Miniature horses first came on the scene in the 1600’s when they featured as an exhibit at King Louis the Fourteenth’s zoo of bizarre animals. They became a favoured pet of European aristocracy due to their novelty value but life was not always so rosey. While some miniatures were being pampered in the great houses of 17th century Europe others were working as pit ponies in England, Scotland and Wales.
Miniature horses are just that – a perfect miniature version of a horse. They have the same variety of coat colours and patterns and the same requirements when it comes to feeding, worming, vaccinations, dental and hoof care etc. The only catch is they must be less than 85cm tall (8.2hh). Miniature ponies are another distinct breed. Miniature horses must have the proportions of a horse while miniature ponies have the proportions of a pony.
Miniature horse foals range in size at birth from 35-55cm and weigh 7-10kg. Care must be taken when breeding miniatures as they can be more prone to foaling problems than their full size counterparts and the introduction of horses with dwarfish characteristics can result in genetic problems. They are also more prone to colic and laminitis. Even with these concerns the average lifespan of a miniature horse is longer than that of a full size horse – a massive 25-35 years. In fact the oldest miniature horse lived to 50 years old!!
Miniature horses are perfect for small acreage and make good family pets. They are usually very good with kids but can become quite cheeky so training is required from an early age. They are used for showing in halter and harness as well as trail (obstacle) classes and in hand jumping. Many are kept simply as pets. They can even be trained as service animals akin to guide dogs or assistance dogs.
The worlds smallest horse is a dwarf miniature horse who is fully mature but stands only 42cm tall and weighs only 27kg. Having such a tiny horse as a pet may seem like a good idea and if you always remember that they are a horse, just smaller, you could have many years of fun and companionship.