Just when you think you’ve seen everything, there is Blanche standing in her field. She is so unusual that it’s almost like you’re looking at a cartoon character. But then this giant snow white donkey comes over to say “hello,” and you see her beautiful brown eyes and very gentle nature. Blanche is known as a mammoth donkey and she has a certain dignified presence about her. Somehow God has crowned her head with the longest pair of ears imaginable. It’s almost as if she could fly or pick up signals from Mars. They are actually 18 inches long!
Her owner is Celeste Huston, who tells me that it is believed that these particular animals were first brought here by President George Washington to help him on his farm. Henry Clay was another early American pioneer who used these valuable farm animals. They are reputedly quite intelligent as well as having significant stature and strength. Future plans for Blanche are on hold right now because she needs to gain weight and look her very best for future romantic interludes.
Warming to the subject, Huston asks, “If I breed Blanche to my palomino stallion, it is possible that I would get a palomino offspring? Mules are really interesting animals. If you treat them right, they’ll do anything for you. But if a person is mean to them, watch out! I think that donkeys may be smarter than horses. They will work harder and even protect you. But if they kick, watch out, because they have excellent aim. They will guard a herd from coyotes and right here in the Valley, you will hear them braying when coyotes howl.”
The newest plan, Huston says, is to keep her mini-donkey happy and busy.
“We will be producing a herd of mini-mules. He (the palomino stallion) will be bred to a group of female miniature horses, which will produce mini-mules.”
It is probably safe to say that this lady deeply cares for horses and animals. She is almost an expert on genetics and is also into breeding for color. Huston came to the Santa Ynez Valley with three stallions: an Arabian, an Appaloosa and a Paint. Then she purchased a Grulla which come from the dun color family with various dark markings such as a dorsal stripe or a bar across the shoulders. They are very rare.
“I fell in love with the big Gypsy horses that have a fascinating history. These beautiful big, strong horses have been pulling the wagons of the ever traveling European gypsies for centuries. It was the equivalent to pulling a family’s house.
“I am very interested in mules, too. Mules and donkeys are very sure footed and easy keepers. Owners claim they are very smart and curious. A friend of mine who has a miniature donkey, told of a time when the little critter got into a part of her stable that had a lot of storage boxes. He spent the entire night opening the boxes and taking the contents out into the corral. Maybe he even wore one of the hats for a while.”
Here in the Valley, it seems as if there is always something interesting happening in our horse world.