How to Breed and Raise Miniature Horses
Miniature horses are bred not to be ponies, but rather to be miniature versions of full sized horses. They are used as pets, service animals, and companions for larger horses. Although they are sometimes ridden by children this should not be done on a regular basis, however the larger minis can be fitted and trained to pull carts.
Although breeding, and raising, miniature horses is similar to that of full sized horses there are some differences which will be covered here. According to the American Miniature Horse Association a miniature horse cannot stand over 34 inches at maturity, and cannot be over 30 inches as a weanling.
Start with the Best
The horse industry is already in a glut, there is no point in breeding low quality miniatures, many of which end up on the rodeo circuit in traumatizing “wild pony catching” events. Other poorly bred miniatures have deformities (often in their legs) and must be euthanized or suffer from extreme joint pains to the point they can barely walk.
Select only registered horses to start your breeding program, but be aware that registration does not indicate quality. Select proven horses, ones who have been shown and have placed well in shows. If you prefer to start with younger, unproven animals, select those from quality breeders where the dam and sire (mother and father) have both won awards and proven themselves worthy of breeding.
You only need mares to start and can send them to a stud for breeding, or you may wish to buy your own stallion. If you buy a stallion you will need to keep him separated from the mares either year round, or at least when they are foaling. As such you will require a secure pasture for him, people often use electric fencing to contain a stallion.
Some people opt to “pasture breed” their horses, leaving the stallion with the mares year round. This can be dangerous as an unexperienced stallion may not leave the mares alone, and could get kicked. However it is less work on the part of the owner, but means you may not know the mares breeding date – so will not know her expected foaling date. A stallion at pasture with mares will be on the move constantly and may need extra feed to keep him in good condition. The stallion must be removed before foaling starts.
©by author - a silver dapple miniature mare
Although rare, some stallions are aggressive to foals, but more important the foal could get hurt when the stallion tries to breed the mare again when she comes into her “foal heat” about 5 days after a foal is born. Due to the stress on their bodies, mares should not be bred at that time anyhow.
Mares can be bred at 2 years of age, but 3, or even 4 years of age is far better, and safer. Mares come into heat every 21 days, and are in heat for about 5 to 7 days. Gestation is roughly eleven months, with most foals being born at night.
Miniature mares foal just like regular sized horse mares with the added concerns brought on by their stunted size. Some of the smaller mares have problems delivering a foal on their own, and if not aided will die in the foaling process. This is due to the fact that miniatures horse foals have proportionately large heads to the mares birth canal. This is also a good reason to select a stallion that is not much bigger than the mare, and to always have a veterinarians phone number on hand.
Registering and Proving Quality
All foals should be registered, with plans on gelding the poorest 90% of colts foaled. Keep only the best to be used as stallions in the future.
To prove the quality of your horses you should plan on taking them to shows for miniature horses. At their first show their height will also be checked and recorded.
Feeding and General Care
Miniature horses are prone to founder, as such they should be kept off lush grass pastures and not fed an abundance of grain. In the winter they may be fed hay, a good grass hay is fine, or a grass legume mix if they are in foal or in poor condition.
Finding a farrier for miniature horses can be tricky, but it is important they receive correct hoof care.
Miniatures do not require stabling, but should have some shelter, in the form of a shed or forest to escape bad weather, or to find shade on a hot day. Ideally you will want a barn for foaling.
Note: Avoid breeding for extremely small size, focus on quality. Too many people are breeding smaller and smaller horses and quality is being lost, the end result is a small horse often with deformities and problems with their legs, heart, and so forth.