A John Deere Publication
Double rainbow in the sky above the dairy farm

Rainbow the Unicorn—the magical alter ego of her mini horse, Bucky—is the main attraction at most events. After a storm threatened the event in Olivia, a majestic, double rainbow lit their drive home.

Rural Living, Specialty/Niche   December 01, 2023

Rainbow the Unicorn


and his many mini friends.

WARNING: If your little girl has been asking for a pony and you've been telling her 'no' for good reasons, you should probably not read this.

Jessica Kesteloot, of Cottonwood Minn., got her first horse when she was 10. At the time her family was raising beef cattle and milking dairy cows. 

"I always had to remind everyone that my horse needed hay, too," she laughs.

By her teenage years she was showing quarter horses and soon after acquired a miniature horse named Bucky. 

It turned out he came with magic in his mane, but it didn't come out right away. 

She used him as a teaser for breeding her other horses at first and then showed him in pony halter classes, too. 

As with many childhood hobbies and competitive activities, there came a time when Jessica realized how expensive it was to keep up her horse habit as a young adult. Luckily at that point, a friend offered to sell her pony ride business to Jessica.  

Now Jessica's rather large pets could actually pay their way. She just had to take them to area festivals and events every so often.

"They cost the same whether I am the only one enjoying them or if everyone in the community also gets to enjoy them," she says. "Adding my friend's ponies in with mine enabled me to afford my hobby."

The pony rides soon gave way to a petting zoo.

"I already had a few goats by this point, and I wanted people to have an opportunity to interact with farm animals like they were with the ponies. I chose smaller breeds, so they were less intimidating for kids—and they take up less room, are easier to transport, and eat less," Jessica explains, while standing only 5-feet-tall herself.

The petting zoo enabled Jessica to try raising all sorts of different miniature animals.

"Over the years, we have tried different breeds to see which are more interactive and interesting to raise," she says.

This is when Bucky's magical powers really started to shine. 

People had commented his sleek, white coat and short, muscular stature made him look like a unicorn, and a customer requested Bucky come to a birthday party dressed as a unicorn. With a little sparkly, gold paint on his hooves and a horn attached to his halter, Bucky's alter ego, Rainbow, was unleashed.

Now Rainbow is bringing in his own income stream as an add-on to petting zoo requests, individual event appearances, and even magical photo shoot days for little princesses to come to the farm and pose with him.

Above. What started as a farm girl's passion for horses has turned into an agritainment business where Jessica Kesteloot raises seven different, mini livestock breeds and shares them with her surrounding community through a traveling petting zoo. One of the events Jessica took her animals to in 2023 was the Olivia, Minn., Family Fun Days. Jessica stops to pet her sheep while doing her Sunday afternoon chores. She keeps all her animals on her parents' farmstead now that the family is no longer in the cattle or dairy business.


The little details. Jessica operates the petting zoo as a side business and says she has it dialed in to a science now.

For her 2023 season, she had a herd of 18 animals across seven breeds including a 15-year-old miniature cow, Juliana-Kunekune pigs, Nigerian Dwarf goats, Babydoll and miniature Shetland sheep, White Crested ducks, and a donkey. 

"I only need one other person to help me at any event. Once we set up the corral my husband custom made, I can enjoy my animals as much as the attendees do," she explains. "The most challenging part of any event is driving my truck and trailer into the locations not laid out well for large vehicles."

Her eight-year-old son often is her extra help now, and her artist sister comes to some events to also offer face painting. 

Her corral is unique in that it is rectangular rather than circular. It has six square pens with a middle alley. Each piece is labeled in order so set-up and tear-down is quick and easy. 

Each pen also has a specially designed vending machine delivering the feed to the animal's trough through PVC pipe. This is to ensure no child accidentally gets nibbled by an excited goat or gets their hands licked while also eating their own snacks.

"Everything is designed for safety—for my animals, me, and the visitors. I always ask what could go wrong and then design so it doesn't. And I do a lot of paperwork," she adds.

The real dream. To all the little girls asking for a pony, dreams can turn out even more magical than you envision.

"I had no idea the opportunities for agritainment with my animals," Jessica says. "Now they are not just my expensive pets; they bring joy to so many others and pay their own way. It is fun to be able to show people something they have never seen—even adults. It gives us an extra sense of purpose." ‡

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