Guide to Breeding Miniature Horses

Guide to Breeding Miniature Horses

I love breeding miniature horses, they are incredibly cute and easy to work with if you breed them correctly.

Deciding to Breed a Miniature Horse

When you decide to breed your miniature horse, there are several things to consider before you actually breed your mare. Breeding miniature horses carries a certain amount of risk for the mare, the stud, and the foal. If you have a very dear pet, then the chance of losing it or the foal during breeding may not be worth the risk. You should also consider the quality and pedigree of your miniature horse and what you are breeding it to. There are too many "backyard" breeders adding miniature horses that are not well-bred and have several health problems to add more to the already overpopulated miniature horse population. If your horse does not have good conformation, health, or cannot be registered, then you should not breed it. There are too many other foals that you can adopt and raise.

Once you have decided to breed and have quality horses to breed, you need to do your research on the breeding process and risks associated with breeding, so you are ready for anything. There are a number of things that can go wrong during breeding and it is better to be prepared then have the worst happen.

The Mare

When choosing a mare, there are several important things to consider. Most importantly, the mare should be healthy and free of any genetical issues that may pass on to the foals. When picking a mare for breeding, you should pick out a mare that is as close to a perfect specimen as you can find. Now we all know that there is no such thing as a perfect miniature horse, but when it comes to breeding, that is what you want as a main goal.

The typical gestation period of a miniature mare is about 330 days, give or take 15 days. Some mares will foal 10 months, and some will care for a full 12 months. The abnormality of the foaling length is a characteristic of each individual mare. Some of these foals may need special care. A premature foal will be smaller and need special attention, but the overdue foal may have joint problems and need assistance to walk properly. The heredity factor will determine the maturity of each of the foals, and a 10-month and a 12-month foal may be the same size after six months.

A mare can foal anytime during the year, but it is most common between March and June. This is because their cycles are dependent on the number of light hours. This makes their heat cycles stronger during the summer months, resulting in spring foals. When the mare begins to cycle regularly, there is a short period where the mare will accept the stud for breeding. A typical heat cycle will be between 5 and 7 days once every 21 days, and a mare will begin to cycle about a week after foaling. The most unique aspect of the mare's heat cycle is that she only ovulates about 24 to 48 hours before the end of the cycle. In order for the mare to conceive, semen must be present at the time of ovulation. This makes breeding more difficult to get the timing right to make sure that the mare settles. Also, an individual mare may cycle every 21 days or only have a 3-day heat. You must know the mare in order to breed her and have a better chance of the mare conceiving. Most mares, when in heat, will urinate frequently and stand holding her tail to the side. When a mare is in standing heat, she will back up to the stud. It is very useful to tease the mare with the stallion or a gelding to track her cycle.

Once the mare is bred, it is crucial to have a health maintenance program. The mare should be wormed regularly, and it is very important to have a reliable vet that can give you advice when needed or is available if something goes wrong. If you are taking a mare to a different stallion to be bred, the stallions owner will let you know what vaccinations are necessary and what preliminary measures you will have to take before the breeding. If you choose, you can have the mare pregnancy tested 14 days after breeding, but a positive pregnancy test does not ensure a live foal. Many things can happen over the course of the pregnancy.

The Foal

A bred mare will begin to show about eight months after breeding. Some mares will be more noticeable, and some may keep their figure for a majority of the pregnancy. During the last week of the pregnancy, the foal will drop into the abdomen. This change in position is very noticeable. A mares bag will begin to develop about a month before birth, and "waxing" will start about 12 hours before birth. There is some discrepancy about whether a miniature mare actually "waxes." "Waxing" is when a mare starts to drip colostrum or milk and it crystallizes on her nipples, giving it the appearance of wax. At about 12 to 24 hours, the mare will become agitated and show signs of distress. She will most likely stay away from the other mares and may kick or bite at her flanks. At this point, the mare should be watched regularly and placed by herself in a stall or corral. Many people have opted to have wireless cameras installed in the stalls so they can continually watch the mare and check on her throughout the night without having to get up and go outside every couple of hours.

