Miniature Horse Article in Equine Wellness

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Jill

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This is the final version of the article I wrote for Equine Wellness Magazine, which is a national magazine. Its focus is holistic horse care, and that's not what I practice (they didn't want to include my paragraph about vaccinations and deworming...), but still great to get information about our breed out to a group of concerned horse owners.

This article will be part of the upcoming issue, which I think comes out in September (will be the September / October issue).

Thanks, everyone, who contibuted suggestions. They were very helpful to me.

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[SIZE=14pt]Minis: More Than Just a Little Horse[/SIZE]

By: S. Jill O’Roark of Whinny For Me Farm -- www.whinny4me.com

Almost every time someone hears that I have miniature horses, they will ask, “what do you do with them?” Well, what can you do with a mini? You can do anything with them that you can do with a full size horse, except for ride them.

I met my first miniature horse in 1996. He was a sorrel gelding who lived at the boarding stable where my two full size horses lived. I clearly remember thinking “he’s so cute, but what would I really do with a miniature horse?” Well, a couple years later, I met a little stallion and his owner let me drive him. That was it – I now knew at least one fun thing you do with miniatures and decided I would get one. Still, I also remember thinking that while I knew I’d love owning a mini, there was no way I’d enjoy a mini as much as my riding horse. Almost ten years later, I still have a full size horse but it is my seventeen miniature horses that have really captured my heart and most of my free time.

In the beginning, it is said that miniature horses were bred as pets for royal children to love and enjoy. Nobel women eventually used miniature horses. At that time in history, it was felt a woman could not physically control a full size horse, but could aptly handle a miniature horse. Nobel women were able to use miniature horses to pull their carts or small carriages to town so they could run errands or visit friends without the need of servants to assist. In more recent history, miniatures were used in coalmines on the East Coast of the Nation to pull wagons in the mines. The smaller horses were valued because they could easily go through the short tunnels, but were very strong “pound for pound”.

Today, many people with miniature horses enjoy driving them. An in shape average sized miniature horse can easily pull two adults on a flat surface for a period of time. One thing that I appreciate about driving my miniatures is that it’s a horsey activity in which I can include friends or family who do not know how to ride. They can ride in the cart with me, and we can also have a nice conversation, which is something I’ve never really been able to conduct on horseback. Prior to driving miniatures, I drove my full size horse, but the tacking up is much faster with a mini, and the view is a lot better, too (as you can easily see over the miniature and with my big horse, I have a big view of his hind end).

One activity many miniature enthusiasts enjoy is showing their horses. Miniatures are shown in halter (conformation), color, jumper, hunter, liberty, obstacle, showmanship, costume and driving. All but the driving and liberty classes are done with the horse in hand. The hunter class is based on the horse’s even pace between and form over jumps. The jumper class is a height competition where first place goes to the horse that can jump the highest jump cleanly (without knocking the rail). Obstacle class is essentially “trail in hand” were your horse may go over a bridge, side pass some ground poles, walk through water, etc. At the 2006 American Miniature Horse Registry’s National Show, where some of the nicest miniatures from all over the country compete, the entries topped 2,200! The entries increase every year, as the breed has become more and more popular.

In addition to the miniature breed shows that many miniature horse owners participate in, miniatures are being seen more and more often in local, open shows competing in halter and showmanship against the “biggies”. Also, miniatures are successfully competing in combined driving events with larger horses, doing the full-length marathon of up to 12 or 13km and proving they can do it just as well. What's more, most of them do it barefoot!

Another area where their owners and the public enjoy miniature horses is as therapy animals. Many miniature horse owners delight nursing home residents and hospital patients by bringing their little horses into the facilities. The small size of these horses makes such visits relatively easy to accomplish. Miniature horses have a wonderful ability to relate to people who have special needs and can be even more gentle and loving in these situations.

A miniature horse stands 38” or less in height, and they are measured from where the last hair grows from their mane, vs. the top of the withers as with other breeds. An “Over” or “B Division” miniature is one that measures over 34” and no taller than 38” in height. An “Under” or “A Division” miniature is one that measures no taller than 34”.

There are two main registries for miniature horses, and they are the American Miniature Horse Registry (“AMHR”) and the American Miniature Horse Association (“AMHA”). The AMHR recognizes both height divisions, while the AMHA recognizes only the Under or A Division. Many miniature horses that measure 34” or less in height are registered with both the AMHR and the AMHA.

