Barn Buddies: A Little Snickers And A Little Cannoli

by | 05.18.2017 | 11:31am
Cannoli and Snickers relax at Belmont

All eyes will turn to Belmont Park in a few weeks when the track hosts the third jewel of the Triple Crown. No matter who wins the Preakness, and no matter which horses arrive to contest the 1 ½ miles, the real star of Belmont might be in trainer Robert Falcone Jr.'s barn.

Falcone is the proud owner of miniature mare Snickers and her six-week-old colt he named Cannoli. He didn't necessarily expect to end up with one of the biggest attractions on the backstretch (Falcone said fans, photographers, and horsemen regularly stop by to check in on the pair), but saw a chance to help a horse who needed it.

Falcone and assistant Natalie Fawkes went to a livestock auction in Cranbury, N.J., looking for a goat to soothe a horse in his shed row. It turned out there were no goats for sale that day, but there was a group of miniature horses.

“They say everything that doesn't sell there doesn't go to a good spot,” Falcone said. “We were walking around and saw these mini ponies, and all of these mini ponies are jumping up and acting crazy, and there's this one all the way at the end that just had her head to the bottom of the straw, didn't want anything to do with what was going on, just looked really miserable. We were like, ‘Oh, we have to buy her.' We felt bad, and she was cute.”

Falcone and Fawkes waited until nearly the end of the auction before the mare came up for sale, and it was then the auctioneer revealed she was pregnant. Falcone figured he had come this far; why rescind his offer of a good home now?


It took Snickers, as he named her, some time to warm up to Falcone. He suspects she encountered rough treatment somewhere along the way — she had a bad cough at first and was underweight with a long coat. She also didn't have a lot of trust in humans, either.

“You could tell she wasn't the best taken care-of, going [to the auction],” said Falcone. “She was scared for the first few weeks until she warmed up to me and Natalie and let us go in the stall with her. Every time she sees us in the barn, she starts nickering. At first she wouldn't take anything from our hands like carrots or anything like that, but she got used to us and lets us hand feed her now. She definitely needed a little bit of trust.”

Cannoli was born a few weeks after the mare's arrival, on April 8, and is an outgoing little colt with lots of spunk. Falcone entertained several name options for him, including Oreo since he turned out to be black and white, but in the end, went with one of his own favorite desserts.

“He may be a lot smaller than the racehorses, but he acts like one,” Falcone said. “When we walk them out to the pen, he'll go on his hind legs and walk on his hind legs. As you're walking him, he'll buck and bronc.”

Snickers and Cannoli sleep in a pony stall at night and during training hours, and they graze outside the barn in a pen Falcone constructed with supplies from Home Depot. Falcone's Thoroughbreds aren't fazed by the tiny duo. The trainer now considers them barn mascots, and humans adore them.


“We have our regular visitors who come every week, every time they come to the track on the weekend,” he said. “They'll come by and take pictures of them.”

For more photos and videos of Snickers and Cannoli (because let's face it, who doesn't want more mini horses in their social media feed?), follow Falcone on Twitter.

Do you know a Barn Buddy we need to profile? Email me: [email protected] We have featured dogs, cats, goats, sheep, mini horses, and many other species that keep Thoroughbreds company at the track or on the farm.

  • Jbumi

    What a sweet story!! 😜

  • Quilla

    Is Cannoli the cutest fellow, or what? Precious!

    Great story about the smallest thing taking up the most space in your heart. ;)

  • Tromper

    YAY for Robert Falcone & Natalie Fawkes!! Life saving rescues, for Cannoli & Snickers, that speak to the true nature of most people in racing. We needed this story, Natalie Voss – – Thank You!

  • Always Curious

    Awwwww! It is so great to these stories about the good folks.

  • Drama the Llama

    That’s so awesome. Good on them for rescuing Snickers and now Cannoli. Once he’s weaned, they can each take on the job of calming a racehorse.

    • Minneola

      Another great job for these mini-ponies is to work as therapy animals. There are some who do take their mini-ponies to the hospitals, assisted living residents, and a number of other places where these absolutely cute-as-can-be creatures are able bring a ray of sunshine into the lives of those who desperately need it. I hope that that Robert Falcone and Natalie Fawkes have a little time to do some research in their area to see who else might be doing this very thing. I could see this as a great 4-H project for a high school student to take on as well.

      • duchess

        There are seeing eye mini horses. Some people prefer them to dogs. Supposedly the minis find “the easy route” up ramps, etc. even if it is a bit out of the way as opposed to the dogs which tend to take the more direct way. Also the minis tend to have longer life spans (it is absolutely heartbreaking for someone to lose their therapy animals).

        • Minneola

          Thanks for the link. A possible 50-yr lifespan? Wow. I didn’t realize that these mini-horses had such a longer lifespan than the usual.

  • Guest

    How cute good for them ! What nice people ! Great story love it! Hats off to these people for giving them a nice home!

  • Elle D

    This is OMG cuteness!

  • Ida Lee

    WARNING…..view and read at your own risk….we are not responsible for individual reactions to excessive sweetness and the out-of-control cuteness factor as exhibited in accompanying video…

    • Minneola

      There was a television commercial a couple of years ago where someone adopted a mini-pony that, unfortunately, was “ridiculed” by the other horses at her stable. She, finally, just took the pony into her home where it lived a great life as a pet. Do you remember seeing this commercial? I’m trying to remember which product it was for.
      By definition, not a great commercial if one cannot remember the product but its message was memorable.

      • Ida Lee

        Cutest commercial ever ….. it was for Amazon quick delivery….she bought the “Little Man” a doggie door so he could come in the house when he was lonely….first time I saw it I misted up…..there I said it ….

        • Minneola

          Thank you!! This was driving me a bit nuts. I did remember that it had something to do with “delivery” but wasn’t sure if it was for FedEx, UPS, or something else. It was that “something else”: Amazon. And, yes, that was the cutest commercial. Something tells me that you and I would do the same in having a doggie door installed and keeping that cute little mini-pony has a house pet. (Of course, I couldn’t help but wonder if these little creatures can be housebroken.)

          • Ida Lee

            It’s the reason my husband put his foot down about getting any animals with hooves ….he’s afraid I’d bring them in the house and want to sleep with them…I had a situation with my little chihuahua mix when I took him to the dog park to socialize….I let him loose, he went running to join 2 other dogs in play …both dogs were bigger than Cisco so they didn’t even know he was in the mix and took off and left him alone….he came back to me looking all rejected and hurt and I melted…my heart broke for him…the little horse being rejected by the big horses reminded me of that incident…you don’t want anyone you love being rejected …

          • Fred and Joan Booth

            With our herd of thoroughbreds they already know how to open the doors and go up the steps into our house! When its cold or rainy we better have their stalls cleaned and full of hay and ready for them or else the house / garage is on their target list. We agree anyone who is loved by you should not be rejected. Human or horse.We have several horses who were rejected who have now become very good friends and good at scratching our backs.

          • Ida Lee

            You have a “herd of thoroughbreds” ? You must live in heaven ….every single animal I’ve had was a rescue so you would think they would be a little humble ….. guess again…..they get what they want, when they want it….and both me and my husband are as happy as can be giving it to them….go figure ….

  • Erin Casseday

    What a great story! Thank you for rescuing her!!!

  • Delrene

    Thank you Mr Falcone for saving this sweetheart and her adorable baby. If I lived closer I’d be a constant weekend visitor too. I hope this helps bring attention to the situation these precious animals find themselves in through no fault of their own. Love their names.

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