During the birth, the mare prefers not to have any human contact, and you should quietly observe from a distance or watch on the camera and wait. It is best not to disturb the mare until she is finished foaling. The foaling process will take from 5 to 20 minutes. A balloon-like sack will appear first and break letting the fluids out. The foals front feet should appear first, then the head and shoulders. If the mare is having difficulties or a back leg is coming first, you should call your vet immediately. Most mares will handle it well, and nature takes over, and they know exactly what to do. However, some mares will not get the sack off the foal, and you will need to assist in tearing the sack so the foal can breathe. If the sac has torn and the foal is breathing, leave the mare and foal alone. The foal should start to stand in about 15 minutes, sometimes before the mare, and the umbilical cord and sac should break once the foal starts trying to stand. If it does not get some string and tie it off about one and a half inches below the belly and cut it with scissors and disinfect the umbilical cord with iodine.

The foal will immediately try to nurse and will usually nurse within the first two hours of birth. It is crucial to make sure that the foal has nursed as it needs the colostrum that contains anti-bodies necessary for its immune system. It is best to leave the mare and foal away from the other mares until they have accepted each other and the foal is moving around well. Some mares will attempt to steal another mare's foal.


A lot of care should go into picking your stallion. Many people will start with a handful of nice quality mares and one stallion, so the stallion should be exceptional. It is ideal to select a mature, proven stud so that you know how he is going to turn out and possibly what some of his foals look like; however, these studs are much more expensive to purchase. A good option is to get a yearling or weanling to start with. It will take a couple of years for him to mature into a breeding stallion, but they are usually much cheaper, and you can still pick out very high-quality lines. Also, if the young stallion does not develop into a breeding quality horse, you can geld him and use him in shows, driving, or sell him and start over.

Another thing to consider when picking out your stallion (and mares) is what is going to be your main goal for breeding. Are you going for under 34", color, or other traits such as driving prospects? It is very important to decide this prior to purchasing your first breeding stock because it can become expensive to change your direction once you have a heard built up. Also, make sure your mares and stud complement each other. Since you are striving for perfection if your mare and your stud are both pigeon-toed then chances are the foal may be too.

Studs are far more aggressive then mares or geldings and can be a handful if not properly trained. It is important to have the proper stalls and paddocks that are safe for your stud and free of anything he can get caught up in if a mare is on the other side of the fence. With proper handling and training, many studs become very docile and willing to do what is asked of them. Many studs go to shows and perform with mares with no problems, but you have to always take the necessary precautions, so your stud or other mares are not hurt when showing or breeding.

Health is a vital factor for a breeding stud. He should be free from any diseases and parasites. Make sure if you are allowing other mares to be bred to him that they to are free from any health issues. The stud should have his regular vaccinations and a regular worming schedule. It is also a good idea to supplement the stud, especially during the height of the breeding season as they often lose weight worrying about the mares. Exercise is also very important for the stud, especially if he is stalled as the pent up energy and frustration can make him hard to handle. A good way to exercise a stud is to let him run in a safe paddock for 30 minutes to an hour, and he will entertain himself. Once he has run the excess energy off work with him for another thirty minutes in training.

When it is time to breed, you can either hand-breed or pasture-breed. Some studs will breed either way and some will do better one way or another. Also, the mare may factor into how you choose to breed. If you are booking mares, it is probably best to hand-breed so the mare or stud do not hurt each other since they are not used to each other. If you have several mares, you can pasture-breed and allow the stud to run free with the mares for a certain amount of time, usually in the late spring to mid-summer. This allows him to be with the mares for a couple of heat cycles and does not allow for any winter babies unless you are prepared for the extra care. It is a good idea to start scratching his belly and handling his sheath so that he is use to it before you breed as you will most likely clean it before hand breeding, especially if you are booking other peoples mares.

