Miniature horse

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Miniature Horse
Miniatuurpaardje.jpg
Miniature horse at show in Europe
Traits
Distinguishing featuresSmall size, with horse phenotype 34–38 inches (86–97 cm) as measured at the last hairs of the mane

Miniature horses are horses defined by their small height. They can be found in many nations, particularly in Europe and the Americas, and are the result of centuries of selective breeding. Depending on the particular breed registry involved, the height of these horses is usually less than 34–38 inches (86–97 cm) as measured at the last hairs of the mane, which are found at the withers. While miniature horses fit a height-based definition to be considered a very small pony, many retain horse characteristics and are considered "horses" by their respective registries. They have various colors and coat patterns.

Contents

Miniature horses are generally bred to be friendly and to interact well with people. For this reason they are often kept as family pets, though they still retain natural horse behavior, including a natural fight or flight instinct, and must be treated like an equine, even if they primarily serve as a companion animal. They are also trained as service animals, akin to assistance dogs for disabled people. Miniature horses are also trained for driving, equine agility, and other competitive horse show type events.

Characteristics and registration

Miniature horse stallion Charming.JPG
Miniature horse stallion

There are two registries in the United States for miniature horses: the American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) and the American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR). The AMHA was founded in 1978 and was dedicated to establishing the miniature horse as a distinct breed of horse. [1] [2] Many of the international organizations are associated with the AMHA, including clubs throughout Canada and in several European countries. [3] The AMHR is a division of the American Shetland pony Club and was established as a separate registry in 1972. [4] Worldwide, there are dozens of miniature horse registries. Some organizations emphasize breeding of miniatures with horse characteristics, others encourage minis to retain pony characteristics. Along with registries for miniature horses in general, there are also breed-specific registries, such as several for the Falabella horse. [5]

In the AMHR, Miniatures cannot exceed 38 inches at the withers (which the AMHR defines as located at the last hair of the mane). There are two divisions in AMHR: the "A" division for horses 34 inches (86 cm) and under, and the "B" division for horses 34 to 38 inches (86 to 97 cm). [6] The AMHA requires that horses stand under 34 inches. Horses of any eye or coat color, and any form of white markings, are allowed to be registered. The AMHA standard suggests that if a person were to see a photograph of a miniature horse, without any size reference, it would be identical in characteristics, conformation, and proportion to a full-sized horse. [1] According to the AMHR, a "Miniature should be a small, sound, well-balanced horse and should give the impression of strength, agility and alertness. A Miniature should be eager and friendly but not skittish in disposition." [4]

They are generally quite hardy, often living longer on average than some full-sized horse breeds; the average life span of miniature horses is from 25 to 35 years. [7] However, there are also some health issues that are more frequently found in miniature horses than their full-sized relatives. Overfeeding is a common problem in miniature horses, leading to obesity; this is especially true when owners are used to owning full-sized horses. Dental issues, including crowding, brachygnathism (overbites) and prognathism (underbites) are frequently seen, due to having the same number of teeth in a much smaller mouth. They can also experience retention of deciduous teeth (baby teeth) and sinus problems from overcrowding. The combination of a propensity for overeating and dental problems can lead to an increased occurrence of colic. A major metabolic problem seen more frequently in miniature horses is hyperlipemia, where an appetite-reducing stressor can cause the body to break down significant amounts of fat, overwhelming the liver and potentially leading to liver failure. Reproduction is also more difficult in miniature horses, with a higher incidence of difficult births and a greater potential for eclampsia. The majority of the health problems seen more frequently in miniature horses are easily rectified with proper feeding and maintenance. [8]

History

Miniature stallion with mares and foals Mini-ponei(REFON).jpg
Miniature stallion with mares and foals

