First mini?

What Should Our First Miniature Be? 

Should our first miniature be a baby or an older horse? A mare or a stallion?

That’s a hard decision. There are a number of things to consider.

v      What do you plan to do with the horse in the future?

v      Do you have children and if so how old are they?

v      What is your experience level with horses?

v      How much time do you want to spend working with the horse?

The babies are cute and hard to resist but they will require more time. Even if you are buying your horse as a pet you will need to teach it to lead, have its feet done and to be socially appropriate. Poorly socialized and poorly behaved horses are like poorly behaved children- not a lot of fun to be around. If you have young children remember young horses are like puppies and kittens. Everything goes in their mouths. They don’t mean to hurt when they nip you or your child. Even with a miniature those little teeth can hurt.

A young horse may try to “play” with you and your children as he would another horse. He has not learned that it is bad manners to kick at people so if he is being chased those feet may flick out in a playful gesture that is really painful. Young colts must learn early that humans are in charge or they can be very hard- headed and willful. We discourage families with small children from keeping a stallion as a pet. Even though small, a stallion is a stallion and minis see themselves as bigger than the Budweiser Clydesdales.

Still, minis by their very nature are “user friendly” and a young horse will do its best to please you. The things that they do are a lot of fun. There is nothing sweeter than to see a fuzzy baby stretched out asleep or sneaking up on something new. Their curiosity is never ending.

Many people who get a first miniature have a mental picture of driving down the road in their little cart with their child or grandchild at their side. With a young horse you should wait until it is at least two before you begin to harness it to a cart. You can begin ground driving a little earlier. Always remember that it is not so much the size of the horse as its developmental level that governs when and how much training the horse gets. Young horses have a short attention span the same as young children. They don’t have the mental stability and control that will come with age and experience. The bones and cartilage of a young horse are also not ready for strenuous training.

A younger horse will often be more eager to spend time with you than an older horse although this is not always true and is more dependent on the personality of the horse than its age. You will be able to train the younger horse exactly as you would like. If you have experience with horses big or little then the training process may be part of the fun of ownership for you.

A grown, trained horse brings a lot of positives to the table. Not only is it past the nipping stage and rough play stage but it has learned to behave appropriately. If a horse of three or four bites,  runs away when you try to touch it, or swings its rear to you, walk away from the deal unless you are experienced with horses. By this age the horse is not being playful it is being bad.  

If a horse has been trained correctly it already knows its job. Ask any one who participates in competitions of one type or another about the benefits of an experienced horse for an inexperienced handler. This is particularly true in driving. Driving looks like a piece of cake, but in the cart you have only your hands, voice and driving whip to keep things moving along smoothly.

Thank goodness my first driving horse knew what to do. I didn’t have to worry that he would run away or throw himself over in the cart. I knew I was in a safe environment and he knew his job was to keep me safe. As I became more skilled at driving, I wanted a more talented horse, but my first driving horse was exactly what I needed in the beginning. He forgave me my mistakes and was tolerant of lots of things that a green horse isn’t. A green horse depends on you for security and if you seem uncertain it says to itself “Oh Oh she’s nervous, I’d better be nervous too. There must be something wrong” An experienced horse says to itself “Hmh new driver. Well let’s see if we can give her a little confidence.”

My first driving horse was also my first showmanship horse. He was really good at showmanship. Sometimes in the show ring he would look at me as though to say, “Just hang on to the lead, smile and try to LOOk like you know what you are doing. And please don’t embarrass me by doing something really stupid.” I only had to think about what I needed to do; I never had to worry that the horse would mess up.

If you are interested in raising horses a bred mare may cost a little more, but will get you going quickly. Many breeders offer 3 in 1 packages, the mare and this year’s baby plus rebred for next year. When you look at the purchase price divide it by three because you are really buying three horses. A weanling or yearling of comparable quality to the bred mare will be less now, but it will be three years before the first baby is born.

Little stud colts are usually less expensive unless they are so outstanding and well bred that they are in demand. Remember a stallion can breed more mares in one season than a mare can have babies in her lifetime. A bad stallion can make lots of inferior babies. As more people are standing their stallions to public stud it is becoming easier and easier to find a good stallion nearby when breeding time comes around.

Your decisions about what you buy should be guided by what you intend to do in the future. If your primary interest is performance than look to horses with a good record in the performance area. Just as all horses are not halter champions all horses are not performance champions. What makes a horse excel as a driving horse may not be what is winning in the halter classes.  Very small horses (28” and under) are cute, but they will never effectively pull a cart. This is true even if you only want a pet to pull a cart for fun.

If you are going to want to sell horses keep your market in mind. You may read about horses that sell for $50,000 but believe me they are the exception. Think about what you were interested in paying – that’s about what people will be willing to pay you for your horses when the time comes.