Learn About the Miniature Horse: Breed Bio

Also known as “minis,” miniature horses have become popular both far and wide, primarily due to their gentle disposition and adorable appearance. Although they have care needs and several tendencies of large horses, people mostly keep them as companion animals.

Origin and History

In the sixteenth century, miniature horses developed initially in Europe through the selective breeding of ponies and small horses. They were popular among the noble for their unique look. Due to their size, owners used them to work in mines. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, miniature horses got to the United States, where they also worked in mines. However, it took many decades before they gained significant popularity in the United States.

miniature horse

Breeding and Uses of the Miniature Horse

Initially, miniature horses mostly performed tasks in mines since their small size was useful in tight spaces. Also, wealthy individuals valued them as companion animals.

These days, people keep miniature horses as pets, though some of them have small jobs. While most miniature horses may not be big enough for riding, some owners hitch their minis to sleighs or carts. Also, many owners use them for competitions and conformation contests (involving the evaluation of a horse’s physical traits). Miniature horses participate in several performance-oriented competitions (similar to dog sport), such as lead-line, horse jumping, obstacle-running, and driving.

Furthermore, people use miniature horses as therapy animals and guide animals (assisting individuals with hearing and vision impairments). Also, their gentle and affectionate nature makes them magnificent emotional support animals.

Size of Miniature Horse

Miniature horse lovers use centimeters or inches to measure miniature horses instead of hands. Only miniature horses that measure 34 inches (8.5 hands) or less are recorded among the numbers of the American Miniature Horse Association. On the other hand, the American Miniature Horse Association approves two miniature horse divisions: division “A” miniature horses are 34 inches (8.5 hands) or less. In contrast, division “B” miniature horses range between 34 and 38 inches (8.5 and 9.5 hands). The weight of miniature horses ranges from 150 to 350 pounds on average.

Nutrition and Diet

Miniature horses need a balanced diet consisting of rolled oats, grass, hay, and other grains in moderate quantities. Due to their small size, it’s very easy to overfeed them. Hence, it’s essential to feed them with the recommended quantity for their weight and work rate.

miniature horse

Markings and Colors

All miniature horses come in various equine coat patterns and colors. Some of them have pintos, solid coats, and spotted coats similar to the Appaloosa horse. They tend to have copious tails and manes and thicker coats than full-sized horses.


The grooming of miniature horses is similar to larger horses. The only difference is that the surface area is less, making the job easier. You can use a brush and comb to hoof-pick your miniature horse every day to remove debris and dirt. You can also get a farrier (miniature horse specialist) to maintain the horse’s hooves.

Unique Features

The small size of the miniature horse is its trademark. In contrast to ponies, which have shorter legs and are stockier, miniature horses have the appearance of a full-size horse—though with a shrunken size. Their size looks like that of big dog breeds, which makes them suitable for individuals who reside in small farms with less space for a herd of big horses.

Minis tend to be gentle, curious, social, and intelligent. Although they love being around people, it’s advisable to keep them outdoors (with proper shelter) like other equines for their well-being and health.

Typical Behavior and Health Issues

Minis are very easy to train and agreeable, but they’re prone to some health problems. One of such issues is dwarfism mutation, which can result in many health complications. These days, several horse registries avoid the use of miniatures with dwarfism genes to breed.

Also, obesity is another issue with miniature horses, as some owners pamper them like pets without making them perform the needed exercises. Some might overestimate the food quantity miniature horses require, mainly if they feed large horses too. Due to their small size, miniature horses sometimes have birth complications and dental issues like tooth overcrowding. They’re also prone to colic and hyperlipidemia.

Their small size can either be an advantage or a disadvantage. Understanding the distinction between mini horses and larger horses would help you care for them better and avoid these health issues.

miniature horse

Celebrity and Champion Miniature Horses

Miniature horses are so famous that they regularly pop up in commercials, on social media, and TV shows. For example, a miniature horse, Gideon, played on a TV program Parks and Recreation as Lil Sebastian.

Also, actress Cuoco Kaley regularly showcases her miniature horse named Shmooshy as a celebrity on the Internet.

Is a Mini Ideal for You?

Miniature horses are generally easy to train and keep. People who can’t own and care for full-size horses can enjoy this lovely equine companion. Managing a miniature horse is easy for people who have limited horse experience. Also, the cost of their upkeep is more affordable than full-sized horses, since they require lower doses of medication and less food.

The gentle nature and small size of miniature horses tend to be ideal for kids and make them easier to be around than larger horses. Despite their small size, they’re sturdy and require basic training like other horses.

How to Buy or Adopt a Miniature Horse

You’ll need an average of $1,000 to buy a miniature horse, though very few horses cost less. However, desirable breeds of miniature horses may be more expensive. Due to the popularity of miniature horses, finding breeders and rescues is relatively easy. Ideally, consider spending some time with the horse before taking it home. Request to see the horse’s health, temperament, and history from the organization. If you’re not getting adequate answers to your questions, it might be a red flag indicating that the breeder or rescue isn’t reputable enough.

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