Miniature horses were first developed in Europe in the 1600s, and by 1765 they were seen frequently as the pets of nobility. Others were used in coal mines in England and continental Europe. [9] The English began using small ponies in their mines after the Mines and Collieries Act 1842 prohibited the use of young children as mine workers. Shetland ponies were most frequently seen, although any small, strong ponies that would fit in the small mine shafts were used as pit ponies. The first small horses in the United States date to 1861, when John Rarey imported four Shetland ponies, one of which was 24 inches (61 cm) tall. [2] Additional small British horses, as well as small Dutch mine horses, were brought to the US throughout the late 1800s. [10] These small horses continued the work of their British relatives, being employed in the coal mines of the eastern and central US until the mid-1900s. [2] In the 1960s, public appreciation for miniature horses began to grow, and they were increasingly used in a number of equestrian disciplines. [10]

The Falabella was originally developed in Argentina in the mid-1800s by Patrick Newtall. When Newtall died, the herd and breeding methods were passed to Newtall's son-in-law, Juan Falabella. Juan added additional bloodlines including the Welsh Pony, Shetland pony, and small Thoroughbreds. With considerable inbreeding he was able to gain consistently small size within the herd. [11]

The South African Miniature Horse was developed in South Africa and has a wide range of conformations represented in its population. Some resemble miniature Arabians, while others appear to be scaled-down versions of draft horses. [12] Wynand de Wet was the first breeder of miniature horses in South Africa, beginning his program in 1945 in Lindley, South Africa. Other breeders soon followed, with many using Arabian horses in their breeding programs. In 1984, a breed registry was begun, and the national livestock association recognized the South African Miniature Horse as an independent breed in 1989. There are approximately 700 miniature horses registered in South Africa. [13]

Uses

Miniature horses at a horse show. Miniature Horse Show.jpg
Miniature horses at a horse show.

There are many horse show opportunities offered by registries and show sanctioning organizations worldwide. Many classes are offered, including halter (horse conformation), in-hand hunter and jumper, driving, liberty, costume, obstacle or trail classes, and showmanship. Miniature horses are also used as companion animals and pets for children, elderly people, and people who are blind or have other disabilities, as they are generally less intimidating than full-sized horses. [9] While miniature horses can be trained to work indoors, they are still real horses and are healthier when allowed to live outdoors (with proper shelter and room to run) when not working with humans. [14]

Controversies

Horse or pony?

There is an ongoing debate over whether a miniature horse should possess horse or pony characteristics. This is a common controversy within the miniature horse world and also is a hot debate between mini aficionados and other horse and pony breed owners. While technically any member of Equus ferus caballus under 14.2  hands (58 inches, 147 cm) is termed a "pony," many breeds, including some miniature breeds, actually retain a horse phenotype and their breed registry therefore classifies them as horses.[ citation needed ]

Some miniature horse breed standards prefer pony characteristics such as short, stout legs and elongated torsos, while others prefer ordinary horse proportions. [15] Even the name is in dispute, terms such as "Midget Pony" and "Pygmy Horse" used in addition to "Miniature horse" and breed-specific names such as Falabella. The level of controversy is reflected by the presence of over 30 different registries for miniaturized horses or ponies just within the English-speaking world. [16]

Dwarfism

Thumbelina - a Dwarf mare ThumbelinaByPhilKonstantin.jpg
Thumbelina - a Dwarf mare

Dwarfism is a concern within the miniature horse world. Dwarf horses, while often setting world records for size, are not considered to have desirable traits, generally have incorrect conformation, and may have significant health and soundness issues. [8] Therefore, many miniature horse registries try to avoid accepting minis affected by dwarfism for breeding stock registration. [17] In 2014, a commercial DNA test became available for one set of dwarfism mutations. The four mutations of the ACAN gene are known to cause dwarfism or aborted fetuses in miniature horses. The test does not detect the mutations that cause skeletal atavism in miniature horses and some ponies, or the osteochondrodysplasia dwarfism seen in some horse breeds. [18]

The oldest living horse on record was a miniature horse affected by dwarfism named Angel who lived with the Horse Protection Society of North Carolina and lived to be over 50. [7] The current record holder for the world's smallest horse is also a horse affected by dwarfism, Thumbelina, who is fully mature but stands 17 inches (43 cm) tall and weighs 60 pounds (27 kg). In 2010 a 6-pound (2.7 kg) miniature horse foal named Einstein challenged Thumbelina for the title of the World's Smallest Horse in part based upon the idea that there should be a separate world record category for the smallest non-dwarf horse. [19]

