At R&R Ranch, Stacy Rolfe offers a happy—and picturesque—home to miniature horses that have been abandoned or abused. Visitors are invited to tour this special sanctuary and learn about how the horses are cared for and what they’ve overcome.

Children from Mason Ridge Elementary School visit with dwarf miniature horses.
Photo courtesy of R&R Ranch

By Jim Winnerman

Stacy Rolfe’s obsession for rescuing animals surfaced at age 10 when she walked into a veterinarian’s office near her home with an injured bird gently cupped in her hands. That same compassion for animals has continued throughout her life. However, when her daughter Belle suggested it would be fun to own a miniature horse, her tenderheartedness put her on a path that would become her destiny.

Since the Rolfes already owned a horse and pony and were designing a barn for their recently acquired 32-acre property in Wildwood, Missouri, adopting a miniature equine seemed like a natural thing to do. However, the plan quickly changed when Belle found a posting on Craigslist for not one but a bonded pair of miniature horses.

The picturesque horse barn at the R&R Ranch Miniature Horse Sanctuary at Wildwood contains 20 stalls for miniature horses.
Photo by Jim Winnerman

After acquiring Sherman and Miss Mackenzie, Stacy learned that due to their small size, miniature horses require much more attention and financial commitment than is needed for a full-size horse. “Because they are so small, people expect them to be less work,” she says.

Furthermore, she discovered many owners adopt them believing they will be a cute “toy” or pet for their child and soon realize it was a mistake. “That was the case for Sherman and Mackenzie,” Stacy says. “They had four different owners in two years, and that is not fair to any animal. I made a commitment—our miniatures would spend the rest of their lives with us.”

Millie (on the left) and Nora Berends of St. Louis enjoy meeting and petting Eleanor, who is contentedly grazing.
Photo by Jim Winnerman

Only six weeks later, they received a call about a horse auction that would be selling a miniature mare and her foal. Worried the pair would be separated, Stacy could not refuse adopting two more.

Then a veterinarian called to tell her Longmeadow Rescue Ranch, an animal rescue sanctuary in Union, Missouri, had three more miniatures in need of a permanent home, and her family of small equines expanded to seven.

“Next we adopted Ella and Sophie not knowing they were pregnant,” Stacy says, recalling how quickly she had become the mother of what was rapidly becoming a herd of miniature horses.

“We were boarding 17 miniature horses before our barn was built, and plans for a 3-horse stable had increased to a 20-horse barn!” she exclaims.

The horses each arrived with different issues. Some were neglected or mistreated or both. Others had been abandoned and became feral, displaying no trust in humans or even other horses. Several had been hitched to pony rides for years, carrying riders too heavy for their small bodies.

Chloe came to the farm with neglected hooves that were curled up at the ends like elf shoes. Emma was 18, frail, and had moon blindness, which meant she could only see shadows. Banks came with teeth in terrible shape and his mane chewed off by other horses.

Part of Stacy’s horse family consists of dwarf miniatures, which she describes as “genetic hiccups.” About the size of a large dog, they are often born crippled with deformed legs and experience constant pain if left untreated.

Right, Bernard, a dwarf miniature horse, is the same size as the ranch golden retriever, Handsome.
Photo by Jim Winnerman

“Once we receive a horse, we take a ‘whatever it takes’ approach to returning them to full health with proper veterinary care, nutrition, and socialization. None are ever leaving this ranch,” Stacy says emphatically.

In addition to getting each horse healthy on the property of the R&R Ranch, Stacy built a picturesque barn with full amenities that would be the envy of any horse owner. Overhead pipes release fly repellent spray six times a day. Cameras allow the horses to be remotely checked at any time. Ceiling fans and freeze-proof water troughs are fixtures in each stall. Every yoke, which is the opening in a stall door through which a horse can hang his head, has been custom made to accommodate the minis.

Above, the interior of the barn at the R&R Ranch features stalls with low yokes so the miniature horses can socialize and see visitors by hanging their heads outside the stalls.
Photo by Jim Winnerman

And, while the horses may not appreciate them, brass chandeliers adorning the barn are an indication of just how well each animal is treated.

Once the barn was built, Stacy’s compassion and commitment to rescuing miniature horses expanded into a mission to educate the public about their proper care and treatment.

An online seminar she developed titled Miniature Horses for Dummies is offered on YouTube and is continually being viewed. She has opened her barn for educational tours, which begin with a video presentation that shows the state of the horses upon arrival and how, after proper care, they have returned to health.

She takes the horses to schools to educate children and to demonstrate how each animal has overcome difficulties and is now prospering. “We convey that message in a way that children who are being bullied or who have other challenges can understand they can overcome them,” says Stacy.

School children on a tour have the opportunity to pet the miniature horses.
Photo by Jim Winnerman

As a goodwill gesture toward the community, horses are taken inside nursing homes so seniors can interact with them. “The delight of seniors petting or singing to our little horses is so gratifying to watch,” Stacy says.

The R&R Ranch is now established as a nonprofit corporation, and proceeds from purchases at the R&R Ranch gift shop go directly to the care of the horses. The most popular items are plush miniature horses and a book Stacy and Belle authored titled, Martha: The Perfectly Imperfect Little Horse. The gifts are also available on their website. Proceeds support the sanctuary and rescue efforts.

The gift shop at the R&R Ranch sells a variety of miniature-horse-themed merchandise as well as plush horse toys.
Photo courtesy of R&R Ranch

While donations are accepted, they are never solicited. In fact, Stacy requests that if a benefactor is aware of another rescue facility needing funds, that donations be directed there.

Ask Stacy if her campaign to improve the lives of miniatures is making a difference, and she will mention their 950,000 followers on social media and that she has sent plush minis to countries she never knew existed. Then there is the video of Martha happily prancing around the barn, which has garnered an astonishing 17,000,000 views.

George stands patiently while a child gives him a big hug.
Photo courtesy of R&R Ranch

While Stacy is amazed at how Belle’s request for a miniature horse has impacted her life, her commitment to what she refers to as “her babies” is as strong as ever. In fact, her business card has the perfect description of who she has always been: her title is Chief Snuggler.

Children visit with George.
Photo courtesy of R&R Ranch

For more information and tour reservations visit

Feature image by Jim Winnerman.

Article originally published in the June 2024 issue of Missouri Life.