Thumbelina (born May 1, 2001) is a dwarf miniature horse and the world's smallest horse.
She uses the doggy door to go in and out of the stable office. She sleeps in a doghouse. She's about the size of a stout bulldog. But Thumbelina is no canine. She's the world's smallest horse. A chestnut mare, she's the result of breeding a pair of miniature horses, plus an accident of genetics: dwarfism. She stands just 17 ½ inches tall at the withers or shoulders.
Her eyes are those of a bigger horse. On her teeny, tiny frame, they look comically huge. Her underbite arouses tender pathos in first-time visitors. Her legs are bowed and twisted; she gets frequent visits from the farrier and has been fitted with special orthotic horseshoes to help her walk. Her big, swaying belly gives her a Danny DeVito look.
Thumbelina spends her days at Goose Creek Farms, a miniature-horse ranch hidden in a heavily wooded stretch of tony Ladue. The place has an enchanted vibe. A long driveway opens onto nine acres of pens. Perfectly proportioned horses in all colors rarely rise above 5 feet. When sold to families, they can be saddled and ridden by kids who weigh no more than 90 pounds, says Goose Creek's Kay Goessling.
In spring 2002, a mini mare named Rosie had a challenging birth. "The foal was very small, and we didn't think she was alive," recalls Kay's husband, Paul Goessling. "Her feet were tucked up, and it was a difficult birth. We gave her mouth-to-mouth, and then I realized she was alive. When she didn't really grow much, we saw just how unusually small she was." They named their dwarf mini horse Thumbelina.
The Goesslings contacted the Guinness World Records people, and indeed, the wee creature turned out to be the tiniest horse in all of recorded history. "The Guinness people came here to verify it," Paul recalls, "and they brought along the largest horse in the world, from Texas. They brought him into our pasture and were taking pictures. Then we brought Thumbelina out into the pasture, and she took one look at him and attacked him because he was in her pasture."
In fact, he says, Thumbelina is the bossiest horse on the farm. This Napoleon is no terror, though, when she's around kids. In 2007, Michael decided to turn the tiny horse into a sort of therapy animal. He bought a used RV and christened it the Thumbymobile, turning the back into padded living quarters for her. Then he drove to all 48 contiguous states, stopping along the way at children's hospitals, schools, camps, and shelters for abused women and children. Over more than two years, Michael, an assistant, and Thumbelina entertained kids at some 300 stops.