© 2009 jlynbanks

Kennedy on February 25, 2019:

I want to breed but I'm gonna need some help finding out what to do

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Yeats on April 08, 2010:


donia on April 07, 2010:

wow!!! ihave been in the horse business for many years. i wanted to get into minis to do something different. i have an UNREGISTERED mini stud and want to breed. i think your opinion on back yard breeders is a "situation" only. horse traders should not breed in most cases. i have encountered they dont care about the animal or you. Money is their interest.

Yeats on March 26, 2010:

Hmm...personally I hate backyard breeders. I've encountered a few myself.

Guide to Breeding Miniature Horses - pets

Miniature horses were developed by breeding pony breeds such as the Shetland, Dartmoor, and similar small ponies with full sized horses.В To qualify as a miniature horse they must measure less than 38 inches tall at the withers, or top of the shoulder, when fully grown.В Though the miniature horse originated from pony breeds, they are considered horses and not ponies because of their common characteristics with full sized horses. Some breed registries prefer that miniature horses have a proportional head, body, and legs while other registries require more pony-like qualities.В They usually have a longer body, big head, and very short legs. There are miniature horses who show signs of dwarfism. These qualities are not ideal and can potentially lead to structural problems for the horse later in life, but even so miniature horses may outlive their full-size cousins.В

Miniature horses may live as long as 35 years. They can be very friendly, and make good family pets. Even if they have frequent interaction with humans, it is important to remember that miniature horses are horses. They retain the the same natural instincts, including flight behaviors, and require the same treatment and care as a full-size horse.В

Small horses have been found throughout the ages with some of the most famous people in history. Miniature horses were buried in the Pharaoh's tombs in Egypt. In Europe in the 1300s, nobility began keeping small horses to pull carts and as pets. The French King Louis XIV’s records indicate that he had tiny horses in his zoo in the 1650s. During the Renaissance period documentation of what is now known as the miniature horse arose. Even Napoleon III’s Empress wife had a carriage pulled by a miniature horse. By the 1860s another variation of miniature horse called the Falabella miniature horse was created in Argentina by Patrick Newell. His son-in-law Juan Falabella continued the breeding of ponies with small Thoroughbred horses after Patrick Newell’s death. After many generations, they were able to achieve consistency in the small stature of their miniature horses. Lady Estella Hope and her sisters carried on a breeding program from their bloodlines through the mid-nineteen hundreds in England. In 1945, the South American Miniature Horse became another recognized breed with the smallest recorded horse reaching only 26 inches in height.В


  • 1 Characteristics and registration
  • 2 History
  • 3 Uses
  • 4 Controversies
    • 4.1 Horse or pony?
    • 4.2 Dwarfism
    • 4.3 Assistance animals
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 External links

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]

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]

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]

Horse or pony? Edit

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 Edit

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 Edit

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 ]

Damn Interesting

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By using selective breeding programs over many generations, horse breeds have been produced which are little more than a couple dozen inches tall. These horses are called miniature horses, and they range anywhere from nineteen to thirty-eight inches in height. They are not a new invention as early as the seventeenth century, miniature horses were bred as pets for the European nobility. And in the last few centuries, they were also used as pit ponies in English mines to carry loads of coal. But in recent history they have been put to use in another pursuit altogether: as guide animals for blind individuals.

Dogs have been used for this purpose for several generations. The first training schools for guide dogs were established in Germany during the First World War, to enhance the mobility of veterans who were blinded in combat. And the United States’ The Seeing Eye organization began training guide dogs way back in 1929. It wasn’t until 1998 that somebody got the idea to train miniature horses for the same purpose, but it turns out there are a few surprising advantages to using a minihorse as an alternative to a dog.

