What is a mini? Miniature horses are simply that—small versions of regular-sized horses, the result of centuries of selective breeding.
First developed in Europe in the 1600s, they were bred for many reasons, including for financial gain, driving and other work, competition, exhibition, research, and novelty. By 1765 they were frequently the pets of nobility.
The English began using small ponies after the Mines and Collieries Act of 1842 prohibited the use of young children as mine workers. Shetland ponies were used most frequently as pit ponies, although other equines small enough to fit into the mineshafts were also used. Thus minis were brought to the United States in the
nineteenth century for the same purpose. Also called mini-horses, miniature horses are generally bred to be friendly and to interact well with people. For this reason they are often kept as family pets, though they still retain natural horse behavior, including a natural fight or flight instinct, and must be treated as equines, even if they primarily serve as companion animals. They are also trained as service animals, akin to assistance dogs.
Horses, ponies, and minis display the same coat colors and patterns. Miniature horses are typically 38 inches tall or less. Some registries draw the line at 34 or 36 inches. Ponies are 58 inches or less, and horses are 58 inches and taller. So minis are technically ponies, though other pony types tend to be stocky, thick haired and strong-willed. If there were no size reference, the miniature horse might give the illusion of being a full-sized horse. The average life span of a miniature horse is 25 to 30 years. When born, miniature horses are generally anywhere from 15 to 22 inches tall. Miniature horses grow to approximately 90% of their adult height by the time that they are a year old. Depending on their size, adult miniature horses typically weigh anywhere from 150 to 300 pounds. They can also
pull up to four times their weight and run up to 45 miles per hour! Minis are hearty and easy to house and care for. But because of past inbreeding and their small stature, minis have some widespread health challenges, including obesity. Dwarfism is prevalent among minis and is often accompanied by significant health
While most of the miniature horses in our program are not registered, some who have entered our program may have been registered somewhere along their journey to us.
Just like a big horse, miniature horses can bite. Part of the training for all horses in our programs receive, regardless of the role they play, is basic good ground manners. That being said, they are still animals and can be unpredictable. Horses nibble each other when they are grooming, playing, or showing affection, so a mini could try to also nibble a
human to show they like you, but our goal is to teach them that this behavior is ok between horses, but not for humans.
Horses have different personalities: some are more playful than others, some are more laid back. At our barn, Major is a silly horse and will play with whatever he can find and turn into a toy - balls, sticks. water hoses, etc. Kizz, meanwhile, loves to jump. We have some horses that are able to pull carts and enjoy walking in parades.
Minis can generally tolerate the weight of small children. However, the minis in our program are not ridden. They are better suited to pulling carts and being equine ambassadors.