What are Miniature Horses?

A miniature horse, like the name implies, is a large horse scaled down.  A true miniature horse should completely resemble a large horse.  Miniature Horses are a unique breed of horse measuring no more than 38 inches (measured to the lowest hair on the mane).  These horses have been breed by selectively breeding down in size, but maintaining as near perfect confirmation as possible.  Miniature Horses can be used for showing, harness pulling, performance, breeding and they also make excellent pets and companions.

The history of Miniature Horses

The original Miniature Horses were bred down from ponies.  Miniature Horses are now an acknowledged breed of their own.  There are records of Miniatures being bred in the 1700's as pets for children of Royal families in Europe.  Around this time Miniatures were often used in coal mines to pull the ore carts.

Eden Hore imported the first American Horses into New Zealand in 1980, 5 stallions and 13 mares.  In 1988 David Goudie imported a shipment of American and English horses.  The first associations formed in 1989-90, and in 1996 two amalgamated to form the New Zealand Miniature Horse Association.  Today's horses may include American, English, Australian and South American bloodlines.

What are the different height categories?

There are two different height categories in New Zealand.  Category A refers to any full grown horse up to and including 34 inches, and category B includes any horses between 34 and 38 inches.  These measurements are taken to the lowest hair on their mane.  Foals under 22 inches at birth will usually stay under 34 inches.  As a rough guide, adding 12 inches to a foals birth height gives an estimate of it's mature height.

For more information on heights, including height for age, see the New Zealand Miniature Horse Association's site (http://www.nzmhaa.co.nz)

How to care for a Miniature Horse

All care for Miniature Horses is similar to that of large horses.  With feed and nutrition this is generally the case, but the horse's size difference must be remembered.  Grass intake may need to be restricted if the grass is lush and long to any feet problems, such as Founder (which is generally less common in Miniature Horses than in small ponies).  Hard feed may be required when the grass is low, for mares feeding foals or for show horses in work.  It is important to ensure that you feed a suitable hard feed to your horse.  Check with someone if you are not sure what to feed.  Make sure there is always plenty of clean, fresh drinking water available.

A Miniature Horses feet should be trimmed at an early age to help avoid any conformational problems.  The feet should then be trimmed for balance and length regularly, usually every six to eight weeks.  Neglected or improperly trimmed and cared for feet can cause serious problems, so it is essential that hoof care is maintained.  Most farriers are happy to do miniature horses, but it is wise to check with them before you have them out.

Dental care for Miniatures is the same as for big horses.  The mouth and teeth should be checked regularly for any irregularities.  Your vet can help you keep an eye on your miniature's teeth and should advice you when and if you need to consult an equine dentist.  Horses teeth should not be ignored.  Because a horse spends a great deal of time eating their mouth and their teeth should always be in top shape.

Grooming is an excellent way for horse and owner to bond.  It also accustoms the horse to touching and handling.  Horses coats should always be brushed with the hair and not against it.  A soft brush is best for adding shine and for use on the face, while a harder brush is good for the body, and for thick muddy coats.  A mane comb can be used for the mane and tail, or a human hair brush does the job nicely.  A mane and tail detangler and conditioner spray is very useful for shine, condition and ease of grooming.  A light amount spray can be used on the body to give extra shine.

Miniature Horses are hardy creatures.  If there is no stable or housing they will grow a long thick coat for winter.  It is nice for the horse to have a cover in winter, although this may not be practical for broodmares.  Covers are also very useful during show season to maintain a healthy tidy coat.  Many standard cover manufacturers will make miniature covers.  It is essential in hot weather and in winter, that horses have some form of shelter, even some good trees.  They need shade from the sun in the summer, and shelter from rain in winter.

Miniature Horses should be wormed regularly.  If in doubt about worming, or any other care issues, consult your veterinarian.

Buying a Miniature Horse

The most important step in buying your first miniature is to decide what you want to do with it.  Geldings make excellent pets, first horses or show horses.  If you are inexperienced with horses it may be beneficial to take someone knowledgeable with you.  The horse should be registered, or able to be registered, with the New Zealand Miniature Horse Association.  Conformation of the horse should be similar to that of a large horse, balanced and symmetrical.  A gentle and affectionate nature is characteristic of a Miniature Horse.  The size of a foal's parents will give indication to the foals mature height.  Ask to see a horses registration certificate, or its mothers registration certificate.  This will give you an indication of the heights of horses in your potential horses bloodlines.  It is important if you are interested in breeding to take heights of both the horse you are looking at buying, and its bloodlines into account.  For more information see the New Zealand Miniature Horse Association's site (http://www.nzmhaa.co.nz)