The popularity of miniature horses, commonly called « minis, » extends far beyond horsemen. Their adorable appearance and sweet nature have earned them fans all over the world. Miniature horses are known for their small size and social character. They are primarily kept as companion animals, although they have many of the tendencies and care needs of adult horses.
WEIGHT: 150 to 350 pounds
SIZE: Usually under 8.5 hands (34 inches) to 9.5 hands (38 inches).
BODY TYPE: Small and muscular; many have similar proportions to larger horses.
BEST PREDICTION: Anyone looking for a companion animal, not a riding horse.
LIFE EXPECTANCY: 35 years.
History and origins
Miniature horses have evolved over the centuries through the selective breeding of small horses and ponies from a variety of horse and pony breeds, including the Shetland pony. They originated in Europe in the 17th century and became popular with the nobility because of their novel appearance. Because of their small size, they were also used for work in mines. These small horses arrived in the United States in the late 19th century, where they were also used in mines. However, it took several decades for the miniature horse to gain wide popularity in the United States.
There are two main registries for miniature horses in the United States. In addition, enthusiasts around the world have formed clubs, registries, and associations to celebrate their shared love of the breed.
Miniature Horse Size
Mini enthusiasts tend to measure with inches or centimeters rather than their hands. The American Miniature Horse Association only counts Miniature horses up to 34 inches (8.5 hands) as members. In contrast, the American Miniature Horse Registry recognizes two divisions of miniature horses: « A » division miniature horses are 8.5 hands (34 inches) or less, and « B » division miniature horses are 8.5 to 9.5 hands (34 to 38 inches). Miniature horses average between 150 and 350 pounds.
Breeding and Use
Miniature horses were originally bred for their small size, but have since found many uses. The first miniature horses worked in mines, where their small size was an advantage in tight spaces.
Today, miniature horses are kept primarily as pets, although many work in some capacity. Although most miniature horses are too small to ride, some owners keep them harnessed to carts or sleds. Many owners also enter their horses in competitions where their physical characteristics are judged. Among the many performance competitions in which minis participate are driving, draft horses, steeplechase, and show jumping. They are similar to dog sports.
Miniature horses are often used as therapy. As guide dogs for the blind, they help people with vision and hearing problems. Because of their gentle and loving nature, they also make excellent emotional support animals.
Colors and markings
Miniature horses come in different colors and patterns. There are smooth, spotted, and spotted coats like the Appaloosa. Their coats are usually slightly thicker than adult horses and they usually have a full mane and tail.
The miniature horse’s small size is its distinguishing feature. Unlike ponies, which are usually stocky and short-legged, miniature horses are more like full-grown horses, just reduced in size. Their size is similar to that of large breeds of dogs. This makes the Mini ideal for people who live on small properties where there is no room for a large herd of horses.
In addition, Miniature horses are usually intelligent, curious, friendly, and sociable. They love to spend time with people. However, ideally, they should live outdoors (with proper shelter) like other horses to ensure their health and well-being.
Diet and nutrition
Like most horses, miniature horses need a balanced diet of grass, hay, oats, and other grains, as well as treats in moderation. Because of their small size, it is easier to overfeed than underfeed miniature horses. It is important to feed the recommended amount for your horse’s weight and activity level.
Common health and behavioral problems
Miniature horses are usually well-behaved and easy to train, but they are prone to several health problems. For example, dwarfism mutations often occur in miniature horses, which can lead to various health complications. Many horse registries are now trying to avoid breeding miniature horses with dwarfism genes.
In addition, many miniature horses tend to be obese. This is possible because some owners treat them as pets and do not provide them with the necessary exercise. Or they overestimate the feeding needs of miniature horses, especially if they are used to feeding larger horses.
Because of their small size, miniature horses are also prone to difficult foaling and dental problems, especially overcrowding of the teeth. They are also prone to hyperlipidemia and colic.
Miniature horses require the same care as large horses. They simply have much less surface area to cover, which makes it much easier. Use a comb, brush, and hoof tongs daily to remove dirt and debris. And find a farrier who specializes in miniature horses to care for your horse’s hooves.
- Relatively easy to care for
- No horse to ride
- Needs a large yard for exercise
- Tends to obesity
Champion and famous miniature horses
As miniature horses become more popular, they are appearing in commercials, on TV shows, and social media. For example, a miniature horse named Gideon played the lovable Li’l Sebastian on the TV series Parks and Recreation. In addition, actress Kaley Cuoco has turned her miniature horse Shmooshy into an Internet celebrity.
Is a miniature horse right for you?
Miniature horses are usually easy to maintain and train. They offer people who can’t own adult horses the opportunity to have an equine friend. And for people with little experience with horses, they are usually easy to handle. In addition, their maintenance costs are usually lower than those of an adult horse, as they require less feed and less medication.
Miniature horses are also ideal for children, as their size and gentle nature make them easier to handle than larger horses. However, despite their size, they are very strong and need to be trained like any other horse.
How to buy a miniature horse
Miniature horses cost about $1,000 on average, although you can often find horses for less. However, miniature horses of coveted breeds can cost much more.