Imagine a horse smaller than a full-grown Great Dane. At first they were considered as a novelty pet for royalty or the royally rich. But the miniature horse breeds have caught on in many countries, especially in America.
They have spawned a loyal following devoted to horses that most owners would never be able to ride. This is although some are strong enough to carry very small children, pull small carts or carry small packs. Despite their small size, they need the care and training methods for a regular-sized horse.
History and Origins
Not much is known about the history of miniature horses. However, the earliest known ancestor of the domestic horse is eohippus (also called hyracotherium). It was a mere two and a half feet (or 78 cm) long and weighed about 20 pounds. Even the smallest miniature horse of today is much longer, taller and weighs about 200 pounds.
- Miniature horses have been painted and written about in England and America since 1765. The first recorded intensive breeding program of miniature horses was in the 1800s in Argentina by the Falabella family. They created the first recognized miniature horse breed, the Falabella.
- Other miniature horse breeds include the Miniature Horse (bred in America).
- There are also the Australian Miniature Horse and the South African Miniature Horse. The Miniature Horse is the most popular of the miniature horse breeds while the others are rare.
Miniature horse breeds are large horses in small packages. They have the same nature and same problems that horses and ponies of any size have. Although it may be tempting to keep them in the house, resist the temptation.
Horses cannot be house trained and will greatly damage rooms and objects. They are most comfortable outdoors, in a barn or pasture with other horses.
Physical Characteristics of Miniature Horse Breeds
Miniature horses are just that – a normal-sized horse in miniature. Their body proportions are that of a horse and not a pony. Although most miniature horse breeds do have ponies in their ancestry (especially Shetlands) they ideally should not have the short legs and thick bodies of ponies. They also should not be dwarfs, which suffer from tremendous health problems. Dwarfism does run in many horse and pony breeds including all miniature horse breeds. Since dwarfism is genetic, any dwarf horse should never be bred.
- Miniature horses come in all colors that horses or ponies can come in.
- They tend to have thick manes and tails.
- They average 7 to 8 hands high. This is about 35 inches (or 90 cm) tall at the withers.
- The smallest are 6 hands or about 22 inches (55.9 cm) high.
- They average 400 to 500 pounds.
Miniature Horse Breed Temperament
Miniature horse breeds act as if they are the largest horses in the world. They interact with other horses and ponies in the same way more conventional-sized equines would. They need to be treated with the same care and respect as with a larger horse or pony.
Miniature horses undeservedly have a reputation of having mean or dangerous habits. But these habits are not the fault of the horse. Very small, cute young miniature horses charm some people into letting them get away with bad behavior like rearing or nipping that would never be tolerated with a larger and stronger horse. Miniature horses can be trained to stop bad habits.
Having a Miniature Horse Breed
Keeping miniature horse breeds is just as expensive as keeping regular sized horse breeds. There may be some savings in food costs since miniature horses do not eat as much as regular-sized horse. However, miniature horses still need vet care, blacksmith visits and equipment that costs the same as for bigger horses. Owners who wish to show their animals will also incur expenses for show fees, registration fees and transportation costs.
The Horse magazine calculated the average cost of expenses for horse owners. With all of the expenses, horse owners can expect to pay an average of $5,000 a year. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Boarding: Miniature horses must live outside of a house like regular sized horses. They need to live in a barn or at least a pasture with a lean-to shelter. Boarding costs increases with how many services are included in the price. This can vary from $400 to $5,000 a year.
- Bedding: Which may or may not be included in boarding prices averages $1,100 annually.
- Hay: Unless they are breeding, miniature horses usually do well on a hay and pasture only diet. Hay prices depend on how good the hay crop was that year. But expect to pay $500 per year.
- Veterinary: All horses need a check-up, worming prevention medication, vaccinations and tooth floations. Basic vet care costs about $500.
- Blacksmith: All horses need their hooves trimmed or shoes replaced every six weeks. This costs about $720 per year.
- Equipment: This is everything from show fees to new brushes or halters. Expect to pay about $1,000 per year.
- Emergency Fund: The Horse’s editors recommend that all horse owners have a bank account of at least $2,000 to cover emergencies. These can be accidents, repairing fences or other unexpected, but expensive problems.
The horses themselves can cost many thousands of dollars. Adopting a mini is an option. But adoption fees can cost up to $500. This may or may not include transportation to the new home, gelding or basic vet care.
Common Uses for Miniature Horse Breeds
There are not as many uses for miniature horse breeds as for larger horse breeds. But each animal is still an important individual with unique talents and abilities.
- Many are trained for showing in classes such as conformation, pulling carriages or jumping (without a rider, but are lead over jumps by their owners or handlers.)
- The strongest can carry very young children.
- Some also work as therapy animals for an individual handicapped person that for some reason cannot use a dog or visits hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up the patients.
- Some learn tricks to be in the movies or television.
- Others wind up being very important companions for larger horses.
- Horses need companionship to be stress-free but having two full-sized horses on a small acreage may not be possible. Many become cherished pets.
The miniature horse breeds are delightful. But they are still horses. However, based on the above you should enjoy your time with the tiny horse you adopted, in a carefree manner.
Do you have a miniature horse? Share your experience with us!