History Of The Miniature Horse
The American Miniature Horse is a unique and original breed . The miniature horse is a scaled down version of the standard size horse. Division "A" miniature horses measure only 34" or less at the withers (last hairs in the mane) and division "B" miniatures range from 34" to 38" at the withers. The history of the miniature horse is varied and traces to several sources. Miniature horses were used in England & Northern Europe as far back as the 1700's to pull ore carts in the coal mines. They were also bred by European royalty as pets for the royal children. In the 19th century, some miniatures were brought to the United States to be used in the mines in Ohio and West Virginia. Many early breeders imported horses from Europe, especially England and Holland, which helped to create the miniature breed, as it is known today. Some miniatures trace back to the Falabella Ranches in Buenos Aries, Argentina, South America, which was founded in the mid 1840's. This ranch was dedicated to breeding down miniatures from larger horses.
It wasn't until 1971 that the first registry was created to sanction and register the world's smallest equine breed--the American Miniature Horse. After a request by a group of miniature breeders that the American Shetland Pony Club (est. 1888) open a registry division for miniatures, the ASPC voted to establish such a registry. This registry was called the American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR). On January 1, 1972, the AMHR officially opened and began accepting registration of especially small equines, not exceeding 34" in height at maturity. The horses were to be perfect in form and normal in function with head, body and legs presenting a well proportioned, pleasing appearance. The open period of registration of foundation stock ran for 2 years until December 31, 1973. After this period only horses produced by crosses of registered stock were allowed to be registered. Some of the 'unknown' sires and dams listed on many of the foundation miniatures may have come from the Shetland breed, as many of the early Shetlands were smaller than their modern day cousins. In fact, in the 1st ASPC stud book, the average Shetland's height was only a little over 40", and a few of the early registered Shetlands only measured between 28' and 34" tall. Roughly 1/4 of them measured under 38" tall.
Later on in the 70's, as other people imported stock or tried to register unregistered stock, but found they couldn't, new registries began to start up. Around 1977, the International Miniature Horse Registry opened on the west coast and in 1978, the American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) opened in Texas. Several others followed, but eventually most of them folded or were absorbed by the AMHA. The AMHA only recognizes miniature horses up to 34" tall, however, in 1986, the AMHR voted in a "B" registry, which allowed a 34" to 38" division of miniatures. This "B" division came about by popular demand of the members. Their reasons for wanting the "B" division were varied, but included such things as, the gene pool was too small and new blood was needed, some breeders were getting dwarfs, some mares were having trouble foaling due to their small size, some breeders were getting excellent animals over 34", and some wanted to start miniature horse racing with the larger minis and mechanical riders.
Both the AMHR and the AMHA have sanctioned shows, including National Shows, where today's miniatures can be shown in halter and showmanship classes, or compete in performance classes, such as driving, jumping, and obstacle. Miniature horses are easy to handle and fun to show. Today's miniature horses also make wonderful family pets, because of their gentle nature and small size. They are small enough for a young child to safely handle and care for. Children can learn how to care for a miniature horse long before they are big enough to handle standard size horses. Larger "B" size miniature can be ridden by a small child, and when they outgrow the miniature, it can be trained to easily pull a cart or small wagon. Even though they can't carry a large amount of weight on their back, they are very strong and can pull even adults in a cart. They are the perfect size for parades, fair exhibitions, playdays, etc. They can be shared at schools, nursing homes, and parties, as well as in your own backyard. The elderly enjoy them, as miniatures make a good alternative to the full sized horse, which they may no longer feel physically able to handle. There are even classes in which the physically disabled can participate in with miniatures.
Even though miniature horses are small, they are as equally hardy as the standard size horse with regards to the weather. In cold seasons they grow warm, wooly coats to keep them warm, then shed off to a sleek coat as soon as the weather warms up. Miniatures require a good heath care program with regular vaccinations and de-worming, just like a big horse. They require regular hoof care and grooming. They require grass or quality hay supplemented with grain. Basically, they require the same care as a larger horse, but they require much less feed, space, etc, The mares have the same gestation period as the full size horse- (11 months or 340-345 days average). You can own a miniature horse without the need for big pastures and large barns. You can feed several for the cost of feeding one standard size horse. Miniature horses can provide as much fun and excitement as a standard size horse, but in a much more economical package.