Samson the dwarf miniature horse carries himself with all the pride and class that one would expect of an equine three-times his size. Standing about two-feet tall and weighing in at 150 pounds, he slowly paces around his James Island home, stepping out of his custom-built stable to greet anyone who might be passing by. With a shock of white hair crowning his head, Samson has a quiet, yet confident disposition, always prepared to take a snack from the hand of anyone generous enough to offer.
Miniature horses such as Samson, also known as Sam to his friends, first became commonplace in the royal courts of Europe, according to the International Museum of the Horse. Bred from "regular-sized" horses for nobility in the 1600s, miniature horses eventually made their way to America and were used to pull carts within the cramped confines of coal mines. Fortunately, these pint-sized equines were replaced by mechanical equipment, freeing them up to become pets for the special few who see the benefit of a horse you can easily transport in your mini-van.
- Jonathan Boncek
Sue Brikmier, Samson's owner, remembers holding him in her arms shortly after he was born. As a young girl, Brikmier had always liked horses and remembers begging her father for a pony of her own. As she grew up, Brikmier's desire to own a horse faded — at least until she met Samson.
"He's the perfect size for my yard," Brikmier says as she pats Samson on his back. "He's not for anything but loving."
Miniature horses affected by dwarfism can live up to 50 years, surviving about one-third longer than large horses. Nearing his 10th birthday, Samson is roughly equivalent to 35 years of age in human years, according to the Guide Horse Foundation. Realizing the longevity of her pet of choice, Brikmier jokes that she'll have to put Samson in her will depending on how long he's able to romp around her backyard.
With short legs and a wide belly that pokes out on the sides, Samson eats Raisin Bran and food pellets. Although he's not a fan of carrots, Samson won't pass up the occasional sweet or peppermint. On Halloween, Samson will walk up the street and snack on candy collected by kids in the neighborhood. He's also likely to climb up into Brikmier's lap if she lets him.
"He doesn't do a lot of horse things," Brikmier says of Samson, as her two small dogs, Sadie and Yoda, frantically race around the yard and bark at anything they might perceive as a threat.
When it comes time for Samson to stretch his legs and see the sites around the neighborhood, Brikmier simply straps on a dog leash and strolls him around the block. While there aren't any definite plans to find another miniature companion for Samson, Brikmier already has the perfect name picked out for a female counterpart: Delilah.
"He's not timid," Brikmier says, her yard full of sunflowers and "Horse Crossing" signs, the front door bearing a life-sized decal of Samson. "He doesn't know whether he's a horse, a dog, or a person."