There is some confusion about what defines a miniature horse and also what
defines a miniature horse breed. Experts will tell you that in order to be
classified as a “miniature” horse these cute little animals need to be no taller
than 14.2hands (147 cm or 58 inches) from head to foot.
The three main breeds that can be classed as miniature horses are the
American and the British Miniature Horse and the highly popular Argentinean
Falabella. These three breeds all bear the characteristics of a full sized
horse. The only difference is that they are under 58inches in height.
One thing is for sure is that the miniature horse is not the result of some
form of genetic malfunction but instead were bred for a specific function, and
not as a show horse or a curiosity. The original miniature ponies were work
horses in all sense of the word. These were Shetland, Dartmoor or Welsh ponies,
derived from the original pigmy horse breed, which were developed to haul carts
carrying peat, coal or to haul a plow in the fields.
With the advent of automation around fifty or so years ago, breeders began to
experiment with breeding these miniature strains more as a show horse, with the
Arab stallion being used to produce strains that were more streamlined and were
in fact miniature horses. Some of the finest examples of miniature horses are
those carry the characteristic appearance of a mini Arab stallion,
the last century, and especially from the mid fifties onward, several new breeds
have been developed. One of the most prominent is the Hackney Pony. The Hackney
Pony was developed by breeding a hackney stallion with Welsh miniature ponies.
The miniature Hackney ponies were among the first to begin to achieve the
appearance and characteristics of a scaled down version of the Hackney Horse.
Hackney miniatures are pleasing to the eye, and can black, brown or chestnut in
color, while often bearing white markings on their head and chest.
The pony of the Americas breed seemingly emanated as the result of an
accidental cross between a Shetland pony and an Appaloosa. Appaloosas are known
for their distinctive leopard spotted coat color as well as other distinctive
physical characteristics. Legend has it that the Appaloosa breed was developed
by settlers living close to the Palouse River, and the name developed from
Ponies of America have a very pretty head with large and expressive eyes, and
a face that is very reminiscent of that of an Arabian horse. They are famous for
their very even temperament and a big favorite among miniature horse breeders
and owners alike. Among the best known of the miniature horse breeds is the
Falabella which originated in Argentina in the late nineteenth century. It was
developed by an expatriate Englishman who experimented with various dwarf pony
breeds and thoroughbreds that were smaller than average. The name Falabella is
from Juan Falabella, who was responsible for further and final development of
the breed. Where the Appaloosas stand out is there height, seldom reaching more
than 38 inches. When they are first born they can be as little as eight inches
in height. An average Falabella miniature horse will be easily trained as they
are highly intelligent as well as being eager to please their owners/trainers.
As they are both small and strong, they can be taught to drive carts at shows,
as well as to be ridden by children. Although there are many sub breeds of
miniature horses, the Hackney Pony, Falabella and American Pony are by far and
away the best known.