Miniature horses are not just a small horse, nor are they ponies. These diminutive horses normally retain the characteristics and proportions of a horse as well as the temperament. They have the intelligence and disposition of a full size horse yet are small enough that some people keep them as companion animals. In fact, some miniature horses are being trained as service animals for people that need that type of help.
There are more than thirty horse registries for miniature horses and ponies in the world. The requirements set by each one are a little different. Some make the characteristics of the horse a priority and others stress the pony characteristics.
If you are planning on getting involved with one of these organizations be sure that the association’s views of the perfect mini horse are similar to your own.
Characteristics of Miniature Horses
The American Miniature Horse Association states that all horses registered must have the following characteristics:
- Less than 38 inches tall at the withers (8 ½ hands)
- Sound and well balanced
- Head must be in proportion to neck size
- Any coat color is fine
- Any eye color is acceptable
- Must not show signs of dwarfism
There are over 100,000 miniatures registered with the AMHA. They continue to try to breed the smallest horse possible while still maintaining correct conformation.
Additionally, these tiny horses have sweet dispositions and are very intelligent and eager to please. Overall miniature horses get along with dogs, cats, chickens, and just about any other pet you may have. They love children!
Just keep in mind that these small horses have personalities and temperaments like anything else. Some horses may dislike dogs and be cranky around children, although this is not a normal characteristic. This usually occurs when the horse has been abused or mistreated in some way so be sure you know the history of the horse before you buy it.
History of the Miniature Horse
While you may think that the miniature horse is a recent edition to the world, it isn’t. As early as the 1600s tiny horses were being bred as pets for the children of European royalty. In the late 1700s they began to be used as working animals in the coal mines of Wales, helping the miners to haul out the coal.
One hundred years later these small helpers could be found in the American Appalachian coal mines doing the same difficult, and dangerous, job. The owners fell in love with the breed as did nearly everyone who came across them and in 1978 the American Miniature Horse Association was founded to bring a consistency to this interesting breed. The other major registry in the United States for miniature horses is the American Miniature Horse Registry.
Being part of a registry ensures that the breed will continue with its important characteristics intact.
Miniatures Horses as Service Animals
While there are a majority of people that raise miniatures as pets, there are a growing number of people that are training them for use by disabled people as guide, or service animals.
Because horses are intelligent and have a sweet disposition they are naturals in the service animal industry. They do not have the need to interact with humans that dogs do and therefore may be more focused on what they are doing. They are easily trained to be used inside and are small enough to transport in a car, just like a dog, yet are not easily distracted in crowds.
Other benefits of the horse as a guide animal are:
- Few people are allergic to horses so they are a great option for those with allergies to dogs.
- Horses do not get fleas, and they are easy to care for.
- They live longer than other service animals, averaging 30 to 40 years or more.
- Horses possess a natural guide instinct.
- Horses are protective
- They can be housebroken just like a dog.
- They are quiet.
The Guide Horse Foundation is dedicated to providing service animals to those people who are legally blind at a cost that is affordable to them. In some cases this means that the horse is donated. You can read more about this amazing program on their website.
Caring for a Horse
Caring for a mini horse is not much different than taking care of a regular sized horse. They need food, shelter, and fresh water, regular grooming and lots of love.
While these small equines eat less than a normal sized horse
they are still grazing animals. They
will need the opportunity to be on pasture for some part of the day if they are
to continue to be healthy. Since they
are small they make great natural lawn mowers in neighborhoods and subdivisions
that allow them. You will want to
refrain from putting chemicals and pesticides on your lawn if you intend to
allow your horse to graze there. In
addition the horse will need a little grain every day and his water must be
kept clean and fresh. Feeding patterns must be consistent or the possibility for colic exists just like in a larger horse.
The horse will need shelter form the elements. A small shed or barn is perfect. Horses do not have the same agility as a dog therefore a dog house is not a good choice. Even if the horse is small enough to fit inside of it there may not be enough room for it to maneuver back out.
Horses of all sizes shed about twice a year. Daily grooming including cleaning their hooves and brushing is important to keep them happy and healthy. Yearly checkups with the vet and vaccines as recommended with keep your miniature horse in top condition.
A horse of any size is a responsibility. There are miniature horses that are abandoned, abused, and subjected to cruelty just like any other domestic animal. This should not happen.
Think through your desire to have an animal of any type. Be sure that you will be able to care for it properly. It is important that you be able to afford veterinary care as well as the other necessities of equine life.
Owning a miniature horse or even a few mini horses is a dream come true for many people that would not otherwise be able to own a horse because of space and lifestyle limitations.