If you are not an equestrian at heart and don’t have the time and space to dedicate to a large horse, miniature horses can make great companion animals. While they look similar to their cousin, the Pony, miniature horses are classed as horses because they are bred to be miniature replicas of full-grown horses. Ponies are stocky, with short legs, thick necks, and fluffy manes and tails. Miniature horses, on the other hand, typically have all the refined features of larger horses.
While these horses are primarily kept as companion animals, they still require a great deal of specific care, similar to that of larger horses, although they do not need as much space or food! In this article, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about owning one of these adorable animals.
Quick Facts About Miniature Horse
Equus ferus caballus
Friendly, gentle, docile, calm
Black, bay, palomino, chocolate, white
Herbivorous: hay, forage, and pasture
Minimum Enclosure Size:
½ to ¼ of an acre
Miniature Horse Overview
The miniature horse is not a new animal — they have been developed for centuries by breeding small horse and pony breeds. They are believed to have originated in Europe in the 1600s and were bred not only for novelty but also to work in jobs like mining, where their small size was ideal.
Miniature horses have an exceptionally long lifespan, often far longer than their full-sized counterparts, and some miniature horses have been known to live for almost 50 years. They also come in far more colors and patterns than full-sized horse breeds, from solid colors to just about any pattern that you can imagine. They are typically highly trainable, even though they are rarely ridden by people other than small children. They are often used as guide or therapy animals.
According to the American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA), to be classified as a true miniature horse, they must measure shorter than 34 inches, around 3 feet at their withers (the point where their mane ends). The smallest miniature horse on record stood just 17.5 inches tall!
How Much Do Miniature Horses Cost?
The cost of a miniature horse can vary widely, depending on availability in your area and the pedigree of the horse. The cost of a miniature horse is based largely upon their conformation, size, breed, and the show record of the parents. You may be able to pick up an adult miniature horse looking for a home for $300-$400, but prices typically range from $1,000 to $200,000 for show-quality animals. This is, of course, not including initial setup costs, annual feeding, farrier costs, medical needs, and housing.
Typical Behavior & Temperament
Miniature horses are friendly, gentle, playful, docile, social, and curious in general, making them ideal companion pets. They are known to be intelligent animals that learn quickly and are obedient and easygoing. However, all miniature horses are individuals, and some have the “quirks” of their large counterparts, such as nipping, defiance, and being stubborn and independently minded.
Many people assume that miniature horses are more horse-like in temperament, but most are far more friendly, gentle, and easy to handle. They love to spend time around humans and crave social interaction and company, even from other animals and strangers.
Appearance & Varieties
Due to their mixed heritage, miniature horses can vary widely in appearance. They come in almost any color and pattern variety that you can imagine, and they weigh around 150-250 pounds when fully grown. According to the AMHA, they should reach no more than 34 inches in height. The American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR) on the other hand, recognizes two separate divisions of miniature horses. The “A” division horses are 34 inches or less, while the “B” division allows for slightly bigger variations: 34-38 inches and up to 50 pounds in weight.
In general, the miniature horse is bred mainly as a “stock” variety or a “refined” type. Stock-type horses are more pony-like in their appearance, with stocky bodies, a broad chest, and short, muscular legs. The refined miniature horse has a slimmer body with finer, longer-looking legs, a delicate muzzle, and a dish-shaped face that dips inward below their forehead, along with slightly larger eyes.
How to Take Care of Miniature Horses
Miniature horses need the same care as regular horses, just on a far smaller scale! While this does make them easier to home, they still need a ton of dedication and special care.
Basic housing requirements
In general, you’ll need at least an acre of land for your miniature horse to have adequate space to play, exercise, and forage in. This should be a fenced-in area that keeps them safe from predators, with plenty of grazing and foraging space. Of course, if you own more than one horse or the space is shared with other animals, it will need to be bigger.
Besides grazing space, you’ll also need a comfortable barn for your horse to live in. Some mini horse owners keep these animals as guide or therapy animals and often keep them indoors, but for most, a small barn or stall is ideal. You can order prefabricated barns that are quick and easy to erect, or build your own for a relatively low cost. A three-sided stall is ideal because it has enough airflow to keep your horse healthy and cool, and the walls should be nice and short for your horse to be able to see over.
Do Miniature Horses Get Along With Other Pets?
In general, miniature horses get along great with other horses, dogs, cats, and livestock. Dogs can make especially good friends for minis, particularly if they have grown up together, and cats will even become fast friends with your horse. Goats and sheep are generally highly fond of minis, to the point where they see them as one of their own and become protective! Both horses and other minis and even donkeys are all great companions too.
If you are introducing your new miniature horse to other animals at home, the most important step is to take it slow. While these animals are generally friendly and docile, they can be skittish and easily scared by animals that they are not familiar with. Keep them in their barn and gradually bring each animal to meet them individually to avoid overwhelming them, especially boisterous dogs. Within a few weeks, they should all be one happy family!
What to Feed Your Miniature Horse
Feeding a miniature horse is the same as feeding a regular horse, just on a smaller scale. Like all horses, they should be fed on a diet of grass, forage, hay, and rolled oats or other grains occasionally. Remember that due to their small size, it’s easy to overfeed them, so be sure to stick to recommended guidelines to avoid them getting overweight. As a general rule, 2-4 pounds of forage per day for a 200-pound horse is ideal.
They should get a large portion of their diet from grazing grass and other plants. Commercial horse feeds include a mixture of grains pressed into a pellet form, and while these are great, be sure to select the correct mix for your horse and not overfeed them.
Keeping Your Miniature Horse Healthy
With plenty of room to forage, run, and exercise, along with a healthy well-balanced diet, miniature horses are healthy animals that have long lifespans, as much as three times longer than regular horses. There are health issues to look out for, however, including dwarfism mutations, which can lead to several health complications, and obesity. In general, miniature horses are fairly prone to getting overweight, but this is likely due to lack of exercise and owners overfeeding them.
These horses require regular grooming, just as larger horses do. Of course, there is less surface area to cover, making the job easier! They’ll need a daily brush, and you’ll need a farrier who ideally specializes in mini horses to maintain your horse’s hooves.
Breeding Mini Horses
Females are usually only bred at around 3 years old, but some are bred younger, at around 2 years. Overall, this depends on the breed, and some breeders even wait up to 4 years to make sure the female is adequately developed and ready for birthing. Stallions, on the other hand, are usually ready at around 2-3 years old, once their testicles have descended into their scrotum.
A typical heat cycle for a mare is 5-7 days every 21 days, but this can vary between individual females. Females are usually pregnant for between 310 and 360 days, and the foal is usually born rapidly once labor begins if there are no complications, typically within 10 minutes of the start of pushing. Most mares will foal for between 10-12 months.
Are Miniature Horses Suitable for You?
For owners with limited space, a miniature horse is an ideal alternative to a full-sized horse. They are typically easy to train, are highly friendly, and are easier to care for than large horses. Still, they need just as much care as full-grown horses, and due to their long lifespans, they are a large responsibility to undertake. They make great companion animals for children, families, and even other farm animals, and they are generally sweet and friendly toward everyone they meet.
If you are fond of horses but do not have the space to house a full-size horse, a miniature horse may be a perfect alternative.
Featured Image Credit: marksbunker, Pixabay