Located in Solvang, California, in the Santa Ynez Valley, this famous ranch holds a treasure of adorable miniature horses. Aleck and Louise Stribling, the owners of Quicksilver Ranch, have been breeding miniatures horses since 1983 and have made the breed famous. Their goal is to sell fully grown miniature horses as pets.
To our amazement, this lush ranch of 20 acres, with enough room for those miniature horses to live in grand style like royalty, is free to visit. As a matter of fact, the only greeting a visitor receives is the whinnying of the stallion calling his fillies.
Life on the ranch
Swathes of green grass spread across the ranch, and we found ourselves going from fenced area to the next petting miniature horse of all shapes, heights, and color patterns. As we spent time with these friendly creatures, we quickly learned how each one had its own unique personality. Our daughter squeaked with delight when the horses begged her for more attention. She was a little disappointed that none of them were unicorns.
The more time we spent with these animals, the more curious I became to know more about them. By chance, we walked into the ranch office and met Maria, a charming lady who answered all of our questions with a smile, not letting us feel as if she had answered the same questions a thousand times from other inquisitive people like us.
Interview with Maria
Maria has been working at the ranch for 16 years, and she gave us the story about the large ranch that was the dream of the Striblings, who opened the ranch. When Louise Stribling passed away a couple of years ago, the family decided to downsize the farm, reducing the herd’s size from around 75 head to the current 30.
We asked a lot about the health of the miniature horses, curious to know if they have the same health issues as their larger cousins. As it turns out, they do. She went on to say that most people often treat them like household pets, driving them around in the car, dressing them up for the holidays, letting them roam in the house or backyard, and teaching them to come by whistling at them like a pet dog.
These horses are in demand. Depending on cuteness and coloring, prices for them range between $2,000 and $5,000. They’re ideal pets, but more importantly most of the miniature horses are used as therapy animals, working miracles with patients suffering from stress, anxiety, and PTSD. Despite their weight, about 100 to 200 pounds, they’re gentle, easy to handle, well-mannered, and are great playmates for kids as well. Maria also mentioned that some people use them to pull wagons, even up to ten times their weight, and, of course, they’ve been used in shows and circuses around the world.
Some people buy their horses and leave them at the farm to be cared for. Plus, it’s not allowed under California law to have a miniature horse in the backyard. Although Quicksilver Ranch is one of the biggest and most reputable in California, Maria told us that the biggest ranches are located in Texas and dominate the miniature horse business.
Worried about the safety of these animals, we had to know how they were protected at night. Maria assured us that all the miniature horses are brought back to the stables, so that they’re safe. The ranch has never had a horse stolen off the property, and Maria had to laugh at the thought of someone attempting to snatch one of these fast little horses. Apparently, they love a good game of chase with strangers. In other words, good luck trying to take one.
José, the guy who does everything
We met José, the extremely pleasant maintenance guy who started on the farm 16 years ago. He took it upon himself to learn how to take care of everything on the farm, including the horse and how to assist with their births.
This is a man with great passion and love for these creatures and the ranch. He explained in great detail how he takes care of all the horses, from bathing them three times a year to brushing them 2-3 times weekly to trimming their hooves and manes. He also told us that the horses don’t use horseshoes like their cousins because they just don’t need them. Each horse costs about $8 per day to be at the farm and taken care of, and that most of the owners visit and play with their horses a couple times a month. He continued to say that the horses are fun and eccentric, and he further emphasized how they’re therapy for kids and adults alike.
José also mentioned that they’re not tame at all when they’re born. It’s a work of art to domesticate and maintain that gracious attitude made famous by miniature horses. A fun fact about the benefit of their size: They love to lay down, which has caused many panic phone calls to to alert the staff of a sick horse. Laughing out loud, José simply tells them that “they enjoy sunbathing.”
All the miniature horses at the ranch seem happy and energetic. The two baby horses were running and playing and almost jumped the fence while performing their own version of “Born Free.” It’s a fun place to visit if you’re in the Santa Ynez Valley and visiting Solvang. Moreover, kids will always have a blast playing with them.
Address: 1555 Alamo Pintado Rd, Solvang, CA
Opening hours: Every day from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 pm, except on Sundays.
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