Our story begins in 2004. On the search for animals to raise on the old farm that would become our new home, I came across the small equine known as the American Miniature Horse on the internet. And so our journey began.
For several years to follow, however, it remained a distant dream to own a small herd of miniature horses running around the farm. I read countless books and magazines on the breed and visited many miniature horse shows in The Netherlands and Belgium. I surfed the internet frequently to admire the horses of some of the most renowned farms in the USA and to research more about the breed and the famous bloodlines and pedigrees behind it. It would take five more years, until the DIY-renovation of our house was reaching completion and I was finally ready to take the plunge.
After visiting a number of European breeders, Kim and I finally bought our first AMHA-registered miniature in late 2009. It was the weanling show-mare SHM Awestrucks Cinderella. Soon after, we ended up adding an older mare, Darmonds Sheza Miracle, as her buddy in the barn and in the field.
In the two years that followed we became more experienced in keeping our small horses and I started dabbling in showing and contributing as a volunteer to one of the European miniature horse associations. We made plans to attend more shows and become more active with the horses, when on the dawn of 2011 disaster struck. On the 5th of January 2011, our beautiful son, and first child, Remi was born with unexpected complications. He died later that same day...
Our world collapsed. Gone was the excitement and energy for anything, let alone to contribute to the associations, to attend shows, to work with the horses. For months and years to come, survival mode kicked in... The two mares we owned in the end did provide a welcome distraction, and at least in part helped to find renewed joy in life.
Later that same year we bought a weanling colt, SHM Indigo Elvis, as a future herd sire. He was an easy pick boasting an incredible pedigree filled with countless AMHA World Champions in halter, driving and liberty. He was small, yet had wonderful spirit and energy, great looks and conformation. In 2012, the beautiful blue-eyed weanling mare SHM Eros Flaming Star joined our farm. Another horse with lots of character and full of energy. She became my model of choice for a horse clipping and photography clinic by Brooke Sheridan and Kelly Campbell, organized by Tina Fisseler at her farm. The beautiful shots of Flame - or Ms. Personality as Tina would call her - that I took at that clinic are featured on this website.
Life really took a turn for the better in 2013. In January, we were blessed with a healthy and beautiful daughter Nissa, middle name Remi, after her angel-brother. That same year, Cinderella, the first filly we bought in 2009, had matured into a beautiful mare, ready to have her first foal. A beautiful colt, Hulislaum Cindys Asfaloth by Boy, was born in April of that year.
Throughout those four years my dream of raising miniature horses had become more and more of a true passion, only limited by the time available between a hefty full-time day-job and enjoying young family life with Kim and Nissa. I fully renovated the two large barns on our property specifically for our miniature horses. I purchased an additional stretch of land behind our farm to create more meadows. I added a large fully programmable horse walker/trotter to be able to exercise our horses daily, six simultaneously every morning before leaving for work. After Cinderella regrettably aborted her second and our only planned 2014 foal, I planned multiple breedings for 2015. La Vista Jazzs Finale, an AMHA World Top 5 mare that I had bought in 2013 from Lori Barile of Sonoita Highlands in the USA, was bred to Elvis. Also Flame was bred to Elvis and Cinderella was re-bred to Alliance Majestics Mine All Mine. Unfortunately, none of the breedings ended up being successful, and to this day Asfaloth remains the only AMHA foal we ever bred.
Over the course of 2013 I started noticing some of the new directions in breeding that a few of the US miniature horse farms were trying out. They were crossing larger Shetlands with smaller Miniatures to create often taller, but notably more refined and better moving AMHR-registered miniatures. Until that stage, my image of a Shetland was still that of the classic fat, short-legged and often nasty tempered pony of British descent. When I saw images and videos of what the American Shetlands they were using actually looked like, I was blown away! Soon thereafter I started playing with the thought of perhaps infusing some of this American Shetland blood into our herd as well. However, the common misperception in Europe at that time was that American Shetlands were unfriendly, difficult horses. As it would turn out later, nothing could be further from the truth.
I thought about it long and hard, not sure what direction to take and what I really wanted, given that I had just built quite a nice herd of high quality AMHA horses. However, in 2014 my interest in the ASPC/AMHR ponies became increasingly serious and finally in the second half of that year I started searching in the USA for that perfect ASPC/AMHR American Shetland stallion that we could cross to our AMHA/AMHR mares. After two failed attempts to buy a stallion that had successfully competed and had won at the (USA) National level, I came across Caldwell's Cruise On In, a spirited refined American Shetland Pony and AMHR National Champion listed for sale on the website of Teri Silva of At Last Miniatures & Shetlands, in the USA. I had been admiring her horses for some time already and specifically Cruze, who had not been available thus far. As a regular business traveller to the US I was dying to visit her farm and see him up close and personal, but fate (and my boss) decided that the business travel that week would be in the opposite direction, towards Asia. And so I did something I thought I would never ever do: I bought a horse based on professional photos and a poor quality mobile phone video. This opportunity was simply too good to pass. I guess subconsciously I remembered: three is a charm! When we could finally welcome Cruze to our farm in February 2015, I was once more blown away. This was truly a perfect "horse in miniature", and finally a miniature I would not feel offended if anyone would call it a "pony"! ;-)
Enjoying and being amazed by a horse with the appearance and high energy of Cruze has been so exciting, that we decided soon after to refocus our herd completely to the ASPC/AMHR Shetland Pony, and set the standard for top quality American Shetlands in Europe. In March 2015, we purchased a two-year old mare called McCarthy's Ragtime Girl, whom I accidentally stumbled upon in the show barn of Lee Crutchfield of Aloha Acres Training Center, while I was visiting his farm to check out some of the horses he had put up for auction for his 2015 Spring Select Sale. Although Lee originally had no intent of selling her, he kindly let me buy her, allowing us to add another AMHR National Champion to our farm. In the years that followed we imported four more top quality mares including our first Modern Shetland, and ASPC Congress Grand Champion Sharrway Bedazzled a.k.a. Dazzle. The first foal crop of our new herd was born in 2017 and the results were spectacular. In 2018, Dazzle foaled our first Modern/Classic American Shetland cross, called Hulislaum Dazzle's Bubbles by Cruze. Although a taller ASPC-only pony, this filly is looking to turn out into something very special. At the beginning of 2019, we have acquired a young ASPC-only colt, Ballare Sh-Bang, another ASPC Congress Grand Champion, who will become a future herd sire and likely a perfect match for Bubbles to kick-start our next generation.
Although we will be continously evolving our herd, we will keep it manageable and small - boutique-like, if you will. Everything here at Hulislaum continues to be fully handled by ourselves, from the daily poop-scooping to the four-times-per-day feeding, from the training and exercising to all other chores around the farm, from photoshoots, to the website, to the social media advertisements, to our newsletter... All that, next to my full-time day-job, Kim's part-time job, and the raising of a six-year old little girl, who means the world to us.
In the years passed, we have come to adore this special breed and find American Shetland Ponies to be spirited, high-energy, but also very friendly and intelligent horses. They are an absolute joy to watch in the field. Don't believe the hype that these are somehow difficult, bad behaving ponies. Like any horse, provided they are taken care of properly and raised well, they are absolute sweethearts.
Looking towards the future I hope to breed and raise some of the finest American Shetland Ponies and American Miniature Horses the world, and certainly Europe has to offer. Stay tuned!
Call it crazy, call it a passion. We call it Hulislaum...
Jeroen Leijten - Hulsel, February 2019.