What is a miniature horse?
The miniature is the result of many years of selective breeding, to produce a horse which as the name suggests, is a scaled down version of the large horse. The miniature is a height breed, and measured to the last hairs of the mane, must not exceed 34" for registration in the AMHA, and 38" for the AMHR (see "Registries" below). The goal is to produce horses that when viewed in a picture with nothing beside them for height comparison, properly groomed and clipped look no different than standard sized horses. Today's miniature horse is a wonderful choice as a companion animal, or for showing, breeding, or driving. There are several body types, from stocky to very refined, and with every conceivable coat colour and pattern, there is something to please everyone.
Who owns miniature horses?
Miniatures have grown tremendously in popularity in recent years. Owners come from all walks of life, and are of all ages. One only needs to attend a show, to see what a variety of people are involved. They are popular with seniors who wish to enjoy the benefits of horse ownership, but without the amount of work a large horse requires. Children, people with disabilities, and those who have been afraid of horses, often respond well to the miniature, whose size, and generally calm temperament, can sometimes make them much less intimidating than large horses. Many miniature owners (including ourselves) are also current or previous owners of large horses, who have simply discovered the charm and versatility of these wonderful little horses.
What can you do with a miniature?
Miniatures make wonderful companion animals. They can be shown in a variety of classes, from halter to driving, and performance. A properly trained and conditioned miniature has the strength and stamina to pull a cart with the weight of two adults, quite some distance. (the larger miniatures are a better choice for driving) Larger miniatures can be ridden, but only by the very smallest children, usually up to about 40 lbs. At this size, most children do not know how to ride and if necessary, correct a horse. For this reason, we usually recommend that people looking for a riding animal, consider a well schooled pony instead, which will hold a bigger child, and suit them for a while as they grow.
The two most widely recognized registries are the AMHA (American Miniature Horse Association) and the AMHR (American Miniature Horse Registry. The AMHA registers horses up to 34" in height. The AMHR registers horses to a maximum of 38", in two divisions. Animals in division A must not exceed 34" in height, while division B includes horses between 34 - 38". The links to both registries are on our links page.
Care and housing
The care of a miniature is not much different from that of a large horse, except that the feed and space requirements are proportionately less. They still require grooming, regular vet care and attention to their feet. However because of their size, it is normally much less work to care for a miniature, than a large horse. For this reason, many retired people find that it is still possible to enjoy horse ownership, when caring for a large equine would prove too difficult. An area that is snug, waterproof, and where the horse can get completely out of the wind and weather is needed, however this can be a run in shed, to which the animal has access when it chooses. If you prefer to have a stall in a shed or barn, ensure that it is well ventilated, but draft proof, free from nails, wire or other dangers, and that there is nowhere that a head or legs can become trapped. Also make sure that the door is equipped with a good strong latch! The floor should be bedded, and manure and wet bedding removed daily. A thorough clean out can be done less frequently. A manger or wall rack for hay is handy, but not necessary. Some owners prefer to place the hay directly on the floor, feeling that this more closely resembles the natural way in which a horse feeds. Access to fresh water at all times is essential, and in winter, you must either provide fresh water more than once daily, or use a heated bucket to keep the water free of ice. ( a trough with a de-icer can be used for several animals) The horse should have daily turnout into a well fenced paddock or field. Miniatures grow very dense coats, and can still be turned out in most weather. They should have access to an area of shade in hot weather, and a covered area in case of high wind or inclement weather. Most will still be out much of the time, if the choice is left to them. Our horses are shut in only in the very worst weather. (freezing rain, extreme cold or wind, or very heavy rain) Most of the time they are free to decide whether they are in or out. Mares with young foals are brought inside at night and if the weather is bad.
Feeding your miniature
Feed requirements of the miniature horse, while smaller than those of a large horse, are still important. You can expect a miniature to eat approximately one fifth the amount of the average large horse. Good quality hay free from dust and mould, should be provided in a minimum of two equal feedings per day. Horses need to have continual movement of food through their digestive systems, therefore one large feeding is not beneficial. Small amounts of a good grain ration (also split into two equal feeds) are needed, and can be increased or decreased according to activity, weight and age. Breeding stallions, lactating mares, and growing foals, as well as horses in heavy work or training, have bigger requirements than a pet or a horse just out on pasture. You must judge the overall condition of your horse, to determine whether it needs more or less grain. If you can not feel ribs and spine, your horse may be too fat. If you are able to feel them very easily, or they are easily seen when just looking at the animal, it may be too thin. Some horses are "easy keepers" and others are not, and it is best to consult your veterinarian if unsure how to judge body condition. Horses that are very overweight, can become "foundered". This is a condition (laminitis) in which the laminae of the hoof become inflamed, and separate from the hoof wall. It is painful, and can permanently cripple the horse. It can also be caused by a horse being turned out onto lush green pasture when it has not been accustomed to it (for this reason "grass founder" is common in spring) , by drinking cold water when hot from work, by a sudden change in feed, spoiled feed or a large amount of grain. Changes in the diet should be made gradually, and large amounts of grain avoided. Grain should always be stored in a horse and rodent proof container (don't underestimate the ability of a determined horse!) in a room or building that the horse can not get into. Never allow access to feeds intended for other animals, as some may contain ingredients which can harm a horse. Treats are fine in moderation, and carrots are one of the best. They aid in digestion and can be given as frequently as desired. Some horses become nippy when treats are constantly given from the hand. They can be placed in a feed pan or bucket, and horses should be taught that it is never acceptable to "grab" treats from your hand. Salt should always be available, and a good mineral formulated for horses is necessary, whether you use free choice, or a top dress for the feed. Your vet or feed store can help you choose the right one.
