No bigger than a large dog, the American Miniature Horse
is less then 34 tall at the withers and weighs between 150
to 250 pounds. This tiny equine is popular in many countries
and is known by several names such as the American Miniature
Horse, Miniature Toy Horse, Miniature Pony, Falabella or Falabella
Miniature Horse, Guide Horse, Minis and Dwarf Horse. They
have been bred for centuries by selectively breeding horses
and ponies of diminutive size. In prehistoric times, tiny
horses were likely the products of having to survive harsh
climates with limited food. Today, genetics has made it possible
to breed specifically for size.
In 1879, the Falabella family of Argentina bred small horses
found on the Pampas south of Buenos Aires, where these undersized
horses have since been known as Falabellas. But long before
that, many breeders in different countries were trying to
create miniaturized horses.
As early as the 1600s, they were being bred as pampered pets
for European kings and queens. Later they were used in the
coal mines in the English Midlands, northern Europe. The first
mention of a small horse being imported into the United States
was in 1888. Some of these mine horses were brought in from
Holland, West Germany, Belgium, and England in the 19th century
and used in some Appalachian coal mines as recently as 1950
since the tunnels were small and full sized horses were just
too big to fit.
Small horses, European minis, ponies, and Falabella miniatures,
all went into the breeding of the American Miniature Horse
to produce a well proportioned animal. However, depending
on parentage, they may have characteristics of Shetland Ponies,
Arabians, Hackney Ponies, Thoroughbreds, and others. This
has resulted in a wide range of body types and every color
and pattern in the equine palette. In fact, any color or marking
pattern with any eye color is equally acceptable.
But over the past 100 years there has been disagreement regarding
the origins of the genetic characteristics of Miniature Horses.
Some tiny breeds, such as the Falabella horses of Argentina,
were developed in a totally separate environment from the
tiny European horses of the eighteenth century, and independent
breeding programs have been established on every continent
on the globe.
Some have noticed that miniature horse dwarfism and congenital
defects are more prevalent in the USA than in foreign countries.
American breeders claim that because the horses were bred
exclusively for size, dwarfism traits have became commonplace
in them, while overseas breeders have noted that the rate
of dwarfism is less in those countries that have rejected
the breeding of tiny horses or ponies with undesirable dwarf
characteristics, or achondroplasia, as it is called in humans.
A dwarf is different from a miniature. Its teeth often don't
match up properly; the head is too big for its neck; and it
may have a pot belly. A horse with some dwarf traits may be
perfectly healthy and be a good pet, but others have problems
with bones and teeth that make life painful for them. Dwarfs
cannot be registered as miniature horses, but as breeding
improves, fewer dwarfs are born.
However, it is very clear that dwarf genes have deliberately
been introduced into American Miniature horses and some famous
miniature stud horses has obvious equine dwarfism characteristics.
Bond Tiny Tim (19” tall, AMHA Registration number R 00015P)
was said to have many dwarfism related issues, yet he was
bred extensively, passing on potentially crippling genetic
mutations to thousands of his descendents throughout the USA,
therefore the Dwarf gene is floating around in many bloodlines
today, and it is difficult to locate as the gene has not been
Founded in 1978, in Arlington, Texas, the American Miniature
Horse Association (AMHA) has registered nearly 160,000 horses
and has more than 12,000 members in 37 countries and provinces.
The AMHA's goal is to promote a standard of excellence and
purity in the Miniature and to that end; they closed the stud
book on December 31, 1987, so that only horses with AMHA registered
parents can be registered. Additionally, a foal is eligible
to be temporarily registered as soon as it is born and if
it is no taller than 34 inches when it reaches the age of
5 years, it can be permanently registered as a Miniature Horse.
To ensure the accuracy of pedigrees, all foals born after
December 31, 1995 must be blood typed and/or DNA tested before
any of their offspring can be registered.
Practically anything you can do with a regular size horse
can be done with a Miniature, except for riding. Minis should
not be ridden by anyone over 60 pounds. They can be shown
in classes at halter, in hand hunter/jumper, obstacle courses,
showmanship, single pleasure driving, country pleasure driving,
roadster, multi hitch driving, fine viceroy, liberty, costume
conformation, and games. Outside the show world, many owners
drive their Minis hitched to carts, wagons, or sleighs singly
or in teams. A trained Miniature driving horse can pull two
adults for ten miles with no difficulty. Children 3 to 4 years
old and up routinely drive at home, in parades and in shows.
People even let them come into the house to watch TV with
Miniature Horses are very good for visiting shut ins; senior
citizens in retirement homes that have pet visitation hours;
and many have been trained as guide animals to assist the
blind or the hearing impaired. They are also good for people
with health problems or physical disabilities that can make
it impossible to handle or ride a full sized horse, but they
can learn to drive a cart and enjoy their horses.
The natural gaits of the Miniature Horse are the walk, trot,
canter, and gallop, but other gaits are easily taught, especially
when the horses are used for driving carts. For example, the
Collected Trot is rhythmic and the horse should look like
it could keep this gait up all day; and The Working Trot is
brisk and snappy without excessive speed. This gait should
be animated and showy with a long stride that makes the horse
appear to float off the ground when all 4 feet actually are
off the ground.
A Miniature Horse enjoys human company and does not fear
strangers, in fact, they are quite eager to please their handlers
possibly because they get handled so much. A newborn weighs
about 20 pounds and is between 16 and 21 inches tall, and
it is easy to pick one up and carry it around. It is hard
to resist hugging a fluffy foal as if it were a teddy bear.
A small child may be intimidated by a normal sized horse,
but that same child will be eager to hug a Miniature foal.
There seems to be a discrepancy in the Miniature's disposition.
Breeders may say they are gentle and affectionate so that
they can make more sales, but many owners complain they have
been bitten by aggressive Minis. Without knowing the circumstances
of these complaints, the horse may have been abused by the
previous owner; or. it may be simply a case of not being gelded
All stallions of all breeds can be aggressive, but gelding
is a simple, inexpensive operation that can resolve territorial
aggression and a hormone driven lack of manners. Even when
no stallion is near, a mare's estrus (heat) cycles can cause
unpredictable behavior the equine equivalent of PMS. Spaying
can resolve this also.
Horses do not possess complex reasoning skills, but Miniature
Horses are quite intelligent and excel at tasks that require
long term memory skills. It has been shown that the more a
horse learns, the greater their capacity for future learning,
and with proper training, a horse can be taught to do almost
anything, such as sit, lie down, pull up a blanket, turn out
the light and go to sleep, or even catch a Frisbee.
The Guide Horse Foundation trains Minatures as Guide Horses
for the Blind and part of the basic training includes learning
23 voice commands. Additionally they can be reliably housebroken
and trained to paw at the door or make nickering noises. The
American's with Disabilities Act guarantees the right of any
service animal to use public transportation, so it should
be not unusual to see a Guide Horse on an airplane, riding
in a taxi, or on an escalator.
Miniature Horses thrive in pastures, and one acre can support
as many as three Miniature Horses, but hey are prone to overeat.
Ideally they should not share their pasture with the larger
breeds since one kick or bite could significantly injure the
Since owning a Miniature Horse can cost 1/10th that of maintaining
a large horse and they can become as much a part of the family
as a dog or a cat, they have become extremely popular as companion
animals that live 20 to 30 years.
Author Resource:-> Crystal Eikanger writes for http://www.HorseClicks.com,
classifieds of Miniature Horses for sale