Parade goers are in for a treat on Saturday, Oct. 5, when Bonsai, a miniature horse, his driver Joanne Souza and their drill team companions prance down Main Street in Payson.
"We are really looking forward to coming to Payson for the 125th Anniversary. It sounds like a lot of fun," said Souza, a member of Arizona Mini Mystique.
Later in the day, the mini horses, pulling their drivers in carts, will show off maneuvers, such as the box cross and the suicide wheel for 125th Anniversary attendees.
The Suicide Cross requires the drivers to expertly fold the eight abreast line in half to face each other, then maneuver their horses and carts in between the oncoming line of horses and carts.
Bonsai, the 13-year-old, 29.5-inch tall purebred stallion is the lead horse in the team.
He has been in parades, gone to nursing homes and won Western Regional Reserve Champion Senior Stallion in a show.
"As the lead horse in the center position, Bonsai must be able to do a complete pivot in both directions without moving his wheels (the two-wheeled cart) with other horses around him," Souza said.
She has been drilling with him since 1998, but he took the lead about four years ago.
Horses registered with the American Miniature Horse Association cannot be more than 34 inches tall. Indeed, horse have been recorded as small at 18 inches tall. Their breeding origins are lost to antiquity, but they are recorded in the 17th century as having been companions of Hapsburg royalty.
"Despite Bonsai's size, he sets a really good pace for the team," Souza said.
The miniature horses weigh between 55 and 100 pounds, and can pull about three times their body weight.
"They are intelligent and sweet-natured, even the stallion," Souza said.
In the past, miners used the tiny horses to pull ore carts.
In the present, the mini horses serve as therapy horses, companion animals and guide horses to the blind.
Souza fell in love with miniature horses about 14 years ago when she saw K.D. at a 4-H Club auction.
K.D. had been abused, but was saved by a horse rescue organization, so Souza brought the tiny four-legged horse home and gave it tender loving care.