Given their small stature and sweet, spunky personalities, miniature horses, or “minis,” are often sought-after companions for regular-sized horses and other animals.
Yet, just because they’re smaller doesn’t mean they are easier keepers.
We spoke with DeEtte Hillman, Equine Programs Director at Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR), and the Woodbine, Maryland-based organization’s Assistant Trainer Leigha Schrader about the minis they’ve encountered at the rescue over the years.
If you’ve ever thought about adopting one (or more) of these adorable equines, read on to learn about factors to consider and what you can do to ensure your mini thrives.
On average, how many minis does DEFHR rescue and rehabilitate in a year?
DeEtte: It varies greatly! One year there were no miniature horses coming in and the next year we had 12, but in general, miniature horses or small ponies are a part of our typical annual intake. It’s hard to assign a percentage because we truly have seen every breed represented throughout our 33 years. In 2023, however, we’ve already taken in 11 minis.
Are there are any misconceptions about owning a mini?
Leigha: We often see adopters inquiring about miniature horses thinking they might be the “easy companion” option. While they might be one of the smallest equines, they are not necessarily easier than the large horse breeds. Miniature horses need the same level of care, and vets and farriers don’t discount their bills just because they are smaller!
In addition, miniature horses are more susceptible to developing metabolic issues if not managed appropriately. We require all adopters of miniature horses to have access to a dry lot (no grass) to prevent these issues. For adopters looking for a miniature horse to be a companion for their larger horse, we like to ask how their current horse is being managed. If their current horse or horses are not managed similarly to the needs of the miniature horse, we encourage them to consider the additional workload it would take to make changes in order to accommodate a mini’s needs.
What other issues are minis more prone to than regular-sized horses?
DeEtte: As Leigha mentioned, metabolic issues, such as Cushing’s disease, are certainly more prevalent in minis, as is founder and laminitis whether chronic or active at their time of arrival.
We also see a lot of miniature horses battling dental and hoof neglect—we often see minis with long, overgrown hooves called “slipper feet.” Finally, though DEFHR has taken in emaciated minis and minis with low body condition scores, it is more common for them to be on the obese side of the body condition scale.
What advice would you give to someone interested in adding a mini to their herd?
Leigha: I would encourage those interested in adding a mini to their herd to look closely at how their herd is managed now and consider if they could see a miniature’s management needs easily fitting into that mix. Do you have a dry lot? Are you willing to muzzle for limited grass time? Do you have time to exercise and work with a miniature horse?
Anything else potential adopters should know about minis?
Leigha: Miniature horses, like their larger equine friends, need enrichment. More than just sitting in a paddock looking cute, miniature horses make fantastic partners for driving, groundwork and liberty, equine assisted therapy, children’s lead line mounts, in-hand trail, and more. Let’s be honest, having a miniature addition to your herd is absolutely adorable! Who wouldn’t want to spend time with a pint-sized mini fluff ball?
That said, your mini deserves the same level of attention as your large-breed equines. You will have a fantastic time getting to know this fun breed. They are incredibly intelligent and have a strong work ethic, making them a great partner for a variety of disciplines.
For more information about adding a miniature horse to your herd, and to view adoptable horses, visit: DEFHR.org