When it comes to conformation, miniatures for show and breeding should be held to the same standard as are full size horses. Straight legs, good bites and sound conformation are important. When it comes to showing, there is a type that is preferred in halter class. The current preference is for very proportional horses with high set and long necks, small heads, long clean legs and short backs. However, miniatures exist in all body types and each type has its admirers. The major types are often referred to as Arabian, Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Draft – however, they are all still “just” miniature horses.

Miniature horses on average are very smart animals. They are very inquisitive and they learn quickly. They can be quite manipulative as well, both in the literal and figurative sense – from being master gate openers to knowing just what to do to get what they want from their person. While they may be the same size as some breeds of dogs, they are horses and should be treated and handled as such.

They are an extremely hardy breed and are in general healthy and easy keepers. They require approximately 20-25% as much feed as a full size horse. It’s important when selecting hay for a miniature that you select a soft leafy hay, such as orchard grass, as their digestive parts are smaller in diameter than in a full size horse. It is my opinion that the coarser, stalky hays can cause problems, the least of which is a pot-bellied, bloated look and the worst of which can be impaction colic.

Miniatures do require the same level of care and attention as any full size horse, with the exception of consuming less feed and water. Miniatures are very rarely shod but should receive hoof trims every 6-8 weeks. When it comes to their teeth, if they have good bites, they should be checked annually by a vet or an equine dentist to see if they require a floating. If they do not have good bites, then they may need to be floated as often as every six months. Additionally, if they do have wolf teeth, most owners will want to have them pulled just as would be done in a full size horse.

Miniatures come in all colors and all color patterns – from loud appaloosas of all varieties, wonderful spotted pintos in tobiano, overo, and tovero, and rich solid colors. One thing that is somewhat unusual when it comes to color in the miniature breed compared to other popular breeds is the prevalence of the silver dapple gene. The silver dapple gene has an interesting effect on colors and can be a bit mind boggling to people new to the rainbow of mini colors. This gene may or may not cause dappling of the coat. It usually will “mute” the color of a horse’s lower legs, mane and tail. It can cause flaxen manes and tails. The presence of this gene can turn what would have been a basic bay animal into one with a rich, bay-red coat, soft grey lower legs, and a platinum blonde mane and tail!

Because of their small size, miniatures can be less intimidating to some horse enthusiasts. They make a great option as well for older horsemen and horsewomen who no longer feel confident handling full size horses but do not want to give up horse ownership. Additionally, their small size minimizes the ground required to happily house a miniature horse when compared to a full size horse. This makes horse ownership a realistic possibility for many people who don’t have the space or resources to own a full size breed. Also, while miniatures are small enough to “fit” inside your house, they do not make good house pets and they like to live just like “regular” horses which means outdoors with other horses as companions.

Miniatures are becoming more and more popular in the United States and bring much joy and laughter to the lives of their fortunate owners. In my time owning miniatures and interacting with other owners, I’ve yet to meet someone who got their first miniature and later regretted “getting into minis”. Minis are a wonderful breed with affectionate and intelligent personalities and can be an excellent choice for many horse enthusiasts.

[SIZE=8pt][/SIZE]

Biography: S. Jill O’Roark lives in Spotsylvania, VA with her husband, Harvey, their six dogs, and their seventeen miniature horses. Most of the horses in their herd are accomplished show horses having earned National Champion titles, Halter Hall of Fame honors, and many Champion and Grand Champion wins. Their prized stallions are “Destiny” and “DunIT” who are prestigiously bred and have shown to top National honors. Jill owns a financial planning practice with her father, Don. This is what keeps her in the horses, as most horse people know that the way you make a small fortune in horses is to start with a large one.
 
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Jill

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Nobel should be noble in the article
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Amanda
Oh, thanks, Amanda! I'm glad you read it and the editor actually emailed me and caught it, too. I'm the worst proof reader in the world. Thank goodness I've got good administrative assistants to type for me or my client correspondence could be embarassing...
 
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CKC

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It's a great article Jill!
 

Jill

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Thanks, ladies! It's always nice to hear positive comments
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: I enjoy writing and, of course, love to talk minis so this was a fun "assignment".
 

maplegum

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Fabulous Jill :aktion033:

You covered all bases regarding these little horses.

It was easy to read as it flowed very well.

Who's knows, you may have a permanent spot writing for that magazine!

You should be very proud of yourself!
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S

StarRidgeAcres

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Jill,

Very well done! :aktion033: It's obvious you put a lot of time and effort into it. You should be very proud of the result! :aktion033:
 

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