Thumbelina, the world's smallest horse

Standing just 17 inches tall, she is never going to be a champion show-jumper. In fact, the tiny mare is so small she would struggle to leap over a bucket. But such things are of little concern for feisty Thumbelina who has just been officially recognised as the world's smallest horse. The five-year-old received the title from the Guinness Book of Records after her astonished owners realised she was never going to grow any bigger. She was born on a farm in America to a couple who specialise in breeding miniature horses. These popular show horses usually weigh about 250lb and reach a height of 34 inches when they are fully grown. But when Thumbelina was born, it was immediately clear she would never grow to this size. At birth she weighed 8lb – the weight of many new-born babies – and eventually she grew to a mere 60lb. Thumbelina's extraordinary size has been put down to dwarfism, which makes her a miniature of a miniature. At a mere 17 inches tall (four hands), the mare measures up to the shins of the 'normal' horses in the paddock. The Goessling family have bred miniature horses for the past 15 years on Goessling's Goose Creek Farm in St Louis, and these usually stand at 34 inches at the withers – the ridge between the two shoulder blades.

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