How To Care for a Miniature Horse (Complete Guide)
Recently bought or thinking about buying a miniature horse?
Though these horses are too small to be ridden by all but the lightest children, these small equines (usually from 34 to 38 inches at the withers) make excellent companions, pets, and therapy animals. They are similar but not identical to a regular horse, so there are certain things to think about given their small size. Here is a guide to taking care of your mini horse!
Ideal Housing for Miniature Horses
Miniature horses might be small, but they’re pretty tough—one of the reasons we love them! They need pasture time to run and play and get their energy out.
If you are planning on showing your horse, you should have a stall for him in your barn—this will keep his coat from fading, and reduce the chance of injury from playing in the pasture with other horses. In the summer months, you may want to turn him out in the late afternoon or evening and keep him inside during the day, when the sun is strongest.
If you are not planning on showing a miniature pony or horse, you can still choose to have a stall for him to sleep in, or when the weather is bad. Alternatively, providing him with a three-walled shed in the pasture will protect him from rain, snow and wind.
Something important to consider when owning a miniature horse is the quality or presence of air flow through your stable or barn. Since they are closer to the ground, they are more affected by the air flow than larger horses are; so make sure there is enough flow that he can breathe properly!
Similarly, make sure that they have access to fresh, clean and unfrozen water if they are kept outside in the pasture—and that they can reach it!
Grooming a Miniature Horse
Whether you are showing your miniature horse or keeping him as a pet or a pasture mate, grooming him is important. Using a curry comb, brush and hoof pick is an everyday routine when taking care of your mini—just like with a regular horse! If you are showing a miniature, grooming is doubly essential because you need to have him clean and spiffy when in the show ring.
During the spring, summer and fall months, make sure that you use proper fly protection to keep your miniature horse safe from all types of flies and insects like ticks.
Farrier, Vet and Dentist Checkups for Your Miniature Horse
Making sure your miniature horse is seen by a farrier is essential. As with any type of horse, getting his hooves trimmed by a farrier at a young age will help him to grow accustomed to it. Then, keeping a neat schedule for when they need to get their feet done is important so you know when they are due for another checkup. As you look for a farrier in your area, you may want to call to ask if they can work on (or even specialize in) miniature horses, as their hooves are different from those of full-size horses.
Likewise, it’s critical to contact a veterinarian as soon as you can to set up regular checkups for your horse. This will ensure that your mini won’t run into serious or long-term problems or sicknesses. Besides regular checkups, you’ll also need to set up a schedule for deworming, vaccinations and immunizations, and other shots or treatments as necessary for your horse. He may need different immunizations based on if he will be driving, showing or just playing in his pasture. Between vet checkups, make sure you know the most common horse health signs so you can tell when something is off.
Like larger horses, miniatures need to have their teeth done to make sure there are no pointy edges or other issues in their mouth. Keeping a schedule for when they need their teeth done is important to keep track of when they need to be done next, as well as if there are any issues between checkups. Like with farriers and vets, it’s important to start dentistry checkups early so they get used to them; and then continue as long as they live so they can be as happy as possible!
Because of their smaller size, miniature horses have much different daily nutrition requirements compared to their full-sized horse counterparts—so don’t just feed him the same amount as you do your other horses! Remember that their smaller size means a smaller digestive system.
According to the Michigan 4-H Miniature Horse Committee, mini horses should eat about 1% of their body weight in good quality hay or forage each day; which for minis means about 2 to 4 pounds daily. Check his body weight daily: you should be able to feel his ribs easily without seeing them; and he should have a straight back. If he is over- or underweight, you may have to adjust his feeding schedule, type, or amount.
You may want to feed your mini a grain mix in addition to his hay or forage, in order to increase his energy intake as well as to add protein and other necessary nutrients to his diet. If you do, it shouldn’t be more than 12 to 14% of his daily diet, depending on whether he is growing or not. When feeding grain, it’s important to do several small doses rather than all at once; and do not give him too much! Excessive grain consumption can lead to colic.
Owning a miniature horse can be rewarding and fun (and adorable!), if you follow the few tips in this guide. They’re not so different from full size horses, but extra care is needed to make sure they get the right housing, care, and treatment to live happy, healthy, and long lives. Happy riding!
Do you own a mini horse? What’s your favorite tip (or your favorite story)? We’d love to read it in the comments below!