OSCEOLA COUNTY — This summer, the Marion and Osceola County 4-H FFA fairs will have an additional amount of cute, thanks to a new 4-H club that will make its debut.

Vicki and Brian Cushman, regulars at the Osceola County 4H-FFA Fair, had the desire to begin a project to take miniature horses to the fair for children who are not able to have a horse. Ten years ago, she began raising miniature horses, which are are calm, docile, playful, easy to maintain, relatively inexpensive and easily trained.

The process to incorporate the horses has taken about four months. First, extensive amounts of paperwork had to be filled out and sent to the Michigan 4-H Foundation in Lansing. The Cushmans were subjected to a background test, used video classes to become trained as 4-H leaders and recruited eight members from the ages of 3 to 9.

The club was then introduced to and approved by the Marion Fair Board and the Osceola County 4-H FFA Fair Board, and holds the motto "we may be small, but we walk tall."

"We are very excited," Vicki said. "The kids are excited and happy. I don't know how much better it could be. When they come into this club, everyone is on the same level. We're going to be the support for these kids."

The initiative will provide the opportunity for children to become accustomed to and comfortable with taking care of a horse without the size and potential dangers of being around a horse of standard size. To gain knowledge on how to show miniature horses and prepare for both local fairs, the club members will travel to other fairs this summer and take tours of local businesses that caters to equestrian lovers.

"Our goal is to learn right now," Vicki said. "We want to just start and have fun with it. The kids can get together with the kids that are showing the minis and learn. It's perfect for these little children."

On Saturday, many of the children were able to meet a miniature horse named Marshmallow to learn how to interact with the animal. They also learned how to clean and care for a horse, how to ride safely and how to lead.

Cory Lamond, father to 3-year-old club member Makenzie Lamond, believes the experience will have a positive impact on the children.

"It's good for them, and gets them out of the house," Lamond said. "Hopefully, it will give them some knowledge about horses and teach responsibility."

Although registration for this year's Mini Hoofbeats club is closed, more information about next year's registration can be given by calling Vicki Cushman at (231) - 278-2213.