PHOTO: Pete Markham/Flickr
October 21, 2015

Although some hobby farms may be impressively large, many are smaller with only a few acres. Space is at a premium if we want to grow vegetables and a few fruit trees, keep a few chickens and perhaps some rabbits for eggs and meat, and have places to store our feed, tools and equipment. Having a few bee hives or a dairy goat to add to food self-sufficiency may also be on the bucket list, so every square yard on a small farm counts.

This is one of the many reasons why a miniature horse is an excellent animal for the hobby farm. They take up considerably less space—up to three miniature horses can live comfortably on 1 acre—and they’re less costly to feed a full-sized horse.

Why Get A Mini Horse

Three miniature horses can be kept on about an acre of land.
Traci Wilmoth

Miniature horses are an excellent choice for the owner who loves horses but doesn’t have much experience with them. Although a miniature horse is a horse and exhibits all the same behaviors—including kicking and biting, if the situation arises—it is on a much smaller, thus safer, scale. For those who are nervous or new to equines, a mini is a great place to start. They’re also ideal for those who have perhaps spent many years caring for horses but are no longer able to handle a full-sized horse. And of course, a miniature horse is ideal for someone who is short on space.

Care And Expense Of Miniature Horses

Minis have multiple uses around the farm, including as lawnmowers.
Bob McInnes/Flickr

Miniature horses are less expensive to keep than their larger relatives because they eat much less. For example, on our farm where we have three minis, I only have to buy a bag of miniature horse feed once a month. In addition, they eat much less hay.

However, there are some areas of care where the expense of keeping a miniature horse will be about the same as their full-sized counterparts:

  • Farrier: Minis do need to see a farrier, and most farriers will charge the same amount no matter the size of the horse. Depending on how fast your horse’s feet grow, the farrier will need to come out every six to eight weeks.
  • Vaccinations: You’ll need to have your mini horse vaccinated once per year.
  • Shelter: While miniature horses are hardy and grow thick winter coats, making them ideal animals to keep in cooler climates, they need a good fence and shelter. I’d strongly recommend putting them in an enclosed barn at night, as they’re small enough that predators could be a concern.
  • Grooming and tack supplies: You’ll need to keep on hand a curry comb, halter and lead, but these are not usually very expensive.

The price of the mini itself is usually considerably less than a full-sized horse, but that will depend largely on your area and the horse you purchase. As can be expected, a pedigreed show horse from a desirable line will carry a much higher price tag, while a grade horse could be purchased for a couple hundred dollars. We purchased my two grade mares at 6 months old for $300. It s important, however, to get a good, healthy horse with good conformation. A horse with poor breeding may be cheap to bring home, but it will be expensive to treat later on.

A Mini’s Place On Your Farm

It’s true that a miniature horse is not going to plow a field or carry a rider on a trail. It’s wise to consider how it will give back to your homestead before bringing it to your small acreage, but rest assured, there’s plenty of ways a mini can contribute to your farm. Here are a few ideas.

Driving

Although you can't ride a miniature horse, you can train it to drive.
Allen Sheffiend/Flickr

Miniature horses can be trained to drive. Although most minis can only carry about 50 pounds on their backs, they can pull three to five times their weight, depending on the horse’s condition. You could ride around your homestead in style with your miniature steed pulling a small cart, or let the horse help you carry some supply loads.

Companion Animals

Miniature horses are remarkable companions and can be taught many tricks. Grab a few Christmas tree stands and some PVC pipe to create small jumps for your mini. What a wonderful opportunity to get in some exercise as you trot with your little horse up to the jumps. We often take our horses for walks down to the garden, and our horse Tucker is quite good at following at my side. I have found I get much more exercise since we purchased the miniature horses because it is impossible to stay away from them.

Fertilizer Source

A mini can provide good fertilizer from the manure. We clean out the stall each day and compost the manure and bedding for the vegetable and spice garden. Horse manure is high in fiber, though not as nutrient rich as chicken manure. Let the manure compost to lessen the chance of weed seeds.

Lawn Mower

While it can be difficult to get a nice even cut on the lawn, a miniature horse will work to keep the grass shorter.

Teaching Horse

Young children can practice horse care with a mini horse suited to their size.
Caitlin Hunter/Flickr

Owning a miniature is an excellent way to teach small children about horse care. Most minis enjoy being groomed.

Therapy Animal

A popular quote states, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” This is just as true for minis as their full-sized counterparts. In fact, minis are often used as therapy animals or even service animals for the blind due to their intelligence.

There is no greater benefit to owning a miniature horse than the happiness they bring. Mini enthusiasts joke the little horses are like potato chips: You cannot have just one. Each horse has a different personality. In our barn, Ivy is the curious klutz who is always getting into trouble. Holly is the little diva who loves to receive pets and hugs—she will follow us around the pasture, begging for attention. Tucker is the solemn, little professional man, who all but salutes us when we put on his halter. It is such a joy to get to know your own horses and watch them become a part of the family. The advantage of the mini is it is all the fun of a large horse, in a small enough space to be perfect for any farm or homestead.



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