Miniature Horses

The Miniature horse can be used to drive small carts and also kept as a pet or companion to other animals.

by Dani Yokhna
PHOTO: Mark Helm/Flickr

Use: Miniature Horses are used for driving small carts. They are also shown in halter classes, and used for riding by very small children. Many Miniature Horses are simply pets or serve as companions for other animals.

History: The origins of the Miniature Horse lie in Europe. In the 1600s, horses were bred down in size to be pets for the wealthy. Some of these small horses ended up working in Dutch and English coalmines in the 1700s, pulling carts underground. These small mining horses were brought to the U.S. in the 1900s and put to work pulling coal wagons in the Appalachian Mountains. Eventually, Shetland Ponies were bred to these “pit ponies” to create the Miniature Horse we see today. A different type of Miniature Horse called a Falabella was created in Argentina. In a harsh part of the country called the Argentine Pampas, the tiny Falabella was bred to survive in the desert. Measuring no more than 40 inches at the withers, the Falabella looked like a regular-sized horse, in miniature. In 1970, 25 Falabellas were imported to the U.S. and a breeding program started in Pennsylvania. In the U.S., the Miniature Horse became a recognized breed in 1971 by the American Miniature Horse Registry. Since then, another breed registry, the American Miniature Horse Association, also came into being, in 1978. For the Falabella, the Falabella Miniature Horse Association was created in 1973.

Conformation: The American Miniature Horse Association and the American Miniature Horse Registry have different criteria regarding size. The American Miniature Horse Registry has two divisions. In Division A, Minis can be up to 34 inches in height, while in Division B, they can range anywhere from 34 to 38 inches. In the American Miniature Horse Association, Minis must measure 34 inches or less to be registered. Falabella horses registered with the Falabella Miniature Horse Association are 30 to 32.5 inches at the withers. Some are even as small as 23 inches. Although the Falabella has its own registry, it can also be registered and shown with the American Miniature Horse Association and the American Miniature Horse Registry. Miniature Horses with all three registries come in every color seen in full-sized horses, including Appaloosa and pinto patterns. Some also have curly coats.

Special Considerations/Notes: Miniature Horses easily contract laminitis if given food that is too rich or if they are allowed to become overweight.

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