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Miniature Horse vs. Pony: What's the Difference?

Updated on February 18, 2016
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Holle is a retired English and creative writing teacher. She is a professional freelance writer and contributes to Horseman Magazine.

Snickers, our miniature horse. Miniature horses are small but built in proportion to themselves. They are slimmer than ponies.
Snickers, our miniature horse. Miniature horses are small but built in proportion to themselves. They are slimmer than ponies.
A pony. See the difference? Ponies are small horses but they are built differently, with thicker bodies and necks than miniature horses.
A pony. See the difference? Ponies are small horses but they are built differently, with thicker bodies and necks than miniature horses.

Miniature horses are pint-size equine. Developed in Europe all the way back in the 1600s, they weren't designated as a distinct breed of horse in the U.S. until 1978. Ponies, on the other hand, are small horses and there are many different breeds. People often get the two confused, or think that they’re synonymous. While the two do share many characteristics, of course, they’re entirely different types of equine.

To read more about horses, ponies, and training tips, click on the article links below:

Ponies

Many horse experts will tell you that any full grown equine that measures under 14.2 hands at the withers is classified as a pony. This isn’t always the case, however. A pony is typically considered any equine under 58 inches tall when it reaches adult height, but a pony also has other distinctive characteristics other than just its small size.

For example, most pony breeds have thick, broad bodies and thick necks. Their legs are proportionately shorter for their body than a horse's. Some pony breeds also have broad heads, especially through the forehead, and larger eyes. Some ponies also have large hooves for their size.

Miniature Horses

On the other hand, miniature horses are even smaller than most pony breeds. Most registries won’t allow membership to a mini that’s taller than 34 inches when full grown. There are miniature horses, however, as tall as 38 inches.

A miniature horse is also built differently than a pony. Ideally, a mini is a scaled-down version of a horse, with a slimmer build than a pony, and longer legs for its size. The head is also in proportion to the body, as are the feet. Also, a miniature horse does not have the heavy bones often associated with pony breeds. In essence, a miniature horse is usually more refined than a typical pony. A mini is longer-lived than most ponies, too. They have an average life span of 25-35 years.

What can you do with a miniature horse? Lots of things! They pull carts and sleds, they make pets and companion animals, and they’re used as guides for the blind. Small children can ride them, and there’s special tiny tack made just for the minis. As a matter of fact, I just bought one for my granddaughter’s sixth birthday. As I watched her riding “Snickers” around the back yard today, I realized she’ll outgrow him soon. But that’s okay. She has a little sister who can “inherit” him after Lexi moves on to a bigger pony or horse.

Snickers is our first miniature horse. We’ve had lots of horses and ponies, but never a mini. I was impressed by his conformation. His little legs are perfectly straight and balanced and he doesn’t have the “potbelly” that a lot of ponies seem to sport. I was amazed at how small his hooves were. He also seems to be calmer than most Shetland ponies I’ve known. He hadn’t been ridden or handled in months, yet he didn’t offer to buck when numerous kids at a recent birthday party took turns riding him. He’s definitely the smallest equine I’ve ever owned. In fact, he isn’t much larger than some of my Great Danes!

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    • profile image

      jasmine 7 years ago

      they are so cute

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for reading, Jasmine!

    • profile image

      jasmine 7 years ago

      im here again i cant stay away

      they are just too cute

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Jasmine, you're welcome anytime!!

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California

      Aha, I see the difference! Thanks for the insight! I had no idea :)

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      You're welcome, GV!

    • rocknrodeogirl profile image

      rocknrodeogirl 7 years ago from The Columbia Gorge

      My friends had mini's (very awkward trying to put halters on and a little saddle once for birthday rides) and now they are showing shetlands. I usually call them all ponies and offend people, oops! ;)

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Lol, I don't think anyone would be offended!

    • myawn profile image

      myawn 6 years ago from Florida

      A pretty mini so amazing! LOve the photos.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for reading, Myawn!

    • PaperNotes profile image

      PaperNotes 6 years ago

      Wow, horses (all types of them big and small) are just so amazing creatures! Thanks for sharing with us those photos of lovely animals.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      You're very welcome!

    • profile image

      Cody McArthur 6 years ago

      I love the little guys! I've trained horses pofessionally for 20 years and most of my peers think I am nuts, but when I see the little fellas I cant keep my hands off of them!

    • flinsura profile image

      flinsura 6 years ago

      I love to ride a horse and experience riding a pony.. Great Hub!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Cody, they're adorable!

      Flinsura, thanks a bunch!

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 6 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Excellent hub. I was wondering if they mini-horses didn't have a better and more compliant nature than the tough pony breeds like the Shetlands.

      Thanks for writing!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Silver, from my experience, minis are calmer than Shetlands!

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      kaytee 6 years ago

      which one could a 3 year old get the most use of? you said your grand daughter is going to out grow snickers soon would it be the same time frame as a pony? just wondering because my daughter is 3 and i am expecting twins and want the best horse for all of them. omg the pictures are so cute and i just want to give them hugs!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 6 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Kaytee! Minis are really small, so I think a pony would be a better investment. If you get a Welsh, POA, or Quarter pony, your daughter won't outgrow it so quickly. She'll be able to enjoy it for years!

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      Katie 5 years ago

      I have a mini that is 37 or 38 inches tall and one that is between 34-36. What are their essential needs.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

      Barbara Anne Helberg 5 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      This is a great read and very informative! Thanks for sharing your life with horses and ponies.

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 3 years ago from Central North Carolina

      I have an awesome little 19" mini who was the kind of the stable. He inspired me to write The Book of Miniature Horses. I think the biggest challenge to owning them is feeding them - we tent to overfeed. We had to divide Domino's little pasture and rotate him from one side to the other so he didn't pig out on the grass. They are great fun.

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      Cheryl Nunez 2 years ago from AZ

      I would like to make one correction: miniatures are NOT fairly new. They also go back hundreds of years and were often gifts from royalty to royalty. Falabellas date back several hundred years. My first stallion was from Argentina; we could trace his lineage to Andalusians. My current stallion traces the beginning of his line to a mare foaled in 1806. She was an OLDENBURG! She was at the original Oldenburg (Germany) stud, from a foundation line. The sire was a Falabella of Andalusian descent - so even older a line. This mating created a new and very distinct line of miniatures with a longer leg and sleek body. My own direct descendent is 33" tall; if you sat on the ground and took a photo, he would appear to be a large, tall Warmblood.

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      chandler 2 years ago

      I love ponies!!!

    • norlawrence profile image

      Norma Lawrence 11 months ago from California

      Very good article. You put a lot into it. The information was great

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      StarbuksGSD 8 months ago

      Now I know, thanks for the article

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