Miniature Horses: Little Horses, Big Rewards

Why you should consider miniature equines.

  • Miniature horse
    A beautiful example of the breed, this mini is as confident and proud as his full-size relatives. Daniels
  • Mini horse with little girl
    Given the size of the height of the little girl, this photo offers some perspective of just how short these miniature equines are. Labat
  • Mini horse and cat
    This miniature equine and the feline appear to have come to some sort of agreement.
    Toni Leland

  • Miniature horse
  • Mini horse with little girl
  • Mini horse and cat

For anyone with small acreage and a passion for equines, miniature horses have the capacity to make dreams come true. From horse lovers just starting out to senior citizens who’ve retired and no longer keep full-size horses, miniature horses are the perfect solution. “Minis,” as they’re often called, are a height breed. The tallest measure only 38 inches (9.5 hands), at the withers, which is about the size of a Labrador Retriever. The tiniest horses reach maturity at a mere 28 inches, and most foals range from 15 to 18 inches at birth.

Deep roots

The breed has roots going back to the Renaissance. Over the centuries and from many countries, the modern miniature horse has evolved from a blend of several breeds and has been refined into the beautiful, tiny animal we see today. The first documented import of a small horse to the United States was in 1888 when a tiny Shetland pony was discovered in a herd of 140. The pony was 31 inches tall at the withers and was named Yum Yum.

With their diminutive size and sweet nature, today’s miniature equines have taken horse lovers by storm. “Can’t have just one” describes the infatuation with miniature horses. As of 2008, more than 200,000 minis were registered worldwide with the two largest registries: the American Miniature Horse Registry (founded in 1971 as a division of the American Shetland Pony Club, which was founded in 1888), and the American Miniature Horse Association (founded in 1978). Most minis are registered with both organizations. Though most of the bloodlines include selected Shetland breeding, miniature horses have the proportions, disposition, and other characteristics that make them phenotypically “horses,” not ponies. The most popular minis in the show ring today are those that resemble tiny Arabian Horses: fine-boned and delicate, with large eyes and nostrils, and lots of attitude. Breeders have imported bloodlines from England, Holland, Belgium and West Germany, and many breeders have specialized in producing purebred Falabellas – the true miniature horse of Argentina.

Les and Getitia Matheny of Buckeye Walnut Creek Farm in Circleville, Ohio, have been breeding miniature horses since before they became popular.

“As I look back over my 40-plus years of ownership of many different horse breeds,” Getitia says, “the American Miniature horse stands out as the one breed that completely captures not only my heart, but the hearts of our entire family – from ages 6 to 60-plus.”

The horses at the Matheny farm are carefully bred to retain the best characteristics of the breed, and the BWC prefix consistently shows up in the winner’s circle at shows across the country.

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