Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 2, Page 27
Winter 1993
Alumni Profile: The prancing and pawing of each little hoof

     Beverly T. Dugan has her own field of dreams. Hers is filled with tiny
horses less than a yard high. For four years, Dugan, Delaware '61, has been
raising miniature horses at Knollac, her farm near Milford, Del. Measuring
no more than 34 inches high, the miniatures come in a full range of colors
and markings, from Appaloosa to bay to pinto. As adults, they weigh about
200 pounds, compared to the 1,000 pounds of an average, full-size horse,
yet they are capable of pulling a cart with two adults inside.
     Everything at Knollac is scaled down for the "minnies." They have
down-sized stalls, tiny halters and saddles and foal-sized blankets. Their
grain is measured by the cup with a few wisps of hay added for roughage.
Even Dugan's standard two-horse trailer has been customized to accommodate
six miniatures, plus a load of hay.
     Naturally lovable because of their size, these gentle little horses
have other endearing characteristics.
     "Miniature horses act like a cross between a horse and a dog," Dugan
says. "They look, smell and generally behave like a horse, but they're
curious like a dog. I don't dare leave a gate or door open, because they
must look inside. And they are attracted to anyone their size, whether they
be children or visitors in wheelchairs.
     "Usually, horses are creatures of habit and get upset if you change
their routines," says Dugan, "but minnies like change, and they like to
play with other animals." She says she once found one of her horses
sleeping on the hay with a cat and a rabbit.
     Although she also breeds German shepherds and corgis, Dugan says that
"horse-y" was her first word as a child. When she was a child, she drove
her own pony cart around Milford, and only a riding accident in her 40s
caused her to put aside the larger Appaloosa and quarter horses.
     A former school teacher, real estate developer and beach shop owner,
Dugan brings all her skills to Knollac, which once was a dairy farm owned
by her father and farmed by her cousin. She converted the barn into 30
small stalls for her miniature horses, plus an enclosed area for washing
them, complete with an infrared lamp for drying. New, white PVC fencing
gives Knollac a classic, horse farm look.
     Little horses have been around for a long time, Dugan says. European
royalty gave the gentle, friendly animals to their children as pets, and
gypsies used them in circuses. More recently, small horses, imported from
England and Holland, pulled carts in the Appalachian coal mines during the
19th century. Shetland ponies have been bred into the miniature line, as
well. Today's standard of perfection, set in 1988 by the American Miniature
Horse Association, calls for a blending of both the draft and refined
     "Sometimes, breeders are so concerned about size, they lose sight of
other things," Dugan says. "Too much inbreeding can produce dwarfism, and
the conformation can be bad in little horses. They can have knock-knees, or
cow hocks, where the heels come together and the legs splay out. But I've
found that trimming the hoof much like a child's corrective shoe sometimes
can reduce these problems."
     Dugan says carefully bred miniature horses can be beautiful, and
that's what first drew her to them. Several years ago, she visited a large
horse farm near Dallas, where she saw a diminutive, gray stallion that
looked like a "shrunken" Arabian. "His legs were just right and his head
was beautiful," she says.
     After learning that the Arabian's daughters sold for $35,000 apiece,
Dugan despaired of ever owning a miniature, but then a friend in Elkton,
Md., offered her a pair of non-pedigreed miniature horses.
     "I decided to try for hardship registration, and I took the stallion,
Jayson, to Lexington, Ky., to have a physical inspection by a national
director of the American Miniature Horse Association," she says. If the
inspection shows that the horse conforms to the requirements of the
association, pedigree papers will be issued. First, Jayson, and then the
mare, Cotton, passed the height restrictions. Dugan's next miniature,
Munchie, was bought in Smyrna, and today, Dugan has 17 of the little
horses, with seven mares pregnant.
     Dugan says that a pet-quality, male miniature will sell for $500-$750,
but a well-bred show horse can command hundreds of thousands of dollars.
     Although foals can be born at any time of the year, Dugan times the
breeding so the little ones are not born in the cold days of January and
February. The babies are often as little as 18 inches at the shoulder and
can weigh only 25 pounds at birth.
     Height at birth is not a good predictor of ultimate size, however.
Dugan has one youngster who is growing so fast that "I keep telling her she
will be a Clydesdale."
     The little horses sometimes have trouble in the birthing process
because the amniotic sac is thick and can suffocate the baby if the mare
does not remove it. To help Munchie, who had lost two babies, Dugan used a
closed-circuit television set and a beeper that went off when the horse
would lie down on her side.
     Dugan said she was delighted last spring to deliver Munchie's "loud,"
or strongly colored, Appaloosa baby. With their spotted rumps or shoulders
and white rimmed eyes, Appaloosas are somewhat rare among miniature horses.
     In 1989, Dugan organized the Delmarva Miniature Horse Club, which
provides classes for beginning breeders. The club is not affiliated with
either of the two major miniature horse registries, but it does sponsor
local shows.
     Last summer, the first Delmarva show accredited by the American
Miniature Horse Association was held in Harrington, Del., and Dugan, with
her assistant Jennifer Lane, presented an Appaloosa stallion and weanling
colt at the show. Show preparations often include a slimming diet, she
says, and additional exercise, either on a tread mill or an electric
walking wheel.
     In addition to the showmanship competition, which has different size
categories, driving and costume competitions are usually part of a
miniature horse show. Children up to about 60 pounds can ride the
miniatures, and the little horses can be trained to jump on a lead and
perform tricks like a dog, Dugan says.
     As her horses build up points at these regional shows, Dugan says,
within a couple of years, she hopes to enter the best from her breeding
program in national competition.
     Dugan, who completed her elementary education degree at Delaware in
three years, still uses her teaching skills by working with 4-H'ers who
have declared a pre-veterinary interest. "And people are continually
stopping here after they see my sign on the highway, and I always take the
time to talk to them about my minnies," she says.
     Reflecting on how her varied interests-from teaching and dog breeding
to bookkeeping and designing development homes-have prepared her for
operating a miniature horse farm, Dugan says, "It's funny how the things
you do earlier in life fit in with what you do later."
                                   -Cornelia Weil