Vet care, worming, and care of the feet
Vet care unfortunately is normally the same cost as for a large horse. Find a good large animal vet in your area, and decide together, which vaccines are in order for your horse. A horse that is taken to shows, or will be coming into contact with other horses will need more protection than a horse that never leaves your farm. There are some things it is still a good idea to vaccinate for, even for the horse that stays at home. These include tetanus and rabies. An annual examination should be carried out, and any dental care required can also be done at this time. Worming is a simple procedure but needs to be done regularly, as parasites rob the horse of nutrients. In severe infestations they can make a horse very sick, and damage internal organs. Horses that have worms often have a pot belly, and dull dry coats, and may have little weight on them despite the fact they have large tummys. In fact some people mistakenly think the horse is overweight and cut back on feed, which just makes things worse. Worming should be done every eight weeks, beginning a few weeks after the onset of the fly season in your area, with the last dose being given after a good hard frost. There are different wormers available through your veterinarian or feed store. Read the label to find the dosage and what parasites they are effective on. There is a product on the market called "Quest" and while we personally have never used it, MANY miniature owners have reported that while it may be safe for full sized horses, it can be dangerous, even fatal when used on miniatures. This is possibly due to a very narrow margin of error. For this reason, we suggest the use of alternate products. Feet should be picked out regularly, and a good farrier must be located for regular trimmings. Four little feet have to take the weight of the entire horse, and if they are neglected, overgrown, or trimmed badly with the angle of the foot being changed, the horse will suffer. It can cause lameness, and stress on the joints, and may cause permanent damage. Most horses will need trimming approximately every 8 weeks, depending on how much your horse wears down on it's terrain, and how fast they grow. Each horse will be different, but every 8 weeks is a good guideline.
Here are a few basics you will need:
A well fitting strong halter and at least two lead ropes. If you purchase a halter for a young horse, monitor as the animal grows, and replace with a bigger one as needed. They should not be too tight, nor too loose. (it is best not to leave halters on when the horse is in it's stall, or it's paddock, as they can catch on things and injure or strangle the horse.)
Grooming equipment. A hoof pick (two or more is a good idea as these tend to go missing) a mane/tail comb, dandy brush, curry comb, body brush, hoof brush, a very soft brush for use on the face, and a sponge, are the basic grooming kit.
Blanket. Not a necessity, unless your horse is clipped, but having one on hand is nice if your horse becomes ill. The people at your tack store will tell you how to measure your horse so that you get a well fitting blanket. There are many types of blankets, so be sure to discuss what it will be used for.
Buckets and feed pans. You will need at least one of each of these, for water and grain. They should be made specifically for horses, and fastened so that the horse can easily reach them, but not flip or tip them. They should be cleaned frequently, especially water buckets scrubbed regularly in warm weather, as the slime which grows on the inside can harbour bacteria. An extra bucket or two is nice, so that you can carry grain and water without unfastening the ones in the stall or shed. A good secure ring in the wall, with a snap will make it easy to remove the buckets and pans when necessary. Check buckets and pans daily, as horses sometimes drop manure in them, and on occasion you may find a dead mouse in the water bucket. Scrub it out thoroughly if either of these things happen.
Water trough or a second large bucket for each paddock or field is necessary for a horse/horses that once outside do not have access to the one in their stall.
Thermometer and first aid kit. Good to have on hand, along with the phone number of the vet.
Other than these items, the things you need will be decided by what you wish to do with your miniature. Harnesses, show equipment, and other items may be purchased or ordered through tack shops, catalogue supply or online stores. There are some that specialize in miniature equipment.
This page is intended only to provide a bit of basic information, if you have any other questions, please feel free to email us at
For lots of good information visit Lil Beginnings
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