Janesville couple enjoys pet mini horses at Leyden Acres

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  • Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Ken Diehls leads one of the miniature horses on the farm. The unique breed is friendly and lovable, although a little more affordable than a traditional sized horse.

  • 1

    Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Joyce Diehls showed off one of the Type A miniature horses at Leyden Acres. She fell in love with them 36 years ago and has 17 of them today with her husband Ken Diehls.

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    Photo ProvidedMiniature horeses Woody and Jesse gallop through Leyden Acres.

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    Photo submittedKen Diehls holds a miniature horse colt. He and his wife fell in love with the breed more than 30 years ago.

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    Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Joyce and Ken Diehls run Leyden Acres, 4402 Co Rd H, where they breed and sell miniature horses, a labor of love. They love the small horses which tend to attract smiles.

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    Photo providedA colt kicks up its heels at Leyden Acres in Janesville. Miniature horses bring smiles to the faces of their many fans.

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    Photo Provided A mother and colt enjoy life at Leyden Acres. Owners Ken and Joyce Diehls love breeding and selling miniature horses.

  • Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Ken Diehls leads one of the miniature horses on the farm. The unique breed is friendly and lovable, although a little more affordable than a traditional sized horse.

  • 1

    Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Joyce Diehls showed off one of the Type A miniature horses at Leyden Acres. She fell in love with them 36 years ago and has 17 of them today with her husband Ken Diehls.

  • 2

    Photo ProvidedMiniature horeses Woody and Jesse gallop through Leyden Acres.

  • 3

    Photo submittedKen Diehls holds a miniature horse colt. He and his wife fell in love with the breed more than 30 years ago.

  • 4

    Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Joyce and Ken Diehls run Leyden Acres, 4402 Co Rd H, where they breed and sell miniature horses, a labor of love. They love the small horses which tend to attract smiles.

  • 5

    Photo providedA colt kicks up its heels at Leyden Acres in Janesville. Miniature horses bring smiles to the faces of their many fans.

  • 6

    Photo Provided A mother and colt enjoy life at Leyden Acres. Owners Ken and Joyce Diehls love breeding and selling miniature horses.

JANESVILLE - It's difficult to look at one without smiling.

It's the miniature horse, the wee equine which galloped into the hearts of Ken and Joyce Diehls 36 years ago.

"Some people have dogs. Miniature horses are our pets,"Joyce said. "They are very sweet."

The Diehls, who run Leyden Acres, 4402 County Road H, shared a little bit about their journey with Type A miniature horses.

The unique breed not only makes great pets, but allows owners to reap the rewards of horse ownership for a little less upkeep and money. Because of their size of about 250 pounds, miniature horses require less space and feed than their full-sized counterparts.

"Our 17 miniature horses eat as much in a day as two regular horses," Ken said.

The horses, which have a thick inner and outer coat, can withstand chilly temperatures and are generally very hardy. They require a clean pen, vaccinations, hoof trimmings and plenty of love.

It was Joyce Diehls who convinced her husband to get their first mare after watching a news show about them in 1983. She went up to Portage, Wisconsin and fell in love.

"We were only going to have one," Joyce said.

The couple's team grew. A few times. To help pay for their growing herd, they started breeding and selling them. They said the pets can cost anywhere from $600 to $10,000 depending on breed and pedigree.

Miniature horses became a fad about a decade ago, but many sellers got out of the business after realizing the intricacies and costs associated with animal raising.

Today, the Diehls are one of the few breeders in the area and are often sought out when people are looking for a miniature horse pet.

The Diehls said miniature horses have an array of talents. They were once used for coal mining due to their small stature. At only 3 months old they can start learning to lead.

In Illinois, miniature horses that are trained can be service animals and are allowed in public places.

Miniature horses can participate in cart-pulling, costume contests, obstacle courses or dressage competitions.

The Diehls show their herd at a show put on by the Heart of America Miniature Equine Club and sanctioned by The American Miniature Horse Registry in Belvidere every July.

However, their most happy moments with the furry miniatures are just spending time with them and sharing them with others.

They fondly remember them serving as the backdrop for a wedding reception at their farm.

"The barn was a hit," Joyce said.

The Diehls have many memories of awaiting births. When the time is close they would mount an infrared camera in the barn, similar to a baby monitor to track when the first signs of labor occur.

"Nine times out of 10, moms' have them in the middle of the night," joked Joyce Diehls.

One time a bus for nursing home residents in Footville passed the farm and stopped, with the driver inquiring if the couple would bring a miniature horse for a visit.

Later, the Diehls brought a well-behaved stallion to the outdoor areas of the home.

Although miniatures have unlimited potential, Joyce Diehl said: "Most of all, they make a dear friend."

For more information on mini horses, visit Leyden Acres Miniature Horses at http://www.leydenacres.com.

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