What Do I Need To Know About Raising Miniature Horses?
Let’s try to cover the basics. Remember there are probably as many correct opinions as there are people who give them. These things have worked well for us.
SPACE and SHELTER
Miniature horses can be raised in a very small space if necessary. A twenty foot by thirty foot pen will be more than adequate with exercise and feeding. We like our horses to all have a shelter they can get into if they choose to do so. Many will stay out in the worst weather, but it is by their choice. If you have an acre of pasture then natural exercise and grazing should take care of your horse nicely. Some type of shelter is still desirable. We have both three sided sheds and sheds with a partial fourth wall. Remember that the air flow for miniatures needs to be lower than for the big guys. Miniatures that are stalled in full size horse stalls can quickly get sour because they can’t see out. If you are building stalls in a barn an eight by eight stall is adequate for normal use. Sides can be solid for thirty inches and then two foot 2” by 1” rabbit wire on top of that is sufficient for most miniatures. If the sides and back are solid and between four and five feet high be sure to have the front open above thirty inches.
Chain link is not a good choice for fencing as it gives and stretches. The average opening of the links is also an ideal size for the miniature to get a foot caught. We like the four foot high sixteen foot long panels like you can buy at the larger home improvement chains. Three metal posts and you have a section of fence in place. A nice feature is that if your space needs change this fence is very easy to move. This is safe economical fencing. There is fence made especially for horse, but this is much more expensive although it is very nice. I would like to have a six to eight foot space separating each paddock but space and economics mean we have common fence between many of our pastures and pens.
If you have a stallion you will need to make some arrangement so that he can be kept separate from the mares when you want. Some stallions are quiet and get along well with geldings or immature stallions in the next pen, but most do not. As they approach the one year mark it is best to separate the boys and girls. Many a two-year old filly has had a baby because no one thought the yearlings were old enough to breed successfully.
FEED and HEALTH CARE
We like a pelleted feed. I would really prefer a 12% but the one we use, Strategy, is 14%. We feed one “niblet corn” can (10oz) of feed in the morning and one at night. We feel our horses do best when fed twice a day and since we feed our show horses at least twice daily this works well for us. Also we have limited pasture so hay and supplemental feeding is essential. If we see a horse is gaining too much we cut them back some. If they are too thin we increase the ration. There are occasions when we feed a particular horse something very different. You must let the condition of the horse be your guide.
Our hay is a well fertilized coastal Bermuda. We want hay that is virtually free of weeds and coarse grasses. We hay all of our horses twice a day. One and one half bales takes care of sixty horses and twenty miniature goats. Someone can always tell you where to get cheaper hay but buy with care. Several years ago we bought some “cheaper” hay that had a lot of coarse stems. Our vet bill for colic quickly made it the most expensive hay we had ever bought. Fortunately we found someone with cows to buy it from us so we didn’t loose all our money.
Our feeding method makes it very easy for someone to feed our horses when we are at a show. Everybody gets one can except mares with babies who get one can for the mare and one for the baby. Since we are usually only away for two days, there is little danger in over-feeding or under-feeding in that length of time.
Miniature horses need all of the same vaccinations as the full size horses. This should be done on the same schedule as for the full size guys. Paste worming is done every sixty days for full yearlings and up. We worm weanlings every four to six weeks. A fecal sample taken to the vets every couple of months will let you know if your worming program is working. People who use the continuous wormer really like it. We tried it a few years ago and were not real happy with it especially for the weanlings. Remember you must feed horses individually to use any medication that is put in the feed.
Hoof care and dental care are about the same as for the big guys although I believe that miniatures tend to have more dental problems. Not that there are lots of problems but regular dental care helps keep horses fit and feed costs down.
The miniature horse is just that, a horse in miniature. They are not fragile. A true miniature horse doesn’t have a pony personality. Almost everyone can tell stories about a “mean” pony they knew as a kid. A big horse trainer friend says the nice thing about miniatures is they are smart like ponies, but kind like horses. Intelligence and temperament are hereditary. When you visit a farm look at how the other horses act. The one you are buying will probably have the same characteristics.
We hope this has answered a few of your questions. If you have specific questions we will be happy to try and answer them for you.