For almost as long as I can remember, horses were part of my life. I literally grew with them! Countless hours from childhood throughout teen years were spent training, riding and learning oh-so-much via our BLM mustangs!
Since getting married and settling down, I’ve caught myself wondering if our (one-day) children will ever get to experience this part of my childhood?
After all, we don’t plan to have an actual farm! Just a few modestly-priced acres that will allow us to supply the dinner-table with nutritious food, teach children about work, responsibility and (hopefully) nurture in them a love for the natural world.
At this stage in life, we couldn’t possibly afford the proper amount of land required to keep horses. However, I do find myself wondering about ponies and miniature?
Questions Led to Answers
I had questions: how much land was necessary for keeping a small pony? Or better yet, what about miniature horses? Is there a place for these small animals on the farm? Are they economical? What is all involved in keeping these little beauties? Are they as stubborn and unruly as people claim?
Questions were rumbling around in my head and suddenly, I realized I had a very reliable source at my fingertips: someone who raised (and still has) miniature horses. We corresponded and here is her take on miniatures, complete with pictures!
What is a Miniature Horse?
Miniature horses are smaller than a ponies. Their height is measured in inches instead of the traditional hands unit. There are two height classification types: type A is 34 inches and under while type B is 34-38 inches. Anything taller falls into the “pony” category.
Caring for a Miniature Horse
The needs of full and mini-sized horses are similar. They need occasional hoof trimmings, yearly de-wormings and miniatures in particular may need to have their teeth “floated” (filed down). If the little beauties have been primarily grain fed, teeth will grow too long, unevenly or even cut into their cheek. It’s important to offer miniatures grazing (or hay) to maintain their teeth!
Proper Amounts of Food
If at all possible, miniature horses should be allowed to graze during the summer months. A acre is sufficient to feed 2-3 miniatures. In the winter months, they should be given hay. A 50 lb bale will last for some time. Mini’s will consume 1 flake per day.
As with any horse, foundering can be an issue in the spring months. Be sure to monitor the little creatures. If they show symptoms, put them back on a hay-based diet until things clear up. Slowly return them to pasture.
Proper Amounts of Water
Miniatures need water every day, at least 1 gallon per 100lbs of body weight. Error on the side of over-watering! Their needs will vary, depending on the weather, work they have been doing and what you’ve been feeding them.
Although miniature horses develop very heavy, furry coats during the winter months, they ought to have shelter. A barn is best, but because they are so small, a lean-to would be sufficient. Treat them as you would a full-sized horse in your particular climate.
Proper Fencing Methods
Woven wire is often considered a poor choice for miniature horses because their hooves can get tangled in it. Also, the little creatures rub on everything when shedding out. Their persistence may stretch out your woven wire!
One strand of electric fence at chest height should keep miniatures in their pasture. However, if you have full sized horses next door or keep a mini stallion, running two wires isn’t a bad idea!
If you have full sized horses around and keep a miniature stallion, be aware that he may turn into an escape artist. Mine would slip through both electric and barb-wire fences. He even managed to squeeze under our metal gate in attempt to be with our full-size mares!
Temperament and Training
Miniature horses are easy to train with the exception that they can be stubborn! When using round-pen training, they take longer to yield than a full-sized horse though I use the exact same method for both. However, my mini’s quickly caught on to clicker training (used for teaching tricks).
You often hear that mini’s are mean and ornery.
If you are respectful of their space (as you would be with a full-sized horse), there shouldn’t be any problems! They do get irritated if you tease or push them around.
Cost of a Miniature Horse
Miniature horses (like most animals) will range in price, anywhere from $250-$3,000. It depends on age, gender, papers, training, etc. I got most of my miniature on Craigslist for free.
Stallions tend to sell for cheaper because they are harder to handle, are generally high spirited and most often are not the best choice for young children or people without previous horse experience.
Most prefer a gelding or mare because they (usually) have a better temperament.
Transporting Miniature Horses
Because mini’s are so small, there’s more than a few ways to transport them! We usually haul ours in a stock trailer, but I’ve also transported them in the back of our truck (with a canopy). If doing so, its important to make sure the floor of the truck bed isn’t slippery!
