Two new Islanders make themselves at home

Rascal and Cocoa Pebbles
Rascal the mini stallion, right, reaches an inquiring nose toward Cocoa Pebbles upon their first introduction. Photos by Danielle Zerbonne

By Danielle Zerbonne - December 28, 2006

The small gray trailer rumbled down Lambert's Cove Road, a single pair of muddy white equine hindquarters just barely visible above the rear doors. Not until the trailer unloaded at Pilot Hill Farm did another, miniature set of horse haunches appear. Cocoa Pebbles and Spike had arrived at their new home. Letting out a squeal, Pebbles, a brown and white nine-year-old miniature mare standing all of 30 inches high, was backed out of the trailer. Her scruffy companion, a 30-something blind gelding pony, quickly followed. Two attentive cows standing behind a fence bellowed their greeting to the new animals. After a rainy trip from Wilmington in early November, the two newcomers were about to become the latest members of Laurie Clements's Vineyard Miniature Horse Rescue, Inc., family.

Todd Mullen
Todd Mullen of Edgartown rests one comforting hand on Cocoa Pebbles's back as she faces her new stablemates for the first time.

Ms. Clements, lifelong Vineyarder and animal lover, spent her childhood catching frogs and creating salamander habitats. She took riding lessons at Featherstone Farm when lessons were $4 an hour, and got her first horse, a Palomino named Harvey, when she was 19. Currently serving as the Vineyard Haven animal control officer, she spends her days "enforcing leash laws, helping catch cows, and helping neighbors get along when there's a barking dog." Her truest passion, however, is the 19 horses and ponies now under her care.

Through word-of-mouth and web sites, Ms. Clements has devoted herself to collecting unwanted miniatures and providing them with safe, permanent homes. "Everything I do goes toward them," she says.

Laurie Clements and Kim Baker
Laurie Clements with 30-inch tall Cocoa Pebbles and Kim Baker with blind gelding Spike approach their new pasture, where little Rascal waits eagerly to greet them.

Why minis? Kim Baker of West Tisbury, who had donated her trailer and her time to pick up the two horses in Wilmington, comes right out and says it. "They are so adorable you just want to pick them up and wrap them in your arms."

Cuteness aside, their diminutive stature requires less space and feed. And a big plus is in transportation: minis are occasionally relocated in the back of Ms. Clements's capped pickup truck. "We just put the tailgate down and back up to a hill," explains Marie Clements, Laurie's daughter and another key figure in the success of the rescue operation. According to her mother, "she knows every one of them like the back of her hand."

Kim Baker and Laurie Clements
Kim Baker gently backs the wary Cocoa Pebbles out of the trailer while Laurie Clements offers a reassuring hand from behind.

Spike and Pebbles are carefully examined as they are led toward their new enclosure. They both appear well-fed and socialized, if a bit dirty. "You should have seen the muckhole I pulled them out of," says Ms. Baker. Getting rid of the cute, round-bellied mini wasn't the problem for her previous owner; it was that "nobody wanted the old boy." But they came as a package, which only sweetened the deal for Ms. Clements. Several of her animals were given up on by previous owners, due to various health issues. With the arrival of Spike she now has two blind horses, and another has a jaw problem and can only eat soaked pellets and beet pulp. "No one wants to take the time to do that," says Ms. Clements. Happily for this herd, the focus is on keeping them as comfortable as possible. "They don't have to do a thing - no pony rides, no parades, no being put on display."

As Ms. Baker puts it, "they just have to get healthy, be loved and never have to worry about anything again."

Laurie Clements
Laurie Clements maintains a steady hold on the unsure Cocoa Pebbles's lead rope as she is unloaded from the trailer with her companion, Spike.

The three current residents of the pasture whinny their curiosity at the sight of the new arrivals. Through the wooden gate the horses touch noses, occasionally squealing and pawing at the ground, before space is made for the newbies to enter into their own area, separate from the others as they acclimate to their new surroundings. Spike seemed to have a little trouble as he learned where the fence began, but was soon muzzle deep in a fresh flake of hay. After a quick brushing, Pebbles gave her new stall a try, rolling in the thick layer of fresh bedding then standing up, speckled with shavings. "That must be like soaking in the tub and then diving into satin sheets," observed Ms. Baker.

Seeing Ms. Clements with her animals and hearing of the lengths people go to help her in her endeavor, the compassion and goodwill seem almost palpable. Todd Mullen of Edgartown, navigator and assistant on the Wilmington trip, beamed as he thanked her for the opportunity to participate. "You're doing a great thing," he said upon their good-bye. The nickering of contented horses and the cluck of hens peppered the air as he added, "it made me feel good to do it." u

Donations can be sent to Vineyard Miniature Horse Rescue, Inc. PO Box 199, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, or call 508-294-5475 for more information.