Miniature horses put on really big show at Kansas Coliseum pavilions

The Marty Robbins song "El Paso" blared over the Kansas Coliseum pavilion speakers Sunday as horses whinnied and stomped their hooves.

Make that tiny horses with tiny hooves and whinnies that sounded more like squeaks.

But those tiny equines carried show-stopping names such as Super-Duper Tough-Enough; Sir Wins a Buck and Winter Dream Catcher — with price tags to match.

The conclusion of the American Miniature Horse Association central region show was Sunday.

The designation of a miniature horse is determined by its height. They're usually about 3 feet tall, said Laura Mullen, the show's manager.

The show, which began Thursday, attracted more than 200 horses — and their adoring people — from across the nation.

"I love my animals," said Austin VanWyck, from the Victory Lane Training Center near Phoenix.

"I know there are people here who let their horses come in the house with them and cuddle. But my animals live in the barn with mister systems and fans," he said. "They are babied. But I expect them to perform just like a big horse."

And his horses will easily be some of

the best in the nation, carrying price tags ranging from $5,000 to $200,000. From the Wichita show alone, VanWyck carried home more than 15 champion ribbons, 12 reserve, two reserve grands and one grand champion title.

But not every winning mini horse carries a high price tag, said Sue Elniff of Ozawkie, Kan.

She and her husband, Larry, have been in the miniature horse business for more than two decades.

"We got into it as a hobby," Larry Elniff said. "At first it was just to have a little horse for the grandkids. But then we got to where we met an awful lot of nice people, going to the shows."

Now retiring from the show circuit, the Elniffs at one time had more than 30 horses.

Just as with big horses, there are different types of miniatures. They can look like quarter horses, Arabians, palominos or paints. They can also be easier to work with and handle than larger horses, Sue Elniff said.

Shows also feature various divisions, including halter classes, showmanship, halter obstacle, driving and jumping.

"Anybody, if they work hard, can show a horse," Sue Elniff said. "In the performance class, all a horse has to do is be smart. You don't have to have the prettiest. You don't have to have the most high-dollar horse to come here and win."