miniature horse

Miniature Horse Breed 

Miniature Horse Breed 

The Miniature Horse is not a breed that is tough to spot. Due to their small size, they stand out from a crowd of horses with ease. In fact, they usually stand under 34 inches high, and can be smaller than some breeds of a large dog.

Technically, though, they are horses and not ponies— they have the slim build of regular-sized horses, rather than the more stocky and compact conformation of ponies. Keep reading to learn more about the Miniature Horses, including such details as their physical characteristics, temperament, and their colourful history! 

Miniature Horse Characteristics

Of the many characteristics that a Miniature Horse will possess, of course the most obvious and unique is that of their small stature. This is even made clear in the breed’s name!

Miniature Horses are fun size versions of the regular sized horses we are so familiar with. Otherwise, if you ignore their size, Miniature Horses will be similar in just about every other aspect to regular sized horses.

Even their head will resemble a regular sized horse’s head, having the same proportions but of course being a smaller version. Without having a size comparison nearby to show how small the breed is, it is entirely possible for a Miniature Horse to be mistaken for a regular sized horse. 

miniature horse

Miniature Horse Size

As we mentioned above, the size of the Miniature Horse is largely what sets the breed apart. Across the world, there are different breeding associations which regulate the size of the horses.

The most popular of these, though, is the AMHA. The AMHA has said that the size of a Miniature Horse must not grow beyond 54 inches high, measuring from the very last hair on the base of the horse’s mane.

The size is very strictly regulated because it is the most important characteristic of the Miniature Horse breed. It is also the main factor to register a Miniature Horse with a breeding society. Breeding registries also say that the Miniature Horse should have the features and physical appearance that a regular sized horse has, just with the size of the Miniature Horse— rather than having the features and physical characteristics of a pony instead! 

Miniature Horse Weight

Next, we come to the weight of the Miniature Horse breed, another important characteristic! Of course, the Miniature Horse does not weigh as much as the regular sized horses do, because of their small size.

Miniature Horses are generally around 200 pounds on average. Regular sized horses do typically weigh around 660 pounds, or even more, up to a couple thousands of pounds! When it comes to the proportions of the Miniature Horse, they are the same as regular sized horses, and in simply in miniature as we went over above— hence the name Miniature Horses!

Therefore, the reason for their very low weight is not their proportions or build, but just their small size. There are some benefits to being so small and light— some Miniature Horses are allowed into shops or other areas as assistance animals because of this! However, they should not be ridden, as their small size and weight means that they are not able to carry a rider. 

Miniature Horse Colors

One of the great traits of Miniature Horses is that they can appear in just about any color or pattern of coat! White markings and eye color are also considered equally acceptable, according to the American Miniature Horse Association, or AMHA. Many of the other breeding associations of tall and regular sized horses, though, do not accept markings like the AMHA does.

As the size is the most important hallmark of the Miniature Horse breed, this is what is regulated the most, rather than colors. All colors and markings are accepted by the breeding associations for Miniature Horses.

There is a lot of variety when it comes to Miniature Horses for this reason. They most often come in colors such as bay, black, gray, gruello, and chestnut. Of course, these are the most popular colors for most breeds of horse! The rare colors of Miniature Horse, though, are silver dapple, cremello, and champagne. 

Miniature Horse Temperament

The temperament of the Miniature Horse is reflected in its personality, as according to the AMHA. The behavior of the breed is characterized by these traits— curiosity, intelligence, gentleness, sensibility, and willingness to cooperate, too.

This is also a breed of horse that is easy to train, though they can be stubborn at times, too. They are often used for driving and equine shows. The Miniature Horse, however, cannot be ridden, which means you will not see them competing in dressage. They are seen in other types of shows and events, though.

The Miniature Horse should be trained like a regular sized horse because they exhibit the fight and flight behavior typical of this animal. 

Miniature Horse Care 

Many breeds of horse can live to be around 25 years old, but Miniature Horses can live to be even older than this! The Miniature Horse can easily be 35 years if it is healthy and well taken care of.

