And ‘mini’ other common questions
Everything is cuter in miniature, and that includes horses! Miniature horses even have a place in pop culture with the famous white mini from the Lil’Sweet Dr. Pepper commercials, or Li’l Sebastian from Parks and Rec. From therapy horses to pasture companions, mini horses have trotted their way into our hearts and minds.
Working with miniature horses is a great way to get involved with barn life and horses, although on a smaller scale (pun intended). Learning about their history, temperament, and specific training techniques are all helpful to better understanding this unique subset of equines.
Miniature Horses: Breed Info
Miniature Horses have been bred to resemble a full-size horse, just on a miniature scale. They are the result of selective breeding over hundreds of years.
There are two registration associations in America that register mini horses. These small-scale horses must measure under 34” at the withers to be registered with the American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA). The American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR) will register slightly larger minis measuring between 34” and 38” at the withers.
The tallest a mini can be in order to be registered is 38.” You can see miniature horses in a variety of colors and coat patterns.
Fun Fact: Minis are actually measured in inches instead of hands!
What are miniature horses used for?
Miniature horses have a variety of jobs. They were originally imported into the United States for work in coal mining alongside donkeys, as these smaller-sized equines fit in underground tunnels.
Today you might find them as pasture companions for horses, see them pulling carts, or even being ridden by a small child. They are also becoming more popular in the U.S. as therapy horses.
Here is a great clip from PBS Newshour showcasing miniature horses as therapy animals.
Are mini horses ponies?
The AMHA defines a miniature horse as “ “miniature” versions of well-balanced horses, possessing conformation characteristics found in most equine breeds.”
Ponies, on the other hand, are generally built differently than horses, with wider barrels, shorter legs, thicker necks, and thicker manes and tails.
What is the difference between a miniature horse and a pony?
Conformationally speaking, the miniature horse has the same characteristics as a horse. Whereas a pony may be stockier with a wider barrel, the miniature horse is bred to look like a shrunken horse.
Also, the personality of minis is generally noted to be “easy to please” and a “gentle and affectionate companion.”
Miniature Horse Training
Like any horse, you can train miniature horses for a variety of disciplines.
How do you train a miniature horse under saddle?
According to the American Miniature Horse Breed Association, the breed should not be used under saddle work at all.
A general rule of thumb for most animals is that they should not carry more than approximately 20% of their body weight.
The average weight of a miniature horse is 200 lbs according to Michigan State University. This means the most weight a mini could carry is 40 lbs; it may be difficult to accommodate tack and even the smallest of riders with this limitation.
Hypothetically speaking, at its foundation, there would be no difference in training a miniature horse for under saddle work from a regular sized horse. You would begin with putting items like saddle pads on their back so they can adjust to something there and eventually add a saddle.
It is important to note that because of their size, even a small statured adult should NOT be the rider when training a miniature horse under saddle.
Pulling vs. Riding
One fun thing miniature horses commonly do is pull carriages! Miniature horses can pull as a single horse and buggy, or in a team or two.
How much weight can a mini horse pull?
While it is generally accepted that a miniature horse can pull 2-3 times its weight, it truly depends on the type of terrain you are asking your mini horse to work through.
A flat road that is well-paved may allow your miniature horse to pull more than if it was on a very hilly road that wasn’t paved.
Ultimately, it comes down to a miniature horse’s fitness, but in general a 300lb miniature horse would be able to pull 600lbs (including the buggy!)
How much weight can a mini horse carry?
The best rule is the 20% rule when it comes to these petite equines due to their stature.
That means, if a miniature horse weighs 300lbs, the max weight should be 60lbs (including tack).
This is very hard to do, which is why mini horse are typically NOT ridden.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can you ride a pony?
Absolutely! Riding a pony is a great way for younger riders to get experience on horseback. Just remember that a small pony is not a miniature horse.
Q: Can you ride a miniature horse?
Only a very small child should consider riding a miniature horse. It is important to know the miniature horse’s weight and the rider’s weight and fitness before asking that mini horse to carry a rider.
Miniature horses are unique animals that have so many jobs in the equine world! You may see one walking down the street with its owner, serving as a guide horse, or you may see one at a driving trial pulling a cart.
These cute and well-tempered equines always bring a smile to my face!
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- Write Your Own Letter to My Rookie Self
- Lighten Your Load: How Much Can a Pony Carry?
- Media Guide: Young Black Equestrians Podcast
- Braided: A Herd Dynamic (Horse Rookie Diversity Initiative)
- Letter to My Rookie Self: Emily Harris
- Letter to My Rookie Self: Sarah Harris
- Small Business Spotlight: The Positive Equestrian