By Raiza Giorgi

Santa Ynez Valley native Taylor Renee Wideman and her miniature horse Fox Trot recently won the American Miniature Horse Association World Championship Show in Ft. Worth, Texas at the end of August. 

Taylor Renee, 17, won the Youth World Championship Title in Country Pleasure Driving in the 13-18-year-old bracket.

“I started showing two years ago and love this sport,” Taylor Renee said. “Minis are just such a fun breed and they are so sweet.” 

Her interest in minis started with driving by Quicksilver Ranch in Ballard for many years and one day said half-jokingly she wanted to get one. The ranch at the time bred and sold them so her parents said okay. 

The miniature horses are a popular attraction in Santa Ynez Valley at the Quicksilver Horse Ranch in Ballard. Started by Aleck Stribling in 1986, the ranch grew to be a staple in the area. The shoulder of Alamo Pintado Road is often seen with parked cars in front of the ranch with bystanders looking at the miniature horses.

“After researching the breed more, I found the pleasure driving sport and it has been a blast meeting so many great people,” she added. 

The American Miniature Horse Association was formed in 1978 in Arlington, Texas. The goal was to encourage breeding, exhibiting, use and perpetuation of the American miniature horse, apart from ponies and other small equines. Its competitions are strictly for miniatures that are 34 inches and shorter. 

In prehistoric times, small horse breeds were most likely the products of surviving harsh natural climates and limited feed, according to the AMHA About the Breed section. 

Popular belief is that American miniature horses utilized the blood of English and Dutch mine horses brought into the United States in the 19th century and used in some Appalachian coal mines as late as 1950, according to AMHA history. The American miniature horse, as documented in the pedigrees of miniatures today, also drew upon the blood of the Shetland pony. The miniature horse breed had been bred for pets, novelty, research, monetary gain, mining work, exhibition and royal gifts.

Taylor Renee has risen quickly in the pleasure driving world and last year won Nationals in her class with her trainer Casey Campbell. 

“What makes the win even more special this year is that Fox Trot was at Wingate Training Center in Vacaville during the recent horrible fires,” said Taylor Renee’s mother Kristina Novak. “The farm he was at was destroyed; the house and barns are gone. It was a miracle Fox Trot and the other horses that were not able to get evacuated were OK and made it to the world championships,” 

The Wingate Training Center was completely destroyed in the LNU Lightning Complex fire that started Aug. 17 and has burned more than 375,000 acres, according to Cal Fire incident reports. 

According to a GoFundMe created by Casey Campbell for the Yost family, which owns the Wingate facility, they were forced to evacuate more than 100 horses and many dogs, but lost all their personal belongings. 

“Many horses in Vacaville did not make it sadly,” Novak said. “For days Taylor and I worried and did not know if Fox and the other minis that were up there were OK. We are so grateful to Casey Campbell and the Wingate Training Centers team for making this win possible.” 

Taylor Renee does her schooling online, and is hoping to become an actress when she graduates. 

“Online school lets me have time to ride more and travel to shows and auditions,” she said. 

Taylor Renee was headed to Tulsa, Okla., to show in the American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR) which allows taller miniature horses to compete. The results of the competition weren’t available before press time, and will be updated on the web version of this story.