You must care for your horse patiently and extensively to achieve this. Miniature Horses are definitely a breed that has a long list of needs. They have all of the care requirements of regular sized horses, as well as some things that are unique to their breed. For example, Miniature Horses are prone to gaining weight and have certain health problems due to their smaller size.  

Miniature Horse Diet and Nutrition

Miniature Horses have a more demanding diet than some other breeds of horse. It is not as demanding when it comes to supplements and nutrients, but the quantity of the diet does need to be more strictly regulated.

The calories and amount of food that you are feeding your Miniature Horse should be paid strict attention to since the breed is prone to obesity and gaining weight. These horses do not eat a large amount of food, because of their small size. The rule of thumb here is that the food you are giving your Miniature Horse should be consistent with 1% of their body weight.

However, you should ensure that the horse is at a healthy weight before you calculate this amount. The diet of your Miniature Horse should consist of a variety of pasture and fresh hay, as well as some vegetables, fruits, grains, and in some cases, supplements. 

Miniature Horse Health Issues

Unfortunately, the selective breeding of the Miniature Horses to achieve their small size also means that they do have certain health issues that can crop up pretty commonly. Due to this, the majority of breeding associations will require a DNA test to exclude any potential health problems that would be passed on to registered horses.

The most common genetic issue of this breed is Dwarfism. Dwarfism is considered to be a by-product of breeding small horses, and can be a widespread issue among Miniature Horses. Those horses with Dwarfism can develop other health issues, like scoliosis, arthritis, and depression, too. 

Miniature Horse Grooming

Grooming is important for Miniature Horses, but luckily, it is quite straightforward! The process of grooming can be very important as it can help you to build a bond with your horse, check them for injuries, and keep them clean and healthy. It is important that you groom your Miniature Horse every day. Every 3-4 weeks, it is also important to wash and then dry your horse every 3-4 weeks.

If you do not, then your Miniature Horse may end up developing issues such as skin infections or irritation. Another thing that you should do is brush your horse’s coat each day with a body brush so that you can clean their body and remove any small particles. A curry comb can then be used to remove more serious grease and dirt, as well as to stimulate blood flow!

Miniature Horse History

The history of the Miniature Horse is closely tied to the Shetland pony and some breeds of European horse. Both small and Miniature Horses gained popularity in the late 1900s, and the horses were historically used as pit ponies in coal mining, too.

While the ancestors of today’s Miniature Horses may have had to endure the tough conditions in the mine, the Miniature Horses of today have a more luxurious life as beloved pets!  

Miniature Horse Origin

The American Miniature Horse originated in Europe. The very first Miniature Horse that we have documentation of is a Shetland pony that was imported into America in 1888. However, it is known that the first Shetland ponies were brought into the United States by John Rarey in 1861.The most likely origin of the horses is in the Netherlands and in Britain.

It is believed that Dutch and English ponies are the ancestors of the Miniature Horse— this breed was bred from the Dutch and English ponies to be even smaller than the horses that were first arriving in New England. 

Miniature Horse Historic Development  

The Miniature Horse has a complex history. In the 1600s and into the early 1700s, they were used as pets for nobility— not a bad life! However, once the use of children in the mines was outlawed, then Miniature Horses had to say goodbye to their lives as pampered pets and were used as pit ponies in the English mines.

Then, in the 1900s, many Americans began to admire the imported horses from Europe, which made breeding tiny horses again popular. They were used in the coal mines and as pit ponies here, too, but no longer— now, Miniature Horses are beloved parts of the family again, living out happy lives as pets! 

Notable Miniature Horses

As we went over above, the Miniature Horse breed is one that was kept as a novelty pet for centuries. That being said, they also had plenty of experience as work horses when they were used as pit horses in the coal mines, too.

These days, they are still kept as pets, or are used for shows and driving. The pedigree of the breed is also well documented and still exists for some breeds. Some of the famous Miniature Horses are known for things like being the smallest horse in the world, or for being incredibly accomplished at driving. 