Assistance animals

A demonstration image of a miniature horse working as a service animal Guide horse.jpg
A demonstration image of a miniature horse working as a service animal

There is controversy over whether miniature horses are suitable as assistance animals for persons with disabilities. Those who favor their use point out that horses live much longer than dogs and can be trained to perform similar tasks. Another plus is that some individuals, particularly from Muslim cultures, consider dogs unclean, but accept horses. [20]

Opponents of their use raise concerns that miniature horses are prey animals, with a fight-or-flight instinct that may limit their usefulness, and for legal reasons.[ citation needed ] In the US, where they are legally classified as livestock and require outdoor stabling for good health, their use is limited to owners with access to a large yard in communities having tolerant land use regulations. In terms of practical considerations, they note that it is difficult for even a miniature horse to do things such as lie down in the seat of a taxicab or to stay in a hotel room for extended periods of time.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Shetland pony Scottish breed of traditional pony

The Shetland pony is a Scottish breed of pony originating in the Shetland Isles in the north of Scotland. It may stand up to 107 cm (42 in) at the withers. It has a heavy coat and short legs, is strong for its size, and is used for riding, driving, and pack purposes.

Dwarfing is a process in which a breed of animals or cultivar of plants is changed to become significantly smaller than standard members of their species. The effect can be induced through human intervention or non-human processes, and can include genetic, nutritional or hormonal means. Used most specifically, dwarfing includes pathogenic changes in the structure of an organism, in contrast to non-pathogenic proportional reduction in stature.

Friesian horse Horse breed

The Friesian is a horse breed originating in Friesland, in the Netherlands. Although the conformation of the breed resembles that of a light draught horse, Friesians are graceful and nimble for their size. It is believed that during the Middle Ages, ancestors of Friesian horses were in great demand as war horses throughout continental Europe. Through the Early Middle Ages and High Middle Ages, their size enabled them to carry a knight in armour. In the Late Middle Ages, heavier, draught type animals were needed. Though the breed nearly became extinct on more than one occasion, the modern day Friesian horse is growing in numbers and popularity, used both in harness and under saddle. Most recently, the breed is being introduced to the field of dressage.

Morgan horse

The Morgan horse is one of the earliest horse breeds developed in the United States. Tracing back to the foundation sire Figure, later named Justin Morgan after his best-known owner, Morgans served many roles in 19th-century American history, being used as coach horses and for harness racing, as general riding animals, and as cavalry horses during the American Civil War on both sides of the conflict. Morgans have influenced other major American breeds, including the American Quarter Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse and the Standardbred. During the 19th and 20th centuries, they were exported to other countries, including England, where a Morgan stallion influenced the breeding of the Hackney horse. In 1907, the US Department of Agriculture established the US Morgan Horse Farm near Middlebury, Vermont for the purpose of perpetuating and improving the Morgan breed; the farm was later transferred to the University of Vermont.The first breed registry was established in 1909, and since then many organizations in the US, Europe and Oceania have developed. There were estimated to be over 175,000 Morgan horses worldwide in 2005.

Gypsy horse

The Gypsy Cob, also known as the Traditional Gypsy cob, Irish Cob, Gypsy Horse or Gypsy Vanner, is a type or breed of domestic horse from the islands Great Britain and Ireland. It is a small, solidly-built horse of cob conformation and is often, but not always, piebald or skewbald; it is particularly associated with Irish Travellers and English Romanichal Travellers of Ireland and Great Britain. There was no stud-book or breed association for horses of this type until 1996. It is now considered a breed and can be registered by the Traditional Gypsy Cob Association (TGCA)..

