The great thing about small horses is that they are perfect for children or smaller, lighter novice riders who don’t feel ready for a large horse, as these riders have a shorter distance to travel when dismounting. They are usually a transitional solution once the child or new rider has become accustomed to riding and controlling their horse.
Horses range in size from huge draft horses measuring up to 60 centimeters to miniature ponies that are barely over 60 centimeters. The average size of a horse is 15.2 hands or about 1.50 meters. Any horse over 14.2 hands (57 inches) is classified as a horse, anything less is classified as a pony or miniature horse. The Cob is about 15 hands and often straddles the line between ponies and « horses ».
Small breed horses remain smaller throughout their lives and mature more quickly than larger horses. Small breeds tend to be more stoic and intelligent than larger horses, which can also mean they are often more stubborn and independent. As a general rule, the larger the breed, the more docile the horse.
Smaller horses and ponies are powerful. They are usually hardier than horses and can withstand greater temperature changes. Their coat thickens in winter, their mane and tail are thicker and their hooves are more robust. Compared to horses, they have heavier bones and shorter legs about their body.
These 12 breeds are among the smallest horses and ponies in the world.
The miniature horse is one of the smallest horse breeds. It has two size classes. The largest is no larger than 9.5 hands (38 inches). Miniature horses are usually too small to ride. But they can pull carts, participate in steeplechase and jumping, and serve as therapy animals.
The Falabella is a miniature horse from Argentina. Its pedigree includes Andalusian and Iberian bloodlines. The horse is named after the Falabella family, who selectively bred small horses to create a uniform miniature version. Falabellas are used as guide animals because of their manageable size and trainable character.
3. Shetland Pony
Don’t let their small size fool you. Shetland ponies are strong, intelligent, and energetic horses. But they are also gentle and tend to get along well with children. Originally from the Shetland Islands of Scotland, these horses were used for agricultural work and for transporting coal in the mines. Their thick coat helps them withstand the cold winters.
The Noma is Japan’s smallest native breed of horse. These horses were developed in the 17th century primarily as beasts of burden in rugged terrain and on remote islands. Today they are an endangered breed of horse but remain a popular attraction in Japanese zoos and on farms.
The Yonaguni is another endangered Japanese small horse breed. It originates from the island of Yonaguni in Okinawa. The breed was originally used for agricultural work and transportation. Today, it is often used for teaching purposes in local schools and as a recreational horse. As of 2019, there were about 100 Yonaguni left.
6. Icelandic Horse
The sturdy, compact Icelandic horse is about two inches shorter than a typical horse. The Icelandic horse is larger than a pony, but its legs are shorter. These horses are often used to herd sheep, and to control or manage herds of animals. They are resistant to the harshest conditions. This breed of gaited horse has a « tölt » gait, which describes the single-footed gait of the horse. The gait is comfortable for the rider and the horse can carry a person briskly over rough terrain.
Guoxia horses are believed to have originated in China 2000 years ago. The guoxia originates from the Chinese counties of Debao, Jinxi, and Tianyang. The horse is only 40 inches long. Guoxia is a good choice for children. People used to use the ponies to carry baskets of fruit in orchards, hence the name, which means « horse among the fruit trees ». For centuries, the breed was forgotten and thought to be extinct. However, in 1981, a herd of 1,000 Guoxia ponies was found in its original range and a breeding association was formed. Although the breed is still rare today, its population has stabilized.
8. Fjord Horse
The fjord horse is one of the smallest horse breeds in the world. It originated in Norway. The average size of a fjord horse is 54 centimeters, about 6 centimeters less than a typical horse. This breed is used in the mountains and the fields. They often pull tourist carriages. They are gentle and easy to ride and can also be ridden by adults.
9. Kentucky Saddlebred Mountain Horse (Class B)
The Class B Kentucky Mountain Horse is 11 inches shorter than a typical horse. It is a smaller Kentucky mountain saddle horse. Its average height is 49 inches. The horse is popular with beginners, young riders, and older children. The horse is known for its smoothness, gentleness, intelligence, and quietness. Ambling gait. Kentucky mountain horses over 14.2 hands are considered Class A horses.
10. Haflinger Horse
The Haflinger horse originates from the Austrian province of Haflige. The horse is about 5 centimeters shorter than the typical horse; its average height is about 56 centimeters they are intelligent, strong, and beautiful. The Haflinger horse is an excellent family horse that can carry children and adults. They often compete in dressage, show jumping, and western competitions.
11. American Pony
The American Pony is a breed that originated in Iowa in the 1050s from a cross between Arabian, Appaloosa, and Shetland ponies. It is a versatile and beautifully spotted pony. Their most important characteristics are the Appaloosa markings and the required body size of up to 13 hands. Other physical characteristics are their quarter-horse build and Arabian-type face.
12. American Quarter Pony
An American Quarter Pony is a good transition from a pony to the first small horse for young riders who are still growing. It has a similar conformation to an American Quarter Horse but is a breed in its own right. The breed was developed by mixing small quarter horses, paint horses, appaloosas, and American ponies. They grow up to 14 hands and are good all-around ponies. They are small and quiet enough for young riders and beginners, but not so small that they cannot be ridden by adults. These intelligent ponies can be trained very well, so they are also suitable for experienced riders.