Because of their small size, people sometimes transport them in their vehicle! And why not? A young foal is no bigger than a medium-large dog!
What Does Tack Cost (USD) for Miniatures?
Halters range in price from $5- $30. A basic lead rope are approx $10.
If mini’s will be ridden by young children, you may want a miniature bit/bridle ($13-$50) and possibly, a saddle ($100+). Because mini’s are short and low to the ground, kids often are comfortable riding them bareback.
If you want to pull a cart with your mini’s, a harness will cost anywhere from $150-$400. I purchased mine for around $140.
Carts range in price from $300-$2,000. I was fortunate enough to trade hay for an $800 buckboard/wagon!
Can Miniature Horses Share Space with Full Sized Horses?
It depends on the animals. I had one mare that did great with our full-sized horses! They let her alone. I’ve also had a few that didn’t get along.
Sometimes, full sized horses don’t like particular miniatures. I learned this the hard way: while working outside in the morning, I heard “screaming” coming from our barn. I ran out to investigate and somehow, one of our full sized horses had gotten into the miniature’s pen. It was attacking and biting one mini-mare on the shoulder, almost lifting her off the ground each time.
I separated them and upon inspecting the poor mare, was relieved to discover she hadn’t been seriously injured. For some odd reason, our full sized horses never did like her throughout the course of her time here. She stayed in a separate pasture.
Raising Miniature Horses
A mare and stallion is all you need! It’s easy to raise and breed miniature horses! Mares usually make good mothers, providing for and protecting their foals.
However, mares can have issues during pregnancy and giving birth, especially during birth. Unlike a full sized horse, their small size can lead to complications.
Keeping a stallion has pros and cons. If you like energetic horses and have some experience, they are wonderful! My mini stallion was loads of fun! He would go on walks with me and easily keep up whereas my mares would often drag behind.
Before I sold him, I was training him to jump (which he was very good at!). Stallions are often determined and bossy. Unlike the mares, you must keep a close eye on him!
Some stallions may not like kids. Mine never kicked or bit, but he often seemed on edge whenever they were around.
Can a Miniature Stallion be with a Full-Sized Stallion or Gelding?
I had a miniature stallion that loved to run with my herd of full-sized horses. Before I knew he was an escape artist, he managed to get in with the full sized horses. A gelding did attack him, had him pinned to the ground and probably would have killed him if my brother hadn’t run the gelding off.
After getting used to one another through the fence, we were able to include him in the full-sized herd where we had both geldings and mares.
If you are going to keep a mini with full sized horses, be sure to introduce and let them become accustom to one another across the fence before turning them loose in the same pen.
If you turn them loose together, stay around to watch, observe and protect (if necessary). The little creatures are quite helpless against a full sized horse!
I would be very cautious about putting a mini stallion in with a full size one, particularly if there are mares around!
Have You Enjoyed Your Miniatures?
Mini’s are a lot of fun (in my opinion)! Its like having a big dog, only with a fluffy mane, forelock and tail that can be played with! In the summer, I take them swimming with me in the creek. Or take them on walks, pull the cart and teach them tricks. Kids love them!
What are the Benefits of Keeping Miniature Horses?
Mini’s are wonderful for teaching kids how to care for horses without the same responsibility, costs and work load a full sized horse would bring. Because of their smallness, they are less intimidating for young children to be around and ride.
They make cheap companions for other horses and will graze/maintain small areas of pasture quite well. Their manure can be used to fertilize the garden!
As with (most) full sized horses, mini’s are primarily a pleasure animal. Their small size makes them unsuitable for hauling heavy loads, and while a young child could learn lots through having one, they aren’t necessarily an economical choice.
My conclusion after interviewing my little sis? Mini’s may be just the thing for someone with a few acres! Not only will they help control pastureland and offer fertilizer for my garden, but would be a great way to teach kids confidence, responsibility and give them a taste of equestrian life without having to dish out the $$$ that comes with keeping a full sized horse.
I’m sold! How about you?