Unofficial Maryville College mascot, miniature horse Nibblet, leads a life of “humor and happiness” at Scots Ridge Farm

One of the most recognizable figures on Maryville College’s campus is Nibblet, a miniature horse serving as an unofficial mascot. Nibblet’s involvement in the community and his frequent attendance at college events has created a unique lifestyle – one which finds a harmonious balance of work and play – even for a horse.

Cate Biggs, owner of Nibblet and Scots Ridge Farm located in Rockford, TN, shared that the nearly seven-year-old Nibblet has resided on the farm for approximately four years. Covering nearly 100 acres, Scots Ridge Farm also provides boarding and care for 45 other equines.

“He was a rescue, so we don’t necessarily know what his situation was before,” Biggs explained. “He was adopted by Horse Haven, which is a great rescue organization. They take horses that are abused, neglected or abandoned.”

After adopting the mini, the first year was spent training him, getting him used to the routine and acclimating him to the new environment. Luckily, the setting at Scots Ridge Farm is perfect for a healthy horse lifestyle.

“Training was a little different than it is for a big horse because you can’t ride him,” said Biggs. “We put him on a long line, taught him to go around in a circle, walk, trot, canter and obey voice commands.”

Nibblet also had a few minor surgeries when he arrived at Scots Ridge Farm. Biggs explained that many miniature horses have birth defects, which can cause serious problems later in life.

Nibblet obeys voice commands, walks, trots and canters in the indoor arena at Scots Ridge Farm.
Photo courtesy of Maddux Morse

Big horses can live into their 20s and early 30s, but miniature horses live 40 years. “We’d like him to live his full 40,” Biggs said.

Other factors can also cause frequent problems for the average miniature horse. The common misconception that these animals are pets means that they often end up in rescue centers after adoption.

“People will adopt them and think they are like dogs, but they really are horses,” Biggs said. “They need to live with other horses. They are very social creatures.” Scots Ridge Farm meets these social needs for their horses, boarding privately-owned horses as well as the MC equestrian team horses. 

“The thing about mini’s is that they will eat until they get so fat that they develop a metabolic disorder,” explained Biggs. “So we have to keep him with the not-juicy grass.”

Whether this lack of self-control is endearing or not is up to every miniature horse owner, but for a food-motivated horse like Nibblet, this can be an effective tool for his caretakers.

Nibblet’s first excursion to Maryville College was quite eventful. He went onto the court for a halftime celebration of the equestrian team with Biggs. All went smoothly at first, as Nibblet wasn’t spooked by the loud noises of a buzzer or whistle blowing like most horses would be.

“It was the middle of winter, pitch black and nine o’clock at night, and we were leaving the college,” Biggs explained. “[When] we went over one of the speed bumps, the front door of the trailer opened, and he jumped right out.”

Luckily, the horse was found easily, eating the bits of juicy grass next to the road. Escaping is not unusual for Nibblet, but he is consistently found near a food source after every attempt. 

Following this incident, Nibblet now enjoys an upgraded mode of transportation. His customized van boasts a pull-out ramp and a refillable hay sack, ensuring he can effortlessly attend to his social obligations without any hindrance.

“He’s not afraid of anything. He just gets right in his van, and he goes to Fayerweather,” Biggs said. “He never even thought twice about going in the elevator.”

Nibblet says hello to his friend Maeve from his pen
Photo courtesy of Maddux Morse

Nibblet is comfortable being pet by strangers, as long as there is plenty of grass to eat while he gets pet. He also has no trouble forming relationships with other animals on the farm, and is noticeably admired by both Bigg’s dog Maeve and one of his neighboring horses, Faith.

“He’s the only mini, so he feels quite important. Most of the other horses are scared of him,” added Biggs. “Some of them don’t necessarily really recognize him as an equine.”

While the other horses may not see him as one of their own, he doesn’t seem to need their validation. Nibblet enjoys the life of a celebrity, and has a strong and stubborn personality.

Students may see Nibblet leading the Homecoming Parade, waiting for concessions at a basketball game or making a cameo in a Tartan Tuesday video. Biggs added that hopefully, he can start traveling to nursing homes or daycares soon.

“He’s so entertaining, and really, his whole purpose is just to bring humor and happiness,” she said. “He’s got it good for a mini, and we got so lucky with him.”

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