This local celebrity has striking blue eyes, loves to eat and stands only 33 inches tall.
Meet Ace, the miniature horse owned by Albion College’s Equestrian Club. This tiny equine arrived at the college in October 2013, after the Equestrian club purchased him with their club funds. His name, Ace, is an acronym for Albion College Equestrian.
Ace, now 10 years old, lives at the Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center. The Equestrian Club bought him from a farm in Ohio that raises miniature horse for therapeutic purposes. Ace came to the college trained as a therapy horse.
Before Ace arrived, the club received many requests to bring horses to events on and off campus. According to Held Center Office Manager and Equestrian Club Advisor Carolyn Killewald, even the calmest of school horses became nervous around crowds and loud sounds.
This presented a serious problem. “They (the horses) are trained to ride, and they are used to certain environments, so when you put them in a different environment they can easily get scared and become dangerous.” Killewald said. Large horses are also difficult to transport.
Ace was the perfect solution. He had been trained to deal with commotion, and his small stature made it easy for students to drive him to events in the back of a pickup truck or an SUV. According to Killewald, he has an ideal personality. “Ace is very sweet and calm. He is great with little kids around,” she said.
Nowadays Ace is a busy little horse. He has his own event schedule and locker at the barn. He attends many events on Albion College’s campus, such as Briton Bash, Spooktacular, Homecoming and final exam stress relief therapy in the library. He most recently appeared at the Big Read kickoff event in Albion.
He also branches out into the community. He visits local preschools, elementary schools, nursing homes, the Festival of the Forks and the Gardner House summer garden party. For his indoor events, Ace wears tiny tennis shoes the equestrian club bought him from the Build-a-Bear website.
All this hard work has made Ace a local celebrity. According to Killewald, not only do people at the college recognize him, but many community members know and ask about him as well. Many people come to the Held Center just to visit Ace.
Like any star, Ace lives well, surrounded by an attentive staff and plenty of students to love him. Like some older humans, Ace suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , a respiratory condition managed by medicine and a controlled environment. Because of it, he can’t do intense physical exercise.
According to Killewald, he also gets very claustrophobic in his stall and will pace furiously if closed inside it. For a long time, the staff would just let him wander the barn as he pleased.
Ace took this opportunity to eat all the grass, hay and grain he could find. When he started to get a bit too chubby, the staff put him in his stall with a dog kennel fence stretching into the barn aisle. Now the staff can watch his weight while still allowing him plenty of room to move.
He is still allowed out to eat grass for several hours a day. “He is happy and healthy this way,” Killewald said.
Ace, like many celebrities, has his own little quirks. “He likes to creep in the barn,” said Jourdan Tonti, a member of the Equestrian Club. “You’ll be standing in the aisle and look over, and you see his head peeking around the corner. He’s quite the character to say the least!”
Ace has an immediate effect on visitors to the Held Center. “I always laugh when I’m giving tours to prospective students and their families,” said Killewald. “They come around the corner and see Ace, and it’s all over.” Everyone wants to know more about the undersized equine.
Ace has become the adorable face of Albion College’s Equestrian Club and Held Center, and he seems to enjoy his life of local fame.
Anyone can come visit Ace at the Nancy G. Held Equestrian Center, located at 11039 29 Mile Road South in Albion. Don’t have a ride? Campus Safety provides Albion College students transportation to the Center.
Photo by Emily Galka