Pony of the Americas American breed of horse

The Pony of the Americas is a pony breed developed in the state of Iowa in the United States. The foundation stallion was an Arabian/Appaloosa/Shetland pony cross. A breed registry was founded in 1954, and within 15 years had registered 12,500 ponies. Today, the Pony of the Americas Club is one of the largest and most active youth-oriented horse breed registries in the US. Although called ponies, POAs have the phenotype of a small horse, combining mainly Arabian and American Quarter Horse attributes. The registry is open, allowing blood from many other breeds, but has strict criteria for entry, including Appaloosa coloration, specified height and other physical characteristics. Although mainly bred for Western riding, the breed has been used for many other disciplines, including driving, endurance riding and some English disciplines.

Hackney pony

The Hackney pony is a breed of pony closely related to the Hackney horse. Originally bred to pull carriages, they are used today primarily as show ponies. The breed does not have its own stud book, but shares one with the Hackney horse in all countries that have an official Hackney Stud Book Registry.

Falabella

The Falabella is an Argentine breed of small horse. It is among the smallest of horse breeds, with a height at the withers in the range 63–86 cm (25–34 in)..

Caspian horse Small horse breed

The Caspian is a small horse breed native to Northern Iran. Although its original height probably ranged between 9 and 11.2 hands it is termed a horse rather than a pony because it has much in common with horses in terms of conformation, gaits and character. It is believed to be one of the oldest horse or pony breeds in the world, descended from small Mesopotamian equines that, in competition with larger animals, had faded from attention by the 7th century AD.

The Virginia Highlander is a small breed of horse with a four-beat ambling gait.

German Riding Pony

The Deutsche Reitpony or German Riding Pony is a very popular pony breed in Germany. It is described as a "miniature warmblood" with refined, horse-like characteristics that make it suitable as both a children's pony and as a mount for sport horse competition in Europe. Originally bred in Germany and later throughout Western Europe, the breed is relatively new to North America.

Pony Type of small horse

A pony is a small horse. Depending on the context, a pony may be a horse that is under an approximate or exact height at the withers or a small horse with a specific conformation and temperament. A pony is typically under the height of 14.2 hands high. There are many different breeds. Compared to other horses, ponies often exhibit thick manes, tails and overall coat, as well as proportionally shorter legs, wider barrels, heavier bone, thicker necks, and shorter heads with broader foreheads. The word pony derives from the old French poulenet, meaning foal, a young, immature horse, but this is not the modern meaning; unlike a horse foal, a pony remains small when fully grown. On occasion, people who are unfamiliar with horses may confuse an adult pony with a foal.

The Pinto Horse Association of America (PtHA) registers horses, utility horses, ponies and miniature horses of various pedigrees with certain kinds of pinto coat colors. The word pinto is Spanish for "paint." In general terms, pinto can apply to any horse marked with unpigmented pink-skinned, white-haired areas on its coat. The Pinto Horse Association of America provides the owners and riders of pintos with a show circuit and a breed organization. The primary requirement for PtHA registration is coat color; the pinto is not a true breed, but a color breed.

Quarter Pony American breed of horse

The Quarter Pony is a breed of pony that is similar to the American Quarter Horse. It stands up to 14.2 hands high and was developed from American Quarter Horse foundation bloodstock. The breed was originally developed from Quarter Horses that did not meet the American Quarter Horse Association's height requirement. It is bred to look like a small Quarter Horse, although the various registries also allow crosses with other breeds, including Paint horse, Appaloosa and Pony of the Americas, all stock types. There are three registries for the Quarter Pony, all with slightly different registration requirements. The first registry was begun in 1964, and two more were started in the 1970s. The breed is used today in a variety of Western riding disciplines.

North American donkeys

North American donkeys constitute approximately 0.1% of the worldwide donkey population. Donkeys were brought from Europe to the New World in the fifteenth century with the Second Voyage of Christopher Columbus, and subsequently spread into Mexico. They first reached what is now the United States in the late seventeenth century. Donkeys arrived in large numbers in the western United States during the gold rushes of the nineteenth century, as pack animals and for use in mines and ore-grinding mills. From about 1785, some large donkeys were imported from Europe to the eastern part of the continent.

North American Sportpony

The NorthAmerican Sportpony is a relatively new pony breed in the United States. Its origins are from a diverse group of breeds, because the "Sportpony" is not derived from specific bloodlines, but rather is a conformation type, akin to the American Warmblood.

