Don't underestimate the power of a miniature horse. Though small — about 2½ feet tall — miniature horses demonstrated their strength, athleticism and finesse Friday at the Mid-America Miniature Horse Club Mini Julep Cup by jumping, pulling carriages and posing.
The cup, which lasts through Sunday at the Kentucky Horse Park, is one of the oldest miniature horse shows in the country.
"They look little and cute, but they're actually very good athletes," said Joan Raines-Phillips of Lawrenceburg, who brought five of her 23 miniature horses to compete.
Different than ponies, miniature horses are a naturally occurring breed brought from Europe to the United States to pull carts through mine shafts, Raines-Phillips said.
"They're a little more social than ponies," she said.
And they're strong. Although they weigh 175 to 250 pounds, miniature horses can pull full-grown men in carriages without a qualm and can jump higher than their own height.
Raines-Phillips, like some other competitors, for most of her life didn't know miniature horses existed.
When her husband went to a farm and saw the tiny horses, he knew his wife would want one. A few years later, she had more than 20.
"Before you know it, your farm is full," Raines-Phillips said. "We just got hooked."
For Natalie Hampton, 14, a miniature horse is more for fun than for anything else.
"We got one just to play with. We just thought it would be a fun idea," Hampton said.
Hampton's white miniature horse, Ruby, competes in driving, which is the horse pulling a carriage, and halter, which shows off posture and gait.
Hampton, from Somerset, often competes in Kentucky and surrounding states with her horse and spends a lot of time grooming Ruby for those competitions.
"It takes hours and hours to get stuff done," she said. After bathing the horse, cutting the horse's mane, bathing again and applying style products, the tiny horse is finally ready to show.
"They need to look pretty the whole time," Raines-Phillips said. "They're fun little animals."