Twenty years ago, Jim Amblo bought a miniature horse for his granddaughter. “It was a stud colt so, of course, he had to have a harem,” recalled his wife Barbara. “We got three mares and it went out of control after that.” What started as a hobby turned into a business for the Amblos, who run Tarry Ho Miniature Horses on U.S. Route 7 in Charlotte.
Barbara used to be a preschool teacher and Jim was a builder. The two met when they lived next door to one another and after marrying in 1976, they moved into Jim’s family’s Charlotte homestead. Jim had been around horses all his life, getting his first pony as a teenager as inducement to accept the family’s move to the countryside.
Today, retirement gives the couple more time with their equines. “I think we have 28,” Barbara said. “We were up to 60 at one time but we downsized considerably. When we retired, we decided it was time to cut down. Before that, we thought downsizing was buying three horses and selling one.”
The couple take their horses to the Addison County Fair and Field Days and the Champlain Valley Fair, as well as two parades each year. “We’re a driving farm,” said Barbara. “We started out driving a pair and then thought four would be good. The next year Jim saw the Budweiser Hitch at the Champlain Valley Fair with eight horses and fell in love so he made the Mini Budweiser Hitch Wagon and I made the harnesses and we started driving.” The unofficial name for the wagon is Bud Light.
Every year, the couple raises a few foals and this year they raised four, one of which will be in the hitch in a few years. The couple breeds for color and now has four half-brothers in the hitch. The “stage names” for the horses are Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. At the Champlain Valley Expo, they stay at Old McDonald’s Farm and are hitched up every afternoon at 4 p.m. Aside from being cute, the stage names have a purpose. “If they heard their real names all the time they wouldn’t pay attention when we called them,” said Barbara, “although I think they are beginning to learn their stage names.”
Barbara said miniature horses are popular with older people, especially those who had horses when they were younger. She brings them to retirement homes because they are gentle and quiet. “Minis are very easygoing and very willing and a lot easier for people to handle,” she said. “Some people have them as companions for older full-sized horses and others are used as guide horses.”
Barbara reports that miniature horses can live up to 35 years with good care. They graze and eat hay and the Amblos only provide additional grain to nursing mothers since miniature horses have a tendency to gain weight. Newborns weigh 20 pounds and those on the Amblos’ hitch are roughly 275 pounds. “Minis have always been very easy going and intelligent,” said Barbara. “We can teach them to drive or do a trick faster than a large horse. They are very willing to learn and always willing to please.”