Following is an article published in the July 2007 edition of the New Zealand Lifestyle Farmer magazine ... we are proud to have been highlighted in this popular publication. We hope you enjoy our story and that it gives you a better understanding of who we are, how we operate and how much we enjoy our little friends ...
Liane Paterson aims to breed the perfect Miniature
by Fiona Cameron
Fourteen years ago Aucklander Liane Paterson downsized her horses, literally. After a lifetime of large ones, she fell for a mini colt and has never looked back since.
Valhalls Apollo, or Cracker to his friends, is just that - a wee cracker of a horse with a big personality. He was the start of Liane's mini stud Sheokes on her 10 acre (4.2ha) lifestyle farm near Muriwai, north west of Auckland.
She converted her large stables into smaller ones, subdivided the paddocks, bought two fillies, another colt and described herself as "hooked" on minis. As her fascination with the breed grew, so too did the numbers. She now has 14 horses, as well as outside mares coming to her stallions which are looked after just like her own horses.
Looking to breed high quality Miniature Horses, Liane started importing new and superior bloodlines from the United States and Australia. This is neither cheap nor easy, but was important for improving the stock with high quality bloodlines.
As a breeder, she says you need to be constantly working on this. From one of the premier studs and training centres in the United States, she imported AM Private Bucks and Alliance Tenders Trixie, which both carry very impressive bloodlines.
She describes going to quarantine to collect her precious arrivals as, "not quite what you envisage because they never look their best after coping with quarantine, the flight and change of seasons."
Liane loves the Arab look and aims to breed the perfect miniature. She specialises in pintos, but conformation and temperament are uppermost, colour is a bonus with the multi colours being particularly striking. During the years, she has learned about the ups and downs of breeding - keeping a close eye on foaling mares, as well as using a foaling alarm.
"These horses are so friendly that many a mare has foaled on the front lawn." She never tires of watching them foal and handling the youngsters. Foals are particularly loveable, because they normally range between 17-21 inches in height at birth.
"You can't guarantee height or colour. You can use the same stallion and mare and a completely different foal with appear. It's always fascinating," said Liane.
Deciding to breed fewer horses, but of better quality, she's finding it hard to be more critical when choosing which to keep, because a top quality stallion is only 50% of the equation, thus making the quality of the mares equally important.
She aims to breed all-rounders, which are versatile in the show ring, in activity and harness or jumping classes. Having successfully shown her horses and winning many top awards in Halter, Colour and Jumping during the years, Liane took a break from showing for 5 years, returning to it once again.
She describes showing as fun but hard work and highly competitive now the quality has improved from the earlier days. With classes like best presented, showmanship, colour, movement, jumping, obstacle and harness there are plenty of events to compete in.
Liane said that if you like dressing up then showing is for you. "You can use a different outfit for different classes if you choose to match each horse you show." Harness and jumping classes are generally more relaxed. "They love to jump and are capable of jumping their own height." she says. Miniature classes are always popular at A&P Shows and draw the crowds.
When it comes to size, a Miniature horse up to 34" is Category A, up to 38" is Category B, with the larger horses popular for driving. Miniatures are a height breed so measuring is an important aspect when it comes to showing. Mature horses, i.e. five years and older require one measurement for each show season, while youngsters are required to be measured three monthly to be eligible to show whether it be a club event or an A&P show.
Two years ago a Mini Expo was held in Auckland for the first time and hundreds of people came along to learn more about minis. Studs like Sheokes set up displays, horses were paraded for sale and many had the opportunity to talk to mini owners. Liane really enjoyed taking part.
"It was a great day. I met so many people and even though it was hard work, I would love to do it again."
Liane has also held an open day, including a BBQ, at her Sheokes Stud. Horses were paraded to music and stallions worked at liberty in the paddocks.
"It really is a glorified hobby," she says. "However, I love to share my passion. I enjoy going to the A&P Shows, setting up our display and having people come over and chat, pet the horses and of course, admire them. That's really special. I would like to do farm visits, or be part of a local tour."
Working at home doing accounts for her partner's business, Liane also makes and sells mini halters and other gear. "People find it hard to get just the right size for their horses, as individuals vary."
With top minis in the USA fetching $50,000 plus, the bigger market there and i Australia is hotly contested. Here in New Zealand you can expect to pay $5,000 plus for a high quality horse, $3,000 in the medium range and around $1,000 for a pet. Geldings are generally cheaper and make excellent pets.
"The Miniature is a real horse, just a scaled down version that can come in every conceivable coat colour and pattern. They don't know they are small but repay all the love, care and attention they are given many times over. They become a member of the family." said Liane.