Story and photos by Katie Meyer
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
You might already have met this unique fellow during his walks around West Seattle, or at public events including last Sunday’s Summer Streets party on Alki, but we wanted to find out his backstory – so, meet Jeb: He enjoys long walks in Schmitz Park, gallops through the snow, and getting his back scratched. He’s a vegetarian who loves granola and the occasional tortilla chip. He stands 38 inches tall (at the shoulder) and has been known to show a marked preference for blondes.
(“How YOU doin’?” Jeb puts Zoolander’s look to shame)
Some of Jeb’s family members, local artist Mimi Miles and her teenage daughters Celeste and Hope, met us in the big back yard of their home to give us the scoop.
“He’s definitely got attitude,” Hope quips, as Mimi scratched Jeb’s ear, then elaborated on Jeb’s idiosyncrasies: “We’ve had him for 5 1/2 years; he’s 8 years old now. He’s devious. He’s very much a boy. He’s got that thing – he can be really sweet, then he can turn around and be a total brat. Jeb likes for everything to be done the same, he likes routine. He knows I give him his vitamins at 9 o’clock; if it’s five after nine, he starts to whinny – and he knows when the girls are supposed to come home from school.”
Celeste: “When we feed him, if we don’t feed him at the right time in the morning, he freaks out!”
Mimi: “As they leave for school, they feed him, and if it’s 7:15 and he hasn’t been fed yet, he’s upset. When he’s upset, he stands in front of the kitchen window and whinnies at us.”
With obvious affection, both girls pet and talk to Jeb – and with obvious affection, he placidly leans against them and snuffles their shirts – until our camera comes out. As we start taking pictures of Jeb, Mimi advises that “he’ll probably be curious about the camera. He’ll probably want to chew it. He knows we’re talking about him.”
Jeb gives us a cool glance, and ambles toward a tree. Near the fence, a wooden trellis shades a small flower bed. “He goes underneath this,” Mimi says. “He has all these favorite scratching spots in the yard. He backs against the fence with his rump and scratches and makes this funny little face when he gets the right spot. He has that tree over there that he goes underneath, and he goes over there by the patio and rubs his chin.”
(Ladies love Jeb, here with Celeste Miles and a visiting friend)
Is Jeb a pony, or a horse?
While he’s become known as “The West Seattle Pony,” Mimi clarifies that Jeb is a miniature horse — “but he’s at the very large end of miniature. Ponies have shorter legs. The woman told us when we bought him that he is a miniature horse. But he grew a little bit after we got him; I was thinking he’d be little, but he ended up being a little bigger than we thought he would, and he kind of has the body shape of a pony. We’ve been told since then that he possibly has some Icelandic, a little Shetland; we think his thick mane and coat comes from the Icelandic.”
Following Jeb as he moves to the fence to greet some neighborhood children, we confess a strong desire to put braids and ribbons in Jeb’s mane and put sparkly stickers on his hoofs. When questioned if the girls do that with Jeb, they give some rueful chuckles and explain that when they tried to, “he won’t look at anybody, and he’ll stand in the corner. He sulks.” Mimi laughed in agreement: “Oh they tried a lot, remember you guys would do it?-but he would always look really embarrassed about it. Didn’t you, Jebbie?”
“When they get older, then he’ll be more mellow and then we’ll probably be able to do that stuff,” says Celeste. (We noticed a gleam in Jeb’s eye that said “don’t count on it!”)
How did Jeb become a West Seattleite?
“He was a Christmas present for the girls,” Mimi says (as we secretly think Best. Parents. EVER.) “The yard has lots of open spaces, and different areas for him. So, we thought we could do it. One day my husband Dan said, ‘you know, the girls had been begging and begging for a pony – they’ve always gotten really good grades and you know? I think we can do it.’ It was rainy the week before Christmas that year, so I kept the curtains closed and my husband Dan and I built this stall over against the fence; the girls couldn’t see it. Jeb was here two days before Christmas and the girls didn’t even know he was here!”