Miniature American Shepherd Dog breed

The Miniature American Shepherd, frequently abbreviated MAS, is a small herding dog breed. The MAS is highly intelligent and biddable. The breed is often trained for dog sports such as herding, agility, obedience, canine freestyle, flyball, and others. The Miniature American Shepherd was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2015 and is the club's 186th breed. In September 2019, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) officially accepted the breed.

The American Indian Horse is defined by its breed registry as a horse that may carry the ancestry of the Spanish Barb, Arabian, Mustang, or "Foundation" Appaloosa. It is the descendant of horses originally brought to the Americas by the Spanish and obtained by Native American people. The registry was created in 1961 when some breeders of Colonial Spanish Horse bloodlines considered the Spanish Mustang breeders to be departing from the original "Indian horse" phenotype. The organization was started "for the purpose of collecting, recording and preserving the pedigrees of American Indian Horses." The registry also allows the "hybrids [sic] and descendants" of the original Spanish Colonial Horse to be registered. Horses registered with other breed registries to be double-registered with this organization if the horses meet the conformation requirements.

American Shetland Pony American breed of pony

The American Shetland Pony is an American breed of pony. It derives from the traditional Shetland Pony from the Shetland Isles of Scotland, but as a result of cross-breeding with other horse and pony breeds, is taller and more elegant. It does not have the thick coat of the traditional Shetland, and in conformation is more similar to the Hackney Pony, with some Arab influence. It is the most numerous pony breed in the United States; numbers in 1994 were estimated at over 50,000. It is one of two American pony breeds derived from the traditional Shetland, the other being the Pony of the Americas.

References

  1. 1 2 "2014 American Miniature Horse Association Rule Book", American Miniature Horse Association, page 3. Accessed April 28, 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 Dutson, Judith (2005). Storey's Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America. Storey Publishing. pp. 168–170. ISBN   1580176135.
  3. "Approved Clubs"., American Miniature Horse Association. Accessed April 28, 2014.
  4. 1 2 "Unique -- Interesting -- A Class All of lts Own," Archived December 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine The Journal of The American Shetland Pony Club Accessed January 17, 2007
  5. "The Top 20 Miniature Horse Registries". The Guide Horse Foundation. Accessed April 28, 2014.
  6. "American Miniature Horse" Archived April 29, 2014, at the Wayback Machine , American Shetland Pony Club/American Miniature Horse Registry. Accessed April 28, 2014.
  7. 1 2 "Miniature Horse Facts", Guide Horse Foundation. Accessed April 28, 2014.
  8. 1 2 "The Miniature Horse: More Than Just a Smaller Horse". The Horse. January 13, 2013. Accessed April 30, 2014.
  9. 1 2 "American Miniature Horse". International Museum of the Horse. Accessed April 28, 2014.
  10. 1 2 "About the Breed". Archived April 1, 2013, at the Wayback Machine American Miniature Horse Association. Accessed April 30, 2014.
  11. Hendricks, Bonnie (2007). International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 183–184. ISBN   9780806138848.
  12. Hendricks, Bonnie (2007). International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 385. ISBN   9780806138848.
  13. "History" Archived August 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine , Miniature Horse Breeders' Society of South Africa. Accessed April 28, 2014
  14. "Horses in the house". Guide Horse Foundation. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  15. Mini Horse History Archived 21 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine [ unreliable source? ]
  16. List of Miniature Horse Registries Archived 28 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine [ unreliable source? ]
  17. Ashby, Barbara. "Dwarfism in Miniature Horses." Miniature Horse World,, p. 37–39 June/July issue, publication year unclear, web page accessed September 2, 2007.
  18. "Testing Available for Dwarfism Gene in Miniature Horses", The Horse, April 24, 2014. Accessed April 28, 2014.
  19. Puny pony creating a buzz on N.H. farm, Boston Herald, retrieved February 8, 2012
  20. Seeing-eye horse guides blind Muslim woman, MSNBC, retrieved February 8, 2012

Further reading