In most ways, caring for Miniature Horses is similar to caring for their full-sized counterparts—they need proper nutrition, housing, farriery, and veterinary care. But because these tiny equids do require some special considerations, we’ve prepared a list of 15 things for you to remember when managing them.
The average Miniature Horse stands 32 to 36 inches tall—as measured at the highest point of the withers— and weighs, on average, 150 to 300 pounds.
Not surprisingly, Minis require less living space than full-sized horses. One acre of pasture suitable for a large horse can easily accommodate four to six Minis. In the barn, a Mini can be housed comfortably in a 6-by-6-foot stall.
Some owners turn their Minis out with fullsize horses, while others keep their smaller equids separate from larger ones. Many Minis get along well with large horses and vice versa, but a kick or bite from a full-size equid could seriously injure a Mini. If turning Minis out with large horses, provide a water source that the smallest animal in the herd can easily access.
4. Vaccination and deworming
Like other breeds, Miniature Horses must be vaccinated and dewormed regularly. Minis receive smaller anthelmintic doses than full-sized horses because dosage is based on body weight. But because vaccines work by stimulating the immune system and are not body-weight-dependent, vaccine doses are the same for Minis as full-sized horses.
5. Hoof care
Miniature Horses, known for having thin hoof walls proportionate to their small hooves, need their feet trimmed every six to eight weeks. When selecting a farrier, choose one who is experienced with working on Minis, familiar with balancing smaller hoof capsules, and able to recognize early changes in Mini hooves that could indicate problems.
One of the most common health problems Miniature Horses face is obesity, which can put them at risk for developing numerous other health problems, including insulin resistance, laminitis, and colic. To maintain a Mini at a healthy weight, along with a body condition score of around 5 on the nine-point scale, keep his daily feed intake to about 1.5% of his body weight in hay. Most Minis don’t require concentrates; however, those expending larger amounts of calories—such as broodmares or those used regularly for driving—might benefit from a small amount of concentrate daily. For obese Minis, work with a veterinarian or equine nutritionist to develop a safe and effective weight loss plan that doesn’t place the horse at risk for hyperlipidemia (more on this in fact No. 9).
7. Early placental separation
A common reproductive problem for Miniature Horses is early placental separation, which leaves the foal deprived of oxygen during foaling. Monitor all Miniature Horse foalings carefully and be prepared to stimulate an affected foal to begin breathing. Without stimulation, these foals typically don’t survive.
8. Fetal membrane problems
Because Miniature foals weigh less at birth than full-sized foals, it can be more difficult for them to break through the fetal membrane during foaling, leaving them at an increased risk for suffocating. Be prepared to break the membrane and clear the foal’s breathing passages, if needed.
Stress and drastic feed reduction can cause this life-threatening condition. With the latter, the body perceives itself to be starving and releases large quantities of stored lipids (fats) into the bloodstream. The fat influx can overwhelm the liver and interfere with its normal function, leading to liver failure. It’s important to treat hyperlipidemia early to improve the Mini’s changes for recovery.
10. Temporary inguinal cryptorchidism
Miniature Horses are one of the breeds most commonly affected by temporary inguinal cryptorchidism, a condition in which one or both of a colt’s testes fail to descend beyond the inguinal canal. If the condition is temporary, the colt’s testes will descend by three years of age. If the testes don’t drop by this time, the horse is likely affected by permanent cryptorchidism.
11. Conformational deficits
Miniature foals are prone to upward fixation of the patella (stifle locking), carpal valgus (knock knees) and varus (bowlegs), weak tendons, contracted heels, and overly long heels, among other conformational problems. Consider having your veterinarian evaluate all Mini foals to determine if any such issues are present and, if so, the best treatment options for that individual.
Miniature Horse foals affected by this condition are generally smaller than normal and have accompanying conformation deformities. Mildly affected dwarves can lead relatively normal lives; severely affected Minis can suffer from lifelong health problems, some of them quite serious.
13. Dental issues
Due to their small size, propensity to develop conformational faults like over- and undershot jaws, and risk of retaining deciduous (baby) teeth, it’s important to have Minis’ teeth examined once or twice annually. Choose an equine dental practitioner who is experienced in working with Minis and has smaller, specialized equipment for their tiny mouths.
14. Behavioral issues
Despite their small stature, badly behaved Minis can be dangerous and cause injury to handlers. Train them to behave well when being handled, and ensure they stand quietly for veterinary and farrier appointments. It’s crucial not to manhandle Minis, even if it seems like an easy option due to their small size. Overly aggressive handling can cause them to be even more difficult to handle and care for.
15. Extra hair growth
Miniature Horses are hairy little creatures, and while their luscious locks might be cute, they can also lead to several health problems. Thick coats, manes, and tails can cause heat stroke in hot temperatures, rain rot or other skin infections in appropriate conditions, and infestations of external parasites like lice. Body clipping Minis once or twice a year can help keep the Mini cool and reduce the incidence of skin and parasite problems. Veterinarians might recommend using medicated shampoos and/or topical parasite control solutions if issues develop.
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