Miniature Horses: The Perfect Pet

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Miniature Horses: The Perfect Pet

Morgan C., Reporter

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Have you ever heard of equines? Equines, or Equus Caballus are a mammal species, known commonly as the horse. Horses are known for their long manes and tails, as well as being one of many hoofed mammals. Miniature Equines are, hence the name, small horses averaging 32” to the withers (bottom of neck, where last hair of mane lies). They are available in a wide variety of colors and builds, with differing abilities and strengths, much like larger horses. However, unlike larger equines, miniature horses are more easily managed, due to their small size and less sustenance needed, they can suit any person.

When Aesop said, “Good things come in small packages.”, miniature horses can be considered an example of such things! Have you ever pleaded with your parents to adopt a horse or “pony”? (most adolescents may pass through a pet or “pony” phase!) They would likely be more eager to adopt a miniature! In my opinion, miniature horses require less maintenance than their full-size breed, as they need a significant amount less hay and grain, do not provide as much excessive cleaning jobs to do, and do not require nearly as much training.

I adopted two miniature horses- Apple and Sweet Pea, a bay-pinto-appaloosa (chocolate brown coat with white feet and markings, as well as lighter cream markings on underside and surrounding eyes and mouth) mare and a black mare and know that additionally, miniatures do not occupy as much space as a typical equine. Indeed, both have a long paddock on the far side of our yard so they are able to run and exercise freely, without the limitations of a wider, square paddock. So, they are suitable pets with the proper amount of paddock and shelter space. Also, being highly intelligent, a fun activity to do with your miniature horse is trick training. Using a training clicker or rewards, minis can be taught any trick for entertainment purposes or horse shows! Apple is able to perform a countless number of tricks, the very least impressive sitting “cross-legged” on the ground and playing pass with a soccer ball. (Seasoned horsemen use this method of mental workout for their horses during the off-season, when their horse is not showing. It is also fun to show off what you and your miniature can do together!) Typically, if you were to attend a circus, you may see miniature horses performing tricks alongside equines. These tricks can range from lying down on command to doing mathematical equations! Training your miniature tricks also increases your trust with them, as some tricks require a significant amount of trust from the equine. Additionally, unlike full-size equines, miniature horses can perform more tricks that only a smaller horse would be capable of, such as “dancing” with their trainer.

Why? According to the nonprofit organization Rocking C Miniature Horse Ranch (Texas, USA), miniature equines are becoming increasingly popular as guide and service animals for hospital patients, the elderly, and recovering or disabled individuals. They, not unlike canines, can be brought into nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities, but are much more intelligent and have a more “laid-back”,calm attitude in comparison to the average dog. In addition, the average miniature horse has a lifespan of 25-35 years, which is considerably longer than that of a dog’s (10-13 years).

Do you have a pair of Converse All-Stars, Air Jordans or Adidas sneakers? In fact, many horse retailers as well as shoe companies are expanding their products so as to provide miniature horses and service horses alike with small boots featuring rubber soles that use straps to attach to the horse’s hoof. These boots are often designed as sneakers, and appear to be miniature versions of popular items from brands such as Converse, Adidas and Nike. The purpose of these “mini-shoes” is to protect the hoof from rough surfaces that could damage the hoof by chipping or cracking it, and permitting the horse additional grip to slippery tiled floors when entering public facilities such as schools and marketplaces, and traveling on sidewalks, roads or cobbled streets (see below).

If you’re observant enough, you may catch sight of some small equines in backyard barns across Falmouth! Several are located in the Teaticket and Waquoit villages. Due to this feature, they are popular service and therapy animals amongst canines, who do not have nearly as long a life span as minis boast. These small horses are certainly as capable of the jobs equines often fulfill, as they can be used for “pony rides” for small children, and pull an adult in a carriage or buggy. Alongside a trained professional, I am training Apple to drive a small cart, which she may eventually be able to pull in a double-harness extended shaft cart (a carriage that has a widened space between the poles connecting to the harnesses customized specifically to suit two horses)  with Sweet Pea. With their lesser amounts of maintenance, inexpensive expenses, compact size, and many “uses”, Miniature Equines are better pets rather than a more expensive, more chore-requiring “larger” equine. Take for instance the sorts of disciplines miniature horses are able to do. A discipline is a form of activity that is trained to an equine. There is a broad variety of activities you can do with your miniature equine. In fact, they can do most anything a horse can, with the exception of hosting an adult rider. However, a small child can ride them. Miniature horses are able to be trained, shown, driven in a cart and harness, compete in costume and liberty (no halter or lead) classes, as well as act as a service animal, perhaps more so than their “full-size” breed.

Additionally, if a horse owner is seeking out a companion for their horse, with their miniscule size, gentleness and inexpensive upkeep, they are often preferred as a companion for a lonely horse. According to the AMHA (the American Miniature Horse Association) guidelines, miniature horses have a much less strenuous upkeep compared to the equine, and require less space. For example, equines require a minimum of 3-5 acres per each horse. However, miniature equines only need ⅓ an acre of paddock space. Also, while a typical mini may require only $25.00 in hay and grain per month, an horse’s monthly food expenses average $50-150.00 depending on the horse’s daily activity. Accessories or vitalities for the miniature horse (blankets, halters and sheets) cost about $5-65.00 each, while a horse’s cost a maximum of $200.00 per item. These expenses, combined with that of lessons, board at a local barn, veterinary services and farrier visits, is likely far more demanding of a parent’s money than a mini.Those who are less keen to spend excessive amounts of money on a horse may choose a miniature horse as a pet, whose expenses are little more than the average dog’s.

Besides being less expensive, miniature equines are perfect service animals for individuals in need, due to their gentle, eager, intelligent nature and their small size. Their compact size is the product of harsh past habitat climates of mountainous locations and little sustenance, as well as the genetical condition of dwarfism. Dwarfism is also found in humans, and can increase the health issues of an equine, as well as decrease its size in varying degrees. Often, service Miniature Equines have traces of dwarfism and Shetland Pony in their breeding history, which contributes to their miniscule size. Miniatures with dwarfism are quite fanciable as indoor pets, and have been featured in numerous films and commercials internationally.

In conclusion, it is quite evident that miniature equines are certainly the most suitable service animal or pet for anyone of any age and aspirations. They are capable of carrying riders, pulling fanciful carts and buggies, performing stunning, impressive tricks, and aiding disabled individuals. Additionally, they require little upkeep compared to their larger breed as well, and can live 22 years longer than the average dog, and just as, if not more, intelligent. Minis are perhaps beyond perfect for those wanting a horse, but not able to adopt such a costly, requiring animal. It is plausible that eventually you or someone you know may adopt a miniature horse- there are numerous rescues nearby in Massachusetts that rescue exclusively horses or miniature equines, from which you can rescue your own miniature horse! Owning and working with a miniature horse is a very rewarding experience, which one is sure to gain patience, enjoyment, gratitude and creativity from. Beware, however; all miniature horse owners have heard and confirmed the truth behind this proverb; “Miniature horses are like potato chips- you can’t have just one!” 

Image (photo depicting Apple at last year’s Barnstable County Fair, after being awarded, “Best in Show”) by Morgan C.

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