Mr. Ed notwithstanding, a horse isn’t always a horse. At least that’s the considered opinion of Patty Fairchild, whose 120-lb., 28-in.-tall dappled pinto, Ragtime, has kicked up a tumultuous dispute in Thousand Oaks, Calif. An almost fully grown ministallion who will be a year old on May 31, Ragtime snacks on dried dog food, plays with stuffed toys and is completely house-broken. Although he has his own shed in the yard, he prefers lounging in the living room with Patty, 33, and her husband, Richard, 36, a bottled-water delivery man. “Ragtime is my baby,” says Patty. “To me he’s a pet, not a horse, and certainly not a farm animal.”
The city council and many Thousand Oaks residents beg to differ. In their view, a horse is a horse no matter how big or cute he is, and any horse or farm animal living in a suburban neighborhood is guaranteed to give property values a trashing. The city issued an eviction notice against Ragtime on New Year’s Eve. When Patty appealed, a homeowner’s group threatened to sue her. A Miniature Horse Ad Hoc Committee, formed to determine if Ragtime is legally a farm animal, disbanded after internal bickering. Tempers have flared, threats have allegedly been made, and Ragtime has been put under 24-hour surveillance, courtesy of a local security firm. “This has been blown all out of proportion,” says City Councilman Lee Laxdal.
The turmoil probably isn’t over. Thousand Oaks has given Patty until June 8 to remove Ragtime from the premises. She says she won’t and that she plans to take the city to court. “I’m keeping him,” she insists. “I have letters from veterinarians saying that miniature horses should be considered pets, like dogs. In fact, two German shepherds around here have tried to mate with Ragtime. Even dogs think he’s a dog.” Only Ragtime, it seems, is keeping his thoughts to himself.