One famous Miniature Horse is Einstein! He has been a guest star on the Oprah Winfrey Show, which is a hallmark for many celebrities, human or otherwise! Einstein is tiny, even for his breed.

He stands at just 20 inches high and weighs only 47 pounds, due to his small stature. As they say, everything is cuter when it’s smaller! Einstein has become something of an internet and social media star due to his size and how adorable he is. 


Another famous Miniature Horse is named Pea. Pea is the smallest horse in the world, even smaller than Einstein at his 20 inches tall! Pea is only 16.5 inches tall, making the record for world’s smallest horse. He is a rescue horse who can attribute his height to his breed, but also to the fact that he was born with Dwarfism. He was so small that he was unable to reach his mother’s udder and was going to be euthanized because of his many health issues. However, Pea was rescued from this fate. Currently, he lives out his days happily, despite his health issues! 


Shammy is another famous Miniature Horse who has Dwarfism, like Pea. Shammy lives in Georgia. He is not as small as Pea, measuring a bit over 20 inches instead, and is known for his very loving personality. He is another internet celebrity who has over 5000 fans on Facebook. In addition to his internet fame, he has his own book about him and many visitors come to meet him! 

Miniature Horse Myths and Legends

There are plenty of myths and legends that surround the Miniature Horse. However, the thing with myths and legends are that they are not necessarily true— they can be debunked. Likewise, some of the myths around this breed have been proven incorrect with science, but some others have been proven to be true! This is a breed that has been seen all over the world, even being popular with King Louis XIV of France.

Their popularity has not waned, as we are still fascinated by their size and utter cuteness in today’s times. Further on in this article, we will go over some of the interesting stories that are associated with the Miniature Horse breed. 


The first breed of horse on Earth was the Eohippus, and is the ancestor of all modern breeds of horse. In addition to Eohippus, they were also called the dawn horse, and belonged to a now extinct group of mammals.

They thrived in the areas that are Europe and North America, around 56 million to 33.9 million years ago. Many people used to think that the Miniature Horse breed was directly related to the Eohippus due to their small size. However, this is one of the myths that has been disproven by science. 

Miniature Horses in Versailles

As we mentioned previously, King Louis XIV, the king of France, was a big fan of the Miniature Horse. He kept Miniature Horses in his menagerie at the Palace of Versailles during the 1650s.

Due to this, he contributed a lot to Miniature Horse history during this time. This is a perfect example of a person who had high status or was considered nobility, and was specifically interested in Miniature Horses that were also bred expressly to be pets. 

Pony Or Horse?

Another thing is whether a Miniature Horse is considered to be a pony or a horse. The rule of thumb states that, technically, a horse that is under 14.2 hands high is not a horse and would instead be classified as a pony. However, Miniature Horses exemplify the classic horse phenotype with such features as long, thin legs. Because of this, the Miniature Horse is classified as being a horse, not a pony— despite their small stature.

Modern Miniature Horses

There is not necessarily one type of Miniature Horse, and this is due to the fact that the main focus is put on their size above all else. Coat colors or patterns are not as regulated as the horse’s size or legs.

Miniature Horses can come in all different colors and patterns, but of course their uses are more limited since they are not able to carry riders and therefore cannot partake in any events requiring a rider. The modern Miniature Horse is typically used for driving or kept as a pet. They are popular pets, as they are beloved by both adults and children alike! 

Miniature Horse Breeding

It was in the 1900s that Miniature Horse breeding became really popular and spread across the globe. There are several breeding associations because of this, but there are two main ones. These are the American Miniature Horse Association— the AMHA— and the American Miniature Horse Registry— the AMHR. The AMHA was founded in 1978, while the AMHR was founded a bit earlier, in 1972. When it comes to breeding, the focus is on the size and height of Miniature Horses.

AMHR breeding regulations decree that Miniature Horses are between 34 and 38 inches tall. Miniature Horses are measured by the last hair on their mane, rather than their withers, as most horses are measured. Miniature Horses come in tons of different coat colors and patterns. In addition, unlike with Shetlands, the spotted Appaloosa coloring is accepted and celebrated in Miniature Horses! 

