There is not an animal much more beloved to mankind than the horse. Used traditionally for travel, as a beast of burden, food and as a companion, few animals have contributed more to our varied history than the horse. In today’s shrinking world, where room is a consideration and the pet aspect of animal keeping is gaining popularity, more and more people are discovering miniature horses. Miniature horses are simply very small horses. They come in the same variety of colors and body types seen in their full size relatives.
A miniature horse can satisfy many of the same needs as that of a full size horse, without the same amount of work, food or space. Their small stature makes them easy to handle, but their strength makes them useful for cart driving. Minis make great pets and companions for children, who do not find them as intimidating as their full size relatives.
Some of the ancestors of our modern minis were bred in Europe as long ago as the 17th century. They were selectively bred to create a small animal that exhibited the characteristics of their Arabian ancestry as well as other breeds that were cross bred. One type was kept as royal pets for the children of the royal courts. Later it is believed that some of the the diminutive descendants of these earlier breeding programs found their way into circuses and farms. Through the centuries and the wars of Europe only a few survived to modern times. The records in the United States start in the 1930’s when the stockier type of minis appear being used to pull the carts of ore out of mines. In Argentina the Falabella family was also actively breeding and cross breeding quality miniature horses from century old bloodlines. American horse breeders imported some of the remaining European stock and Falabella broodstock. These animals became part of some breeding programs that carefully crossed these imported animals with American minis and small horses to produce the American miniature horse. The results of these programs and selectively breed American miniatures comprise today’s quality miniature horses.
In the 1970’s breeders began to unite and establish stud books and registries to track the bloodlines. From these early beginnings registries were formed to keep track of the stud books. There are two main major Registries that handle these stud books for miniature horses a this time are the American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR) in Peoria, Illinois and the American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) in Alvarado, Texas. Both of these registries maintain a separate stud book on miniature horses. The major difference being that the AMHR classified horses in two categories, “A” for animals that measure 34 inches and under at maturity and “B” for those that measure from 34.01 to 38 inches at maturity. The AMHA only handles horses that measure 34 inches and under at maturity.
These registries were formed to track animals based upon their mature size. The adult horses are measured on a flat surface across the withers at the last hair of the mane. After years of keeping records based exclusively on the mature size of animals, regardless of their background, both Registries closed their books. Today only the offspring of documented miniatures are registered and these must meet the adult height requirements.
Today’s minis are exhibited at Fairs and other horse shows all over the country. They can be found as pets and companions and have taken their place in the hearts of everyone who has met them.
- Feed – The type and amount of feed a horse needs varies according to the location as well as the use that the animal is for. A performance animal, one that is being shown or used for riding or pulling has different nutritional requirements than one that is relatively inactive. A lactating mare has different requirements than she does when she is open or bred. Foals require different maintenance than adult animals. The time of year will also determine the needs. A good legume hay such as alfalfa mixed with oat, timothy hay or a good brome will provide the bulk of nutrition needed for the average horse. During certain times, such as lactation, a grain supplement may be helpful. A good 14% grain mixture is available commercially already prepared for horses. This should be fed in moderation based upon the weight and use of the animal. Miniatures are particularly susceptible to overfeeding of grain and generally do not require any at all in the summer months and should be moderated to probably 1 pound or less per day each in the winter.
- Hooves – Hooves should be closely monitored. They should be trimmed as necessary, often every 2 or 3 months.
- Minerals and salts – A trace mineral salt block should be available, free choice at all times.
- Shelter – Horses should be provided with a shelter from the wind and sun. Except in the coldest of areas, these shelters generally do not need to be too elaborate and need not be heated.
- Vaccinations – Generally all areas require vaccinations against tetanus, viral encephalomyelitis, equine herpes virus and influenza. In some areas or depending on circumstances vaccinations may be in order for strangles, rabies and Potomac horse fever according to your veterinarians’ instructions.
- Water – All animals, horses included, must be provided with a continual source of clean, fresh water.
- Worming – Miniature horses should be kept on a regular worming schedule. This can vary according to need, but generally at least 2 times a year.
- Broodmare – An adult female that is used primarily for breeding
- Filly – A young female
- Colt – A young male
- Foal – Newborn horse
- Gelding – A castrated male
- Mare – An adult female
- Stallion – A male horse with complete genitalia