Remembering the whirlwind of Jeb’s adoption, Mimi grinned as she says “I just ran up right away – didn’t even think it through, I just got him – I went up with a friend to Mount Vernon and got him from a farm and put him in our Volkswagen Vanagon, we took out the middle seat and put him inŠI had my friend’s boyfriend drive, because my knees were knocking and I was thinking, what the heck am I doing?! Because I knew nothing about horses – but Hope reads everything, so she knew. Once he was here I’d ask, Hope, is this right? Is that right? And she’d be say, yes-because she’d read every book she could find on horses. It’s worked out really well.”
We recall the “Save Mimi’s Miniature Horse” petition that was at Husky Deli years ago (proprietor Jack Miller is Mimi’s brother), and ask, what that was all about?
“We only had one complaint from someone concerned whether it was legal. You need 10K square feet, which we have – but they thought because we have the house and the studio that the horse wasn’t getting 10K square feet,” Mimi replies. “The city came out, and they has us do a petition in support of Jeb, and we did a booklet of information showing other cities that allow miniature horses, and the size of the worlds’ largest dog – which is way bigger than Jeb – and pictures of the girls caring for Jeb, how much attention he gets. Between having the form at the deli and having it outside here on the fence, in two weeks we got more than 500 signatures in his favor.”
Jeb the Social Animal: As Celeste and Hope stay with Jeb near the fence, chatting with more kids that have stopped by while enjoying the sunshine, we walk with Mimi across the yard toward her art studio. “It took about three months of having him – we took him out into the green strip” (an open area next to the fence, where the street ends) “and kept him in here, just to get him used to us. Then we started taking him through Schmitz Park, and that’s where he gets his run most of the time is through the park. Sometimes we tether him and let him graze on the little green strip there.”
“He walks along with a lead rope and when we get to the park, we put the lead rope over his back and he will walk with the girls through the park. We take him up to Pathfinder some times, and to Schmitz Park. When the girls are crammed for time, we’ll take him to Madison around the outside part, or we’ll take him down Fairmount to a spot down there at the bottom, in the greenbelt; he loves it there too.”
(Jeb horses around with Hope Miles)
Besides quickly learning what time his meals should arrive, Jeb has revealed a good memory for the places he visits: “We walk him through the park a lot and go to visit my mom – she lives on the other side of Schmitz Park – and he knows which house is hers. So we get up out of the park, the trail, and he runs up the hill and goes into her back yard. He knows which house is Grandma’s house.”
“He still thinks he’s in charge. There’s a part of him that’s still thinks he’s a stallion, where he wants to run the show,” Mimi continued, saying “If we all three take him, it’s like he wants to herd them along, and you can’t go ahead of him – he has to be the one leading the way, or he tries to nip you to kind of keep you in place.
“He’s definitely a city horse now, because we took him up to see the mules that pull the hayride, and he freaked out! We took him on a hike last summer, and he has that ‘little horse syndrome,’ you know, like that ‘little dog syndrome’ – we ran into other packs of people with horses, and he was charging at the big horses, even though he’s a quarter of their size. And the big horses were scared to death of him!”
Mimi’s studio is a small structure connected to the house by a concrete patio. She has a degree in ceramics from the University of Washington and is pleased that her work is showcased at Alki Arts this month. As we around at look at the two kilns, the pottery wheel, a massive slab roller and colorful examples of finished custom pieces and works in progress, Mimi tells us that “I do figurative sculpture – I do it on the wheel, so it’s wheel-thrown figurative pottery.” She takes the kiln up to “cone 6” (2215 degrees Fahrenheit) for the sculptures, and shows us some sculptures that are on a back shelf drying to “leather hard” stage before glazing and firing. It’s a peaceful, bright space and she’s often joined by friends or relatives who drop by the studio to create artwork. “Whoever is up that morning!”
