FARMINGTON — On Friday in China, people celebrated the start of the new year.

On Saturday in Farmington, families gathered at the Riverside Nature Center for equine-themed activities to celebrate the Year of the Horse. According to the Chinese zodiac, 2014 is the Year of the Horse.

Outside the building, two small corrals held a few equines, including a Missouri fox trotter named Rambler, two mustangs named Sally and Ginger, a Shetland pony and two miniature donkeys. Bob Browning provided the miniature donkeys and the Shetland pony for the celebration.

The donkeys and a small spotted dog named Chica quickly became one of the biggest attractions.

Chica, rides a miniature donkey as his owner, Bob Browning looks on Saturday at the Riverside Nature Center in Farmington. The Farmington Museum system on
Chica, rides a miniature donkey as his owner, Bob Browning looks on Saturday at the Riverside Nature Center in Farmington. The Farmington Museum system on Saturday hosted a family-friendly Chinese New Year celebration. According to the Chinese zodiac, 2014 is the year of the horse. (Jon Austria/ The Daily Times)

On Browning's command, Chica leaped onto the miniature donkey's back, and the donkey walked around the corral.

Adrienne Boggs, Farmington Museum's educational director, said the museum system put together the activities because they weren't aware of any other Farmington Chinese New Year celebrations.

"Aside from Christmas, it has to be the most exciting holiday of the year," Boggs said.

She said in China there are firecrackers, and people get new clothes.

Farmington's celebration, though, was different. There were no firecrackers. Instead, children made casts of horse hoofprints and pet the horses.

Mallory Gilbert, 6, brought a flier home from school announcing the event, and her grandmother, Cheryl Gilbert, thought it would be a good weekend activity. When the sun came out Saturday, the two went down to Riverside Nature Center, and Mallory swung on a corral fence and pet Rambler, who, she said, was her favorite of the equines at the center.

She said she liked Rambler "'cause he's silly."

Rambler, a black horse with a white star on his forehead, belongs to Jody Carman, who works in marketing and public relations for the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department.

"I love him so much, and I wanted to share him with everybody," Carman said.

She also talked to her friend, Sonny Mills, and had him bring his two mustangs, Sally and Ginger.

She said she wanted Sally and Ginger to come to the event to help with mustang education. She made a game out of their freeze brands — an identifying mark on the horse's neck — by asking children to help her figure out from the marks when and where the mustangs were captured.

"It's like a horse's social security number," she said.

Cheryl Gilbert and her granddaughter, Mallory Gilbert, 6, pet Rambler on Saturday at the Riverside Nature Center in Farmington.
Cheryl Gilbert and her granddaughter, Mallory Gilbert, 6, pet Rambler on Saturday at the Riverside Nature Center in Farmington. (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

The brand identifies that Sally was captured in Colorado and Ginger came from Wyoming.

Mills said when he got Ginger she was wild. But he got a chair, a book and some grain and sat with her in the corral every day until finally she ate out of his hand and let him pet her. After that, it was only a matter of days before she was ready to ride.

Ginger, who is now so gentle that Mills has children ride her, also impresses people with her size. She is a 16-hand bay mare.

"You hardly ever see mustangs that big," Mills said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.