Local Family Sees ‘Horsepower’ in New Four-Footed Friend
West Side family puts the (mini) horse before the cart for daughter Bella.
When Isabella and Gabi Burton come home from school, a menagerie of animals greets them: two smaller-size dogs, Molly and Teddie, a baby snapping turtle named Tiny Tim and, in a pen up the road from their home, a miniature horse nicknamed Mattie.
From hoof to head, Mattie measures 36 inches tall. Her picture recently appeared on Patch.
Here’s the story of how and why the Burtons got Mattie.
Isabella—“People call me Bella”—a first grader at the Reeves Elementary School, has a medical condition, Morquio Syndrome. The condition affects Bella’s bones and her physical strength and stamina. She’s small for her age, her mother, Rachel, explained, and won’t grow much bigger. Bella’s had a number of surgeries and is looking at many more.
Both Bella and Gabi, a fifth grader at the Reeves, have always loved horses, according to their mother. They’ve both had parties that featured pony rides.
While bike riding at Great Brook State Farm last year, Bella and Gabi’s dad, Ed, saw an older couple riding in a cart being pulled by miniature horses. The idea hit home. He is a carpenter, and he plans to build a cart for Bella, his wife said.
The Burtons researched miniature horses.
A month ago, they brought Mattie home. Mattie’s formal name is Princess Matoaka; she is a show horse. The Burtons don’t plan to show her, Rachel said. They chose her, Bella and Gabi said, out of a herd of mini-horses, because she came right over to them.
At first, the sisters’ friends were skeptical that a miniature horse had joined the Burton family. Bella’s classmates saw Mattie for themselves on a field trip.
“That was really cool,” Bella said.
The sisters have learned that “Ho” means stop, according to Bella, and “Hee” means go, said Gabi.
You don’t walk behind a horse, Bella said, because it can kick you.
Bella likes to feed Mattie carrots.
“It’s cute how she nibbles them,” Bella said.
When Mattie, who was born June 15, is full-grown, she’ll be able to pull four times her weight—all four of the Burtons—in a cart, Rachel and Gabi said. Mattie won’t grow taller, according to Ed; she’ll fill out and her weight will double. She’s not a saddle-up-and-ride horse, the family said.
As the interview with Gabi and Bella wound down Friday afternoon, Mom and Dad reminded Gabi of a new daily chore. She has to muck—clean—that is, scoop the poop in Mattie’s pen and stall. She also brushes Mattie.
“If you have a mini-horse, it’s worth it to do the work,” Gabi said.
The Burton girls also had other members of their menagerie for a short time. Goats. The goats kept jumping over the fence of their pen and heading across Cambridge Street. The Burtons returned them.
After the girls visited Mattie Friday after school—a new tradition for Bella when the weather is good—Gabi pushed Bella, in her wheelchair, back to their house. Bella uses the wheelchair for transportation—at school, to go to recess and lunch, Rachel said.
Bella is wearing leg casts from her most recent surgery. Her parents gave her the choice of when she would have that operation. No casts for the summer, she decided, because she wanted to swim in her grandmother’s pool. In a few weeks, she’ll be fitted with walking casts.
When her casts come off, Bella has only one wish: Converse sneakers—purple, sparkly ones.