many small horses are often only kept as companion horses and are not looked after as intensively.
Due to its sensitivity, the Falabella makes high demands on its carers and needs daily care.
Due to the size of the hooves, shoeing is not possible and the Falabella has to do without horseshoes completely.
Although it has hard hooves, depending on the soil conditions, care must be taken that the hooves do not wear out excessively.
Health and Typical Diseases
The selection in breeding, which is only aimed at size, has meanwhile come at the expense of the miniature ponies’ health. This is due, among other things, to targeted inbreeding in order to maintain the size of the horses.
In many cases, she makes this inbreeding noticeable through faults in conformation. Weak joints, crooked legs, backs that are too long, and heads that are too big are some of the effects.
When giving birth after a gestation period of 13 months instead of 11 months, a caesarean section is usually required, as the foals are not born naturally.
In addition to the susceptibility to diseases, the Falabella has two anatomical peculiarities. On the one hand, he lacks the 18th costal arch and the heart is significantly larger in relation to his body size than is normally the case.
The life expectancy of the Falabella
The Falabella is considered to be extremely durable. It is not uncommon for miniature horses to live to be over 30 years old if they are well cared for.
Buy Falabella horse breed
Have you decided to buy a horse as a pet and have you decided on a Falabella?
First of all, the good news: the maintenance costs for a Falabella are not as high as for a warmblood or a small horse.
Falabellas need less feed and you don’t have to buy expensive equipment such as saddles and bridles for your future miniature horse. Since Falabellas are not considered particularly robust and resilient, you should keep in mind that higher veterinary costs could be incurred at any time.
However, there is also bad news when it comes to buying Falabella. The little horses are not as widespread as you might have assumed.
Falabellas are often confused with mini Shetland ponies, but connoisseurs will immediately see the difference between the two horse breeds. Finding the right Falabella can therefore take some time.
The miniature horses cost between $700 and $1000. Mares and stallions are usually more expensive than geldings. The same applies to award-winning horses that have been approved for breeding.
Since there are many black sheep on the market for miniature horses, you should make sure to buy your Falabella from a reputable buyer or, at best, a breeder.
The Falabella is exactly the right horse for you if you enjoy looking after horses but don’t necessarily want to ride or drive.
Owning a Falabella is really a pure hobby. It is important that you are ready to enable the miniature horses to live as species-appropriate as possible with other Falabellas or Shettys.
Falabellas are the smallest horses in the world, but they have the same needs and demands as their fellow horses.
If you just plan to love, clean, look after and care for your horse, then the Falabella is exactly the right choice for you. The smart little horses also have a lot of fun with groundwork and circus lessons!
FAQ: Frequently asked questions
How much does a Falabella horse cost?
The miniature horses cost between $700 and $1100.
How big is a Falabella?
The world’s smallest horse breed reaches a maximum height at the withers of 86 centimeters, and some foals are less than 40 centimeters tall at birth.