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Horse-powered smiles: Barrie man's 'inheritance' brings joy

'Our one-hour walks can turn into three-hour talks as everyone wants to chat, ask questions and take pictures,' says owner of Oreo and Ember
Chris Anderson with mini horse Ember.

Weighing in at 400 and 450 pounds, respectively, Ember and Oreo may be Barrie's smallest yet bulky celebrity pets.

They are the miniature horses often seen trotting along beside their owner, Chris Anderson, while on his bike around the waterfront.

“These horses are very popular. Our one-hour walks can turn into three-hour talks as everyone wants to chat, ask questions and take pictures," he tells BradfordToday and InnisfilToday.

It all started when Anderson’s mother became ill several years ago and said she would really like to own a horse again before she died. 

He didn’t really know she was that interested in horses, although she often talked about her great-grandfather being a horseman, in England, during the First World War.

When Anderson was a child, he and his mom spent many summers riding horses and, over time, he realized it was a family tradition.

One of the city's well-known mini horses, Oreo, in downtown Barrie at Collier and Mulcaster streets. | Image supplied

His mom had owned her own horse named Priscilla in the 1970s. His father had gifted her the animal before their marriage. She eventually had to sell it, but she never forgot the connection.

“It was her dream and I wasn’t really crazy about it at first, because horses can live 30 years and I knew it would have to become my dream, too," Anderson says. 

"I started researching and found out that, according to Ontario law, horses and dogs are considered work animals, so anyone is entitled to own them within the city limits," he adds. "While we no longer treat them that way, in the eyes of the 100-year-old law, the working animal definition remains.”

Anderson says his mother found a reputable breeder and chose Ember, who was a mini replica of her first horse.

“Believe it or not, a person can order a horse right to their door like a pizza. He showed up in a tiny little trailer," he says.

Ember officially became Anderson's when his mother passed away. 

"Not long after, I bought Oreo, because everybody needs a friend," he says.

Ember and Oreo live in Anderson's backyard in a giant doghouse which is temperature-controlled with lights and a radio, plus his mom’s picture in a frame on the wall.

“Horses are built sturdy and can handle cold weather. They are used to living outdoors, so as long as they have a windbreak and a bit of shelter, they are fine," Anderson says.

When the pair is not grazing on hay, they can be found several times a week circling the waterfront or checking out the downtown.

The equines can often draw large crowds.

The notoriety doesn't bother Anderson in the least.

“At first, I didn’t know what to expect, but 99.5 per cent of my interactions have been positive," he says. "I truly haven’t found a downside to owning them. I mean, who can’t smile at the site of two small horses?"

What about the scooping of poop on those public walkabouts?

Anderson emphasizes it's just the same as it would be for a dog owner.

“You pick up after your animal, no matter when or where. It's actually not as gross as you might expect, since horses are vegetarian. In this case, poop is more like fertilizer, so I just compost it and use it in the gardens in the spring," he says. 

The horses, themselves, are social animals and have figured out that many of the people along their walks have carrots or apples in their pockets.

As for expense, Anderson says you can actually feed one mini horse more cheaply than a cat for a year.  

“Each horse eats about a bale and a half of hay per day, so it's pretty inexpensive," he says. 

Anderson’s mom died three years ago, so caring for Oreo and Ember is now just a way of life for him.

It was her dream to own another horse before she died, so in a way this was his inheritance.

“It may not be exactly what I expected, but, honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. All the positivity they bring to the community is worth it. Trust me, these horses have more friends than I do," he says proudly. 

To tag along with their horseplay, follow Ember and Oreo the Mini Horses on Facebook.

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About the Author: Wendy King

Wendy King writes about all kinds of things from nutrition to the job search from cats to clowns — anything and everything — from the ridiculous to the sublime. Watch for Wendy's column weekly.
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