The versatility of the Miniature horse – part 1

Who has seen Miniature horses? Almost everyone. Where have you seen them? Most likely at stable yards, horse shows, farms and petting zoos. But a Miniature horse in the suburbs? Surely very infrequently, if ever! Yet it’s entirely possible and easy to achieve with a bit of knowledge and adaptation.

Keeping Miniature horses in a suburban setting opens up the world of horses to people who might never have had the privilege of owning a full-size horse. Why so? Miniature horses are fairly reasonable to keep.

Maintenance basics

Miniatures require all the same feeds as their larger counterparts, but in much smaller quantities, which makes the cost of feed a whole lot more affordable. Some Miniatures don’t need concentrates at all, while others do, but in very limited quantities. And hay consumption is negligible in comparison to large horses.

Routine veterinary care is roughly the same. Miniature horses need all the usual equine vaccinations as well as regular dental care, and because of their predisposition to dental problems, this should not be neglected.

Farrier visits are just as important, and your horse’s hooves should be regularly trimmed by a farrier who is skilled and patient. There is a certain amount of adaptation required on the farrier’s part in order to trim such tiny hooves, because they cannot be lifted as high as a big horse’s feet can. Miniatures who are not in work will require more frequent trims because the hooves are not worn down through use. A five- to seven-week trim cycle is usually adequate.

Space requirements are minimal in comparison to large horses. Grazing is always ideal, but not strictly essential, and there are many Miniatures who do very well on good-quality hay and a bit of garden grazing. Space for free movement is important, but because of their diminutive size, they can make the most of a small paddock area, which makes Miniature horses the only breed of horse suited to a suburban environment. They are very often chronic escape artists, and paddock fencing should take this talent into account!

Accommodation for Miniature horses is easily incorporated into most suburban properties. A simple shelter is enough, though some owners like the aesthetic appeal of a scaled-down stable yard, complete with purpose-built stables, which can look extremely attractive and often become an unintentional feature of the property. There is little as satisfying as popping into your horse’s stable for a late-night cuddle before bed. Stable size should be no less than 1.8 by 1.8m, and even larger is preferable. Large Miniatures would do better in a stable approximately 2.5 by 2.5m. There are many choices of stable construction materials, including wood panels, gum poles, brick and mortar, but whatever you choose should be durable and safe for your horse, and also be well ventilated.

Diet

Miniature horses eat almost anything, so sacred garden areas should have limited access. Portable electric tape is a worthwhile purchase, as it can be used to section off small areas of garden for rotational grazing and also be used to cordon off no-go areas such as swimming pools. Since many suburban-kept horses come into contact with a variety of plants that other horses wouldn’t normally encounter, care should be taken that there are no toxic plants that your horse may inadvertently eat. And talking of swimming pools, horses should never be left with unsupervised access to a pool. Miniature horses are curious and playful, and it is only a matter of time before the horse takes an unplanned dip! Though getting him out is a lot easier than with a large horse, if the horse is unsupervised he cannot be helped and will very likely drown if he cannot find his own way out. This is as traumatic for the horse as for the person who discovers him there. Having said this, a Miniature can often enjoy a supervised swim in a pool, and it is a fun as well as novel way to exercise your horse.

Keeping clean

If Miniature horses are to be kept in a suburban setting, rigorous attention should be paid to hygiene. Most neighbours are fairly accommodating about living next door to a small horse, but should fly control become a problem, they may change their attitude virtually overnight. Stables should be mucked out daily, and outdoor areas cleared at least daily of any droppings. Stable waste can be placed either in a well-controlled compost heap (which could garner support from neighbouring gardeners as horse manure is a wonderful plant growth medium), or can be disposed of through one of the garden refuse collection companies, though you should make sure they know what you will be including in the collection containers before enlisting their services. This is often the best option for stable waste because it leaves no breeding material available for flies and other pests.

Friendly company

Miniature horses and other pets can often co-exist quite happily, but if you have dogs you should be aware that a dog might more readily chase a Miniature horse than a large horse. It is up to the owner to make sure the dog and horse are comfortable in each other’s presence, and you may find that a very special bond will develop between the two. As sweet as this can be, it is important to keep in mind that Miniature horses still have the intrinsic need of all herd animals, and that is the need for company of their own kind. No matter how loving and humanised your Miniature is, he should never be expected to live for any length of time without equine company.

Text: Tammy Silva

The full article appears in the December issue (117) of HQ magazine > Shop now