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    Introduction to Miniature Horses

    Authored by Katie Navarra

    Good things come in small packages, and if you’re looking for a pint-sized horse for your barn, the miniature horse might be the right choice for you. Minis are bred to have the same physical characteristics as full-sized horses but in a scaled down version. Here you can find answers to some of the most common questions about owning a miniature horse. 

    Is a miniature horse a pony

    No. While ponies are shorter than 14.2 hands, miniatures are considered a horse breed. However, most miniature horses have a wide variety of pony breeds like the Shetland or Welsh pony in their lineage. The American Miniature likely descended from small horses used in 19th-century English and Dutch mines. Minis also worked in Appalachian coal mines in the United States until the 1950s.

    Most mature minis are about the size of a large dog. Those registered by the American Miniature Horse Association can stand no taller than 8.5 hands (34 inches). The American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR) recognizes two sizes. Division “A” is for horses up to 34” whereas the Division “B” minis range between 34” to 38”. 

    Miniature horses sport any coat color or marking pattern seen in a full-size horse. 

    How much does a miniature horse weigh?

    According to Michigan State University, the average miniature horse weighs 200 pounds but their weight can range between 150 to 300 pounds depending on their height. 

    Any healthy horse should have a body condition score of 5 or 6. This means you can't easily see the ribs but you can feel them with light finger pressure. Ask your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist for feeding advice based on the horse’s current condition, age, and workload.

    Like full-size horses, minis should eat about 1% of their body weight or 50% of their daily food intake in high-quality hay and/or grass.  

    Grain, if needed, is fed in handful-sized portions—maybe even less than your dog’s meal. A grazing muzzle might also be necessary if the horse is on lush pasture.

    What can I do with a miniature horse?

    Many mini-horse owners keep these pint-sized horses as pets and companions. Their quick-to-please personality makes them a popular choice for any age or level of horse experience. Though too small to carry riders, miniatures can easily pull small carriages and sleighs. 

    If you're interested in showing, deriving and a variety of in-hand classes ranging from conformation to obstacle courses are available at local open and breed-specific shows. AMHR hosts a national championship show each year that brings together more than 1,500 miniature horses from all over the country.

    Miniature horses as service animals

    The mini's gentle temperament and small size also make them a good fit as therapy and/or emotional support animals. They can also undergo training to become service animals. Miniature horse service animals, like their canine counterparts, must meet strict training and certification requirements. They are potty trained, taught to retrieve dropped items, and more. Service horses have a few advantages over service dogs. 

    One is their lifespan. Miniature horses can live into their 20s and 30s, allowing for more time to benefit from the extensive training any service animal needs. Another is their build. A dog’s spine is flexible and not designed to bear extra weight. A horse’s spine is sturdier and can be leaned on if a person needs mobility support, and a mini horse can pull a wheelchair up a ramp.

    Before the United States Department of Transportation changed its policies, a few miniature horses trained as service animals flew alongside their owners on airplanes. 

    How do I care for a miniature horse?

    Miniature horses require much of the same care as full-size horses. An annual physical with the veterinarian, vaccinations, dental care, and regular hoof trimming is necessary. You may need to find a separate farrier or veterinarian as the one for full-sized horses, as not all work on minis.

    Minis are hardy and, like other horses, can thrive outdoors in a paddock that includes shelter from the elements. However, many people choose to make a stall inside their barn. The bonus—a mini stall does not need to be as large--be sure they have enough room to turn around comfortably, lay down, and stand without getting cast against the wall. Don't forget to hang water buckets lower than you would for a full-size horse!

    Everything about minis is smaller—halters, fly masks, sheets, etc.—even their manure. So, look for manure forks with narrower tines better suited to the smaller poop balls, and look for gear made specifically to fit. 

    More horse information

    Shopping for a horse is exciting, especially if you are a beginner. It can also be a little scary. Learn more about what makes the best beginner horse from age and size, to temperament and breed.
    Find out the best horses for showing, no matter what competition you plan to join.