by Caroline Wright
Loris farm is home to miniature horses
These days, Louise and Christian Carbone are often awakened in the middle of the night by an alarm that abruptly forces them from slumber. Immediately, they peer at the television monitor in their bedroom. Sometimes it's a false alarm, but sometimes they dress quickly in the darkness and stumble through the cool Loris night to their barn. The motley collection of stray dogs and cats that have come to live at Linmic Farms follow them quietly into the stall nearest the door.
They gently examine the mare, who is prone on her side in a corner. The monitor worn by the miniature horse triggered the alarm when she dropped to the straw-covered floor. Louise Carbone sits down and pulls the mare's head into her lap. Her husband waits at the horse's other end, checking the presentation of the foal. After 11 months of gestation, the little mare is finally giving birth. The Carbones will be by her side to ensure that her foal survives.
Linmic Farms, named for the Carbones' children, Linda and Michael, is home to about 50 miniature horses. A few are simply boarders, but many are there to be bred with the Carbones' own champion stallions. "A standard-sized foal weighs between 200-300 pounds," Louise Carbone explained. "When it's born, it can usually get out of the sac. With the miniatures, the sac is the same thickness, but the foal is tiny. Ninety percent of the deaths in foals happen because they can't get out, and they suffocate." The camera mounted on the ceiling above the stall enables Carbone and her husband to keep an eye on mares in the late terms of their pregnancies.
"We bring all our mares up 30 days before their deliveries. We keep records on each horse, so I know when they are due," she said. "And often, I just get this feeling... it's like having a child of your own!"
Stud fees for the little stallions run between $350 and $500, depending on the stallion. The Carbones sometimes sell the foals that are born of their mares. "If they're little colts, we get $1,000 and up. My brood mares are $6,500 to $7,000," she said. However, they screen prospective owners as carefully as anxious parents might survey a potential suitor.
American Miniatures measure no more than 34 inches in height at maturity, and are bred to look like tiny replicas of standard-size quarter horses, Arabians, thoroughbreds and draft horses. The little horses need less feed and smaller stalls and grazing space than large breeds. They can also be transported in station wagons, vans or enclosed pickup trucks.
The couple's involvement with equines big and small goes back over three decades. They first discovered miniatures after their daughter, an active participant in horse shows, grew up and left home. "I had a beautiful barn, and the fields were empty...I had an empty feeling and an empty barn," recalled Carbone. "I read about miniatures, did some research and bought my first one sight unseen." When she saw the 7-month-old Pinto colt in the cargo area at Logan Airport, it was love at first sight.
For years, Carbone showed her horses in competitions around the country. These days, however, she participates on a consulting basis, as event manager. "I realized that the shows weren't very well-organized, so I got into doing that myself," she said. Carbone runs three or four shows each year, arranging judges, prizes, parties, hospitality and many other aspects of each event.
Carbone and her husband owned a horse farm in Massachusetts, but decided they'd had enough of the cold about five years ago. "We were foaling out babies in February and March, and it was sometimes below zero! Not that you don't have a healthy foal [in that weather], but it's just more difficult: breaking the ice, lugging the water, things like that." Additionally, Carbone's husband was recovering from a lung ailment. The couple decided to relocate to South Carolina, which they had visited during several horse shows. They purchased 20 beautiful acres in Loris and have never looked back.
Linmic Farms is also the home of a magazine called "Miniature Horse Voice." Now in its ninth year of publication, the magazine has more than 8,000 subscribers from all over the globe. Carbone's husband takes care of editing; she handles advertising and circulation.
Constantly in motion, Louise Carbone gives riding lessons and also works each week with a disabled man at Conway Nursing Home. The man, a victim of a motorcycle accident, regularly visited Linmic Farms until he began having seizures. "There were times he wouldn't remember my name, but he remembered the names of the horses," she said. Carbone is obtaining permission to be able to take a horse to visit the man at the nursing home. "Our physical therapy was better than someone coming there and saying, 'Joe, do this! Joe, do that!' And these animals are gentle. They weren't scared of his wheelchair."
Though miniatures are too small for all but the youngest children to ride, they can comfortably pull little carts. Carbone says they make wonderful pets for people whom, for whatever reason, cannot handle larger horses. "They're kind and sweet. I think they even learn quicker," she said.
In the past two months, seven foals have been born at Linmic Farms. That means a few sleepless nights for Louise Carbone, but she doesn't mind it a bit. "I just love everything I do!" she exclaims. "If you're down, you can always talk to your horse. They always need you!"
Guests are welcome at Linmic Farms but are asked to call 756-6464 to schedule a visit.
Caroline Wright is a freelance writer. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 347-5634.
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