Tuesday, February 3, 2015


One time Mom was at Petsmart, where the DivaPets group was trying to get some kitties adopted, and she was shocked to see a woman walking through the store, leading a horse.  This was not a big horse.  It was what you call a miniature horse, and it was really about the same size as a Great Dane, which is a kind of dog Mom sees all the time at Petsmart.  I wish I had been there to see the horse walking around in the store, because I think that would have been pretty cool.

How small does a horse have to be before it is "miniature"?  Well, it has to be 34"--38" or less in height.  The measurement is taken at the withers, which is defined as the last hair of the mane.  This means that a miniature horse is about the size of a very small pony, but there's a difference.  Miniature horses have to have the well-balanced proportions of a regular-sized horse.  If you see a picture of a mini, and there is no size reference, you should not be able to tell that it is a miniature.

In Europe, where miniature horses were first developed in the 1600s, they often served as pets for nobility.  However, the horses also worked in coal mines, just like ponies did.  The small horses
were first brought to the U.S. in the 19th century, mainly for use in Appalachian coal mines.  They were bred with Shetland Ponies, as well as with English and Dutch mine horses.


Gradually, the public became aware of miniature horses, and by the 1960s, minis began appearing in a number of equestrian competitions, and as companion animals.  In 1972, the American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR) was established as a division of the Shetland Pony Club.  Six years later, the American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) was founded, establishing the miniature horse as a distinct breed.

Miniature horses can have any coat color, eye color, and any type of white markings.  They are intelligent, eager, and friendly, and they should not be skittish.  On average, miniatures live longer than full-sized horses.  It's easy for people to overfeed them if they are not used to having smaller horses  So obesity is somewhat common, but of course it's not good for the horses.  Minis can also have dental problems caused by overcrowding of teeth, and by underbites and overbites.  This is true of chihuahuas, too, so I can empathize!

Wikipedia -- agriflanders - DSC_6049
There are many types of competitions that you can enter with your miniature horse.  These include conformation, in-hand hunter and jumper, driving, costume, obstacle (sort of like agility for horses), and showmanship.

This little horse named Koda had such bad dwarfism that he required
several surgeries on his legs and mouth.
Some miniature horses are born with the condition of dwarfism, which tends to cause lots of health problems.  Dwarf horses can set records for their small size, but their poor conformation and their health issues mean that the AMHA and AMHR avoid registering them.

Right now, the world's smallest horse is Thumbelina, who is only 17 inches tall and weighs 60 pounds.  She has gotten a lot of publicity, but her owners say they will not breed her because of her dwarfism.

Einstein weighed 6 pounds at birth, and was 14" tall
In 2010, a mini horse foal named Einstein was born weighing just 6 pounds.  He has challenged Thumbelina for the title of World's Smallest Horse because people think there should be a separate category for the smallest non-dwarf horse.

Guide Horse Scout in the Cincinnati Airport
Many service horses wear fabric shoes for traction on slick floors.
Also, real horseshoes would set off metal detectors.
Photo:  DanDee Shots; Wikipedia

Miniature horses can learn to be assistance animals, just like dogs can.  I'm sure dogs can do it better, but it is still impressive that horses can be trained to do such things.  One example of what a mini horse can do is to be a guide for a blind person.  Some people think horses shouldn't be used in this way because they are prey animals and can get spooked more easily than dogs can.  Plus they have to be stabled outdoors to maintain their health.  But other people say that horses are great to use with blind people because they live longer than dogs.  Also, they are good choices for people who are allergic to dogs, or for Muslims, who think of dogs as unclean.

There are some legal issues, too, because horses are not always accepted to go everywhere that guide dogs do.  Plus sometimes it is just difficult for a horse to physically do some things such as lie on the seat of a taxicab or stay for very long in a hotel room.


It's easier to use miniature horses as therapy animals.  They can make visits to hospitals and nursing homes, just like dogs can, and children are often less afraid of a mini horse than of a full-sized one.

Anyway, I told Mom that we really, really should get a mini horse because they are so cute.  I could even ride it because the little horses can carry up to 70 pounds.  In fact, we might be able to get all three dogs and most of the cats on the horse without overloading it.  Also, I learned that even though miniature horses are supposed to have some time outdoors every day, if you leave them indoors at night, they will get in bed with you to sleep, just like a dog or cat would.  And what could be nicer than snuggling up to a little horse on a cold night?

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