Named for the family that developed the breed mid-19th century, the Falabella is a rather unique little animal. It is not a natural breed, but rather comes solely from selective breeding.
Around 1835 in the Argentine meadowlands the Pampas tribes found some unusually small animals among their horses. This attracted the attention of an Irishman who got his hands on some and began an experimental selective breeding program. Around 20 years later he achieved success and had a heard of tiny, perfectly built horses.
This legacy was passed on to the Irishman’s nephew Juan Falabella who utilized small animals from English Thoroughbred, Shetland & Criollo breeds. Through rigorously strict breeding methods Juan was able to further his uncle’s work and produce animals with perfect confirmation under 33 inches.
In 1905 the herd changed hands again to Juan’s son who furthered selective breeding & established the breed standard we go by today. These small small horses retain some of the qualities found in the breeds that make up their genetics. The original tiny tribal horses that sparked the interest were Criollos who had adapted to a harsh environment by reducing body mass over generations.
Most Falabellas are considered intelligent and easily trainable. Due to their size, Falabella horses can only be ridden by very small children, and thus are generally shown in-hand at horse shows. They can be taught to drive, and cart driving is a common use for Falabellas. They also jump obstacles up to 90 cm (3 ft), though in-hand, without a rider.
Beyond their minute size, the Falabellas show conditions of docility, strength and capacity to adapt higher than any other kind of similar horses and even than many of their bigger relatives. Strength tests made on them show them to be extremely strong–similar to draft and saddle horses of greater size.
Falabella miniature horses are true horses and not ponies, meaning that even the tiniest examples of the breed retain the structure and proportions of a full-size horse. The Falabella can be any number of types, from stock horse types that look like miniature American quarter horses to the sleeker Arabian types.
As they are a show and companion breed, their “useful” lifespan is not limited. While young horses may fetch steep prices and are even sold as a long-term investment, old horses are more readily available.
Falabellas can also be used as guide animals due to their small size and easy trainability.