Miniature Horse Population

Miniature Horses are very popular all over the world, but surprisingly, their population is not that well documented. The biggest of the breeding societies for this breed are located in North America and in Europe.

One of the reasons that there may be many Miniature Horses out there that are not registered is because of some of their health issues, which we covered earlier in this article. Many of the horses of this breed suffer from Dwarfism. This is largely due to extensive inbreeding that is sometimes necessary to achieve their small size. Many of the resulting offspring that do have Dwarfism are never registered. Unfortunately, there is no current recorded number of Miniature Horses that is available or published to shed light on how large their population is. 

Miniature Horse Uses

As we have mentioned before, Miniature Horses are too small and light to carry riders, so they are not useful for many equine purposes like show jumping or dressage.

Even children cannot be carried by a Miniature Horse unless they are very small and light, or very young. Miniature Horses are usually kept as pets or brought to show competitions where they can demonstrate their abilities to pull small carts or demonstrate their physical attributes. This breed can even be house trained when they are pets!

Miniature Horse Prices

The price of a horse is not only the purchase price, which you would usually think of. You also have to factor in all of the costs of caring for the horse throughout its lifetime, for things such as room and board, food, vet visits, and more. Below, we will go over some of the specifics when it comes to the cost of your Miniature Horse.

Miniature Horse Purchase Price

Miniature Horses are used as pets worldwide, this is true. However, it is still not as easy to get one as it is to get a dog or a cat! Part of this can be attributed to the level of upkeep required, as compared to that of a dog or cat.

Prices for a Miniature Horse will depend on a few factors, as not all cost the exact same. These defining factors are the health, pedigree, age, and physical data of the horse in question. The average cost for a Miniature Horse gelding is around $1000 to $5000. An unregistered foal can even be as low as $200, but it’s important to remember if buying a foal that Dwarfism sometimes only shows once a horse has matured.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the miniature horses called?

Many of us are familiar with miniature horses, the adorable, smaller versions of the full grown breeds of horses that we typically work and compete with! Some people call Miniature horses “ponies”. However, a pony and a Miniature Horse are not the same animal. Miniature Horses are actually descended from Shetland ponies, which are a breed that is typically pretty small. These Shetland ponies were selectively inbred with certain other breeds in order to favor a smaller size in the offspring— the offspring being the Miniature Horse breed! 

Are mini horses good pets?

Some people want to have a horse but are not able to provide for the needs of a fully grown horse, so they may think to turn to Miniature Horses as a smaller alternative! The question, now, is if this is a wise move. Typically, whether or not Miniature Horses are good pets is going to have a slightly different answer based on the individual situation of a person— for example, it will depend on certain variables like where the person lives and how well equipped they are to provide for the needs of a horse, even if it is a smaller breed of horse such as the Miniature Horse. Generally, yes, Miniature Horses do make good pets and are pretty easy to train. They are kind and sensitive, and have even been used as therapy or guide animals! 

Are miniature horses a natural breed?

A natural breed is a term for a kind of animal, or a breed of animal, that has been developed or is developing naturally, due to adapting naturally to the change of their environment. So, a breed that has been crossbred or selectively bred to achieve a particular breed standard or result would not be able to be considered as a natural breed. Only those animals that have evolved without the intentional interference of humans are natural breeds. The Miniature Horse, for one, is not a natural breed. They cannot be considered a natural breed because they have been bred over the last few centuries in order to achieve the look and the temperament that we are familiar with today. 

Are miniature horses actually horses?

There are many species in the animal kingdom that look as if they are related to one another, or should be classified a certain way, but then they are not. This may lead some to wonder about animals such as Miniature Horses. Are they actually horses, or can they be considered horses on a technical point?

Miniature Horses are essentially small horses, and are often bred to look like pint sized versions of certain breeds.

That being said, a horse is classified as being 14.2 hands or taller in height. As Miniature Horses do not reach this size, they cannot be considered horses on this size technicality— but they are also not unrelated to horses or an entirely different species!