(Original tiles and a custom creation by Mimi Miles)
(Wheel-thrown figurative sculptures drying before being glazed, then fired)
Hope and Celeste join us – and Jeb moseys over to where we’re gathered, his ears swiveling to catch everything. “This is what he does. He hangs out and listens to what’s going on.” Celeste goes inside to get a treat for Jeb, and Mimi says “See, he can hear the rustling in the kitchen, he’s thinking it’s food, right, Jebbers?”
Hope pats Jeb’s neck and says “He wants to come in the house.” We ask if Jeb is allowed in the house, because we surely would have him inside on the couch all the time, watching TV with us and eating Cheesy Puffs.
“He goes into the kitchen, but that’s it! He knows where the ‘snack drawer’ is so he goes in to the snack drawer. Sometimes when it’s just pouring down rain and miserable outside, we’ll bring him in and dote on him for a while. Mostly all he eats is hay and the grass that he gets around here – and he gets the occasional apple or carrot that comes down with the visiting kids in the strollers.”
Celeste bring him a small bit of granola, which Jeb happily lips from her palm. Mimi: “See how his mouth is turned up? He does that, that’s his “smiling.” On days when it’s raining and stuff, his mouth goes down. Or if we’ve been gone on a day trip and we’ve been gone all day – his mouth goes down like he’s mad at us.”
We attempt some photos of Jeb’s velvety muzzle. Jeb tires of the fuss, tosses his head and looks pointedly away from the camera. “He gets shy,” Mimi says. “He doesn’t like us to get too mushy with him, do you Jebbie?”
Humbled that our meager photography skills were bested by such a cute and cunning quadruped, we gave Jeb a moment to regain his composure as his ears flick around again to listen to Mimi: “We’ll have dinner parties out here in the summer (the small concrete patio between studio and house) and he just hangs out here by the front. Every time Celeste or Hope walks by, he does this funny deep snicker. The girls are just everything to him.”
Jeb the Playboy: We walk back across the yard and stand in the shade beneath a large tree as Mimi describes how playful Jeb can be. “Jeb gets a gallop going in the yard. He runs up and down and around the treeŠwindy days get him all stirred up and he just gets going really fast! My husband plays this chase game with Jeb, and I’m usually “home base” – for some reason Jeb thinks he’s safest with me. So he runs over to me to be safe, then he runs off, and Dan chases him, and Jeb bucks and all that stuff and then he comes back to me. It’s like, “Mom!” When he’s really happy, when we take him to the park and stuff, he bucks, that’s his feeling-good sign.”
The girls pat Jeb and ruffle his mane. “He’s afraid of soccer balls, like balls that you play with,” Celeste muses. Hope chimes in “yeah, and plastic bags that are rolling in the wind.” “But we were trying to get him to not be afraid, like coming up and getting him to smell it, he thinks they’re alive because they roll around. And we wanted to play with him but he kept running away. We couldn’t get him to not be afraid of the ball.”
(Jeb, spotted on a neighborhood walk in April and photographed by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
“A couple years ago when we had that really heavy snow, we had a couple days where it was really deep,” Mimi says. “Usually we hold on to him because of the cars, but because NO ONE was out driving, we just let him go and he just galloped – he would gallop two blocks down and then come charging right back to us. We were walking over to the park and he was just doing that back and forth, full gallop – and Jack got four or five calls from different people saying that our horse was loose, and then my brother Joe, my mom, all these people were getting calls because people were panicking, you know, because he was just running SO fast, his little head was down, and he was just – when you walk on snow, we were slipping all over the place, but with his hoofs, he had great traction and he was having so much fun!”
We thank Jeb and his family for the visit, and move to leave the fenced-in yard, only to notice Jeb had stealthily maneuvered himself between us and the exit.
“Jebbers!” Mimi chides him gently and explains that “he does this Billy-Goat-Gruff thing where he blocks the gate so the girls have to stay in the yard with him. We don’t have to worry about him running away; every once in a while the gate gets left open, and he’ll just hang out and eat grass. He’s so cute – he doesn’t really want to run away – I think he really likes his life.”