The Falabella horse is arguably the smallest breed of horse in the world and is quite popular, although rare, in the miniature horse world. From their humble beginnings in Argentina to their present day homes in the United States, the United Kingdom and beyond, these charming tiny wonders are also a matter of controversy among its enthusiasts. Some breeders claim that the Falabella must be one hundred percent pure and able to trace its pedigree back to the Falabella ranch in Argentina in order to be called a true Falabella, while others have encouraged a cross breeding program and have even created a register called Falabella Blends. Here we'll take a look at both sides of the issue: breeding strategies according to the purebred fanciers and the blend fanciers.
First, it's important to understand how the miniature Falabella horse came into existence. These tiny horses are the descendants of the Andalusian horses that were brought with the Spanish conquistadors on their quest to conquer South America. Many of these horses were abandoned or escaped, and over time several different breeds emerged. In the middle of the 19th century, the ancestors of the Falabella family are reported to have seen these tiny horses being herded by Mapuche Indians in the Buenos Aires province. It is thought that these horses became smaller over time thanks to isolation and continuous inbreeding, causing genetic mutations over a vast number of generations. The Falabella family managed to acquire a certain number of the tiny horses and began to experiment with the type. Eventually, after many years of selective breeding and experimentation, the type was set which can still be seen today on the Falabella range in Argentina.
Those breeders that still have links to the Falabella family and ranch outside of Argentina maintain that only those horses that can trace a horse's pedigree on both sides back to the Falabella ranch in Argentina can be called a true Falabella. The characteristics that make these purebreds stand out are its size and its resemblance to larger horses. The purebred fanciers maintain that only those horses that are thirty-four inches or shorter can be called a purebred, and they also say that the horse should resemble either an Andalusian or a Thoroughbred, only smaller in scale, which is what the original Falabellas would have looked like.
However, there are breeders that believe that crossing the Falabella with other miniature breeds should be accepted in order to create a different kind of look. According to the Falabella Blend Registry, which is associated with the Falabella Minature Horse Association based in the United States, an acceptable amount of pure Falabella ancestry is between twenty-five and seventy-five percent, and in the worst case, either the sire or dam must be able to trace their lineage back to a pure Falabella. The FMHA claims that there are no height requirements for the Falabella standard, but does give credence to the preferred height of under thirty-four inches with a "Class A" size recognition.