Perhaps the most compelling advantage is the animals’ lifespans. Most of the dogs which are trained as guide dogs are large breeds⁠—usually German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, or Labradors⁠—which have typical lifespans of 8-12 years. Considering that a dog is in its second year by the time it is ready to be used as a guide, a seeing-eye dog can only offer about 6-8 years of service. Not only is it emotionally difficult for one’s constant companion to die of old age, but if a blind person gets a new guide dog, he or she must repeat the training process each time. While a miniature guide horse requires roughly the same amount of time to train, it has a typical life expectancy of 30-40 years.

Guide horses also offer a viable alternative when a blind individual has an allergy to dogs, or a dog-related phobia. And unlike domestic dogs, minihorses are not addicted to human attention, so they are content with little affection from their owners. They are also able to live outdoors comfortably in almost any weather conditions.

Miniature horses, like their full-sized relatives, have a few advantages in vision as well. They have a field of vision which is 350 degrees wide, and eyes which are highly sensitive to motion. They also have excellent night vision, which allows them to see in almost total darkness. Because of these advantages, often a miniature horse in training will detect a potential hazard before their sighted trainers do.

A guide horse uses a harness similar to that of a guide dog, and is outfitted with special horse sneakers to help them keep traction on a variety of surfaces. They typically weight 55-100 pounds, and they are trained to be fully housebroken. Just like guide dogs, US law dictates they be permitted in businesses, cabs, buses, airplanes, and pretty much anywhere that a blind person is able to go. This right is protected in the U.S. by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

These miniature guide horses probably won’t be the best solution for most blind individuals, but it never hurts to have some alternatives.

Everything You Need to Know About Mini Horses

Tiny and adorable are not their only strong suits.

Everyone knows that miniature is better. There are mini cupcakes, mini gingerbread houses, mini champagnes—the list goes on. Bite-size versions of our favorite food and drink are not alone though this love proclamation of all things tiny holds true with animals, too.

And so we say just two words to you: Miniature. Horses. These pint-sized equines are enough to make your voice go up an octave in excitement and wish you were pint-sized once more yourself to enjoy just one more pony ride.

Even if you're already familiar with mini horses, there's a lot more to them than their small size suggests. Here are all the adorable mini horse facts your heart could ever desire.

According to the American Miniature Horse Association (yes, this is a real thing), they cannot exceed a height of 34 inches at the withers (the end of the mane hairs).

Their average lifespan ranges from 25 to 35 years, meaning they often live longer lives than their full-sized counterparts.

Average-sized horses eat approximately 15 to 20 pounds of food per day whereas mini horses eat between two and four pounds, with a diet consisting primarily of grass, hay, and grain.

Originating in Europe around the 1600s, mini horses' small size was developed by selective breeding.

Nobility often claimed the animals as pets on more than one occasion. In fact, Empress Eugenie, wife of 19 th century French emperor Napoleon III, owned a mini horse that was equipped to pull a small carriage and was also used to entertain children in their palace.

Minis with proper training and certification are able to assist visually impaired individuals and those with other disabilities because of their calm demeanor. Their long lifespan (much longer than dogs') makes them a popular choice. They can also serve as therapy animals because, let's face it, who wouldn't want the comfort and companionship of such a tiny, fluffy, hooved creature?

Guinness World Record Holder Thumbelina was born in 2001 and lives on Goose Creek Farm in St. Louis, Missouri. She has dwarfism, which explains why she's especially mini. Her tiny legs are almost too adorable to bear. Almost.

With almost 18,000 followers, Patrick the mini horse has garnered quite the fan base on Instagram. His photos often showcase his impressive tricks, proving that the agility and athleticism of mini horses isn't hindered by their small stature.

Crunch and his trainer/owner, Hannah Pikkat, live down under in Sydney, Australia, where they play amongst the sand and sea. What a life.

If this hasn't convinced you to seriously evaluate your life and consider buying your very own mini horse, frankly, I'm not sure what will. Mini aficionado or not, who can resist this face?

Watch the video: How to breed horses. Breeding Tier8 Courser Horse - BDO