Jessica Tamboe is big on miniature horses.
The 11-year-old fell in love with tiny horses four years ago and now owns three she has trained well enough to earn hundreds of awards in shows as far away as Oklahoma.
More than 200 ribbons adorn her bedroom, including three top-10 rankings in her division at the American Miniature Horse Registry Nationals in Tulsa in September.
The road from miniature horse lover to miniature horse owner was a long one. Joanie and Bob Tamboe wanted to ensure their daughter was suitably prepared for such an undertaking. “We were all new to this,” Bob Tamboe said.
“It’s a lifetime commitment; these animals live 25 to 35 years,” said Joanie. The solution: an eight-month apprenticeship at Pepper Ridge Miniature Horse Farm in nearby Odessa, where Jessica had discovered the tiny breed.
“I started going there, grooming the horses and fell in love with them,” said Jessica, a Farnell Middle School sixth-grade honor student. At the horse farm she also leaned how to care for the unique 3-foot-high horses.
The apprenticeship intensified Jessica’s desire to own a miniature horse and, at age 8, her parents gave her a pair of them, a Christmas surprise. Three years later, Ginger and Bali were joined by a third Florida-bred miniature, Vinny, a birthday gift from her parents.
“She’s really impressed us,” Jessica’s father said, training her horses two to three hours a day, five days a week.
“When she wins a ribbon it’s not because someone else trained her horse,” Joanie Tamboe said. “It means so much more to them when they do all the work. And pretty much in our family that’s the rule, anyway.”
While Jessica does all the training, the horse shows are a family affair.
Dad trailers the horses to all the competitions, driving solo to destinations as distant as Tulsa, where mom and Jessica flew. He built a backyard horse barn on the family’s 2-acre Twin Branch Acres property, as well as wooden training aids Jessica needs to prepare her animals for demonstrating their skills in competitions.
To keep up, mom learns all she can about the animals. “But she still teaches me a lot she’s read up on and I haven’t yet had time for,” Joanie Tamboe said of her daughter.
“She’s made quite a name for herself in this industry,” the proud mother said. “Three horses being in the top 10 in the nation by an 11-year-old who trains them is really something.”
As for Jessica, she plans to stick with it. “This is probably going to be my career,” she said. “I’ll probably get more of these guys, maybe breed them sell them and make a career out of it, hopefully,” while also training miniature horses for others.