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Really....where did Miniature horses originate

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minimule

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I've been invited to bring my miniatures to a Horse Council event this coming weekend. Since I have some of each they want me to bring a good sampling. They suggested I make up a poster telling the origin of the miniatures. I have an idea of where that was but I'd like more inputs please.
 

rabbitsfizz

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I got mine by buying racehorses and putting them on a boil wash for half an hour, then an hour in the tumble dryer....it made their hair all frizzy, which is why they are shown clipped out!!

And that was on the little pamphlet I made up, accompanied by a little cartoon, that I gave out at exhibitions, and I think it is as good as any of the "hype" stories I have heard!!

Honestly, they were bred, pretty recently, from small UK Shetlands and Spotted Ponies.

Obviously the Falabella, which had similar roots but earlier, had an influence.

As did the AmShetland...this has been the biggest ongoing influence, I think, and has been responsible for the refinement in recent years.

I have done quite extensive research and can find absolutely NO proof that the "Royal Houses" of Europe had any Miniature Horses, none, and they had lots of pets and quite extensive "Zoos" attached to quite a few courts.

You have also to remember that "small" and "tiny" and "miniature" are all relative .

Traditionally, the Shetland Islands always send down a riding pony for the current monarchs children, the Queen's pony was called "Jock" and he lived in the crate he was sent down in (on the train) for some time as the Royal Mews stables were too large!!

But he was a "Standard" standing 42"....still considered "tiny" by the grooms.

Just my two penn'orth
 
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minimule

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Thanks Fizz. I like your "origin" story.


Does anybody know if they were really used in the Pits?
 

Sue_C.

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I do remember seing a photo of a Victorian painting of a man holding the lead of a tiny "horse", and it was very much like a miniature in stature, not a chubby pony. It was a picture depicting some sort of fair, or "parade" of horses. The picture title sugested an "miniature" horse/pony of some sort.

Then again, the artisitc talents of the painters, of the animals back then, was quite wide in comparison to todays. Many of the animals are out of proportion.
 

Jill

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Awhile back, I had an article published in Equine Wellness. The article can be seen here. In the article, I wrote:



In the beginning, it is said that miniature horses were bred as pets for royal children to love and enjoy. Noble 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. Noble 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”.
Good luck with your exhibit and way to represent our breed
 
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disneyhorse

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In reading the great book "Our Shetland Heritage" by Scott Uzzel, you will see that the very first Shetland ponies imported to America averaged 38"-40" tall. In the late 1800's this is the type of pony that was selected to import. The early 1900's saw an average height of 36-42" tall for most all of the ponies that were being bred and shown.

This is why the Foundation American Shetland has a height cutoff of only 42" while the "rest" of the American Shetland divisions allow ponies up to 46" tall. The original founding ponies were 42" and under. Considering the 38" miniature horse could measure about 40" tall as a Shetland, we can see that miniature horses were always "here" as Shetland ponies.

Eventually, some breeders took a fancy to the smaller of the Shetland ponies and bred specifically for size. This led to the creation of the American Miniature Horse division of the Shetland Pony Club.

The American Miniature Horse Association formed after that, wanting an even smaller standard for the miniature horse.

Because Shetland ponies can be any color except appaloosa, we see appy coloring in the miniature horse thanks to breeding in Falabella.

Any Welsh or Hackney blood (or maybe even small Arabian) probably was outcrossed with the Shetland and then hardshipped into the miniature breed later. I would venture to guess about 98% of ALL miniature horse "blood" comes from Shetland ponies.

I hope that helps, I can go more into detail if you need.

Andrea
 

Leeana

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In reading the great book "Our Shetland Heritage" by Scott Uzzel, you will see that the very first Shetland ponies imported to America averaged 38"-40" tall. In the late 1800's this is the type of pony that was selected to import. The early 1900's saw an average height of 36-42" tall for most all of the ponies that were being bred and shown.This is why the Foundation American Shetland has a height cutoff of only 42" while the "rest" of the American Shetland divisions allow ponies up to 46" tall. The original founding ponies were 42" and under. Considering the 38" miniature horse could measure about 40" tall as a Shetland, we can see that miniature horses were always "here" as Shetland ponies.

Eventually, some breeders took a fancy to the smaller of the Shetland ponies and bred specifically for size. This led to the creation of the American Miniature Horse division of the Shetland Pony Club.

The American Miniature Horse Association formed after that, wanting an even smaller standard for the miniature horse.

Because Shetland ponies can be any color except appaloosa, we see appy coloring in the miniature horse thanks to breeding in Falabella.

Any Welsh or Hackney blood (or maybe even small Arabian) probably was outcrossed with the Shetland and then hardshipped into the miniature breed later. I would venture to guess about 98% of ALL miniature horse "blood" comes from Shetland ponies.

I hope that helps, I can go more into detail if you need.

Andrea
I agree with Andrea and believe she is correct
. I dont think we will ever know the answer to this question, but i think Andrea's post is most likely very close to the truth.
 

HGFarm

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If you look way back on some of the old pedigrees, some of the horses were QUITE small. But many of the top Miniature lines- Rowdy, Gold Melody Boy (both parents Shetland), Boones Little Buckaroo.... were all or for the most part, from registered Shetland lines. For the parentage on those that say 'Miniature' on them and no background, I would wonder if it were not Shetlands that were 'too small' for the breed and were not registered, but then hardshipped into the Mini registry perhaps?

I am sure others may have been infused- perhaps some Hackney, Welsh, who knows what all, but they were bred from small ponies- the Falabella family had herds of colorful Appies that were bred down from the big ones over the years... but I would say that many of the 'modern lines' of Minis can be noted mostly to Shetlands...

This is why I laugh when some of the Mini breeders today complain about 'Shetlands' being allowed to cross register as Minis or be used to breed Minis from.. they need to take a hard look at their background pedigrees-

Sounds like a fun project!! Let us know how it goes!!
 

ozymandias

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Genetically they are placed within the same grouping and right next to the Scottish Shetland.
 

bingo

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The idea of breeding them down to the smallest of size came when the Shetland Pony market took a dive and they wanted a new way to market them. The pit ponies and ponies that were driven long ago by children and women were just that ponies.

Some decided to make some hype call them midget ponies and bring back the pony market. However the name midget ponies didn't really go with the image they were trying to create so they decided (they being those breeders whose Shetland's were not selling as well as they hoped) to call them Miniature Horses and act as if they were some new and rare breed when in reality they were what most had standing in their pastures all along.

Part of the marketing was to come up with this romantic story about them being a breed that was around long ago and being used for royalty. If one were to buy this story then one would also have to accept that while some of those ponies from back then may have met the height requirement that those original Shetland breeders came up with many many years later, they in fact they were indeed all from Shetland stock with a bit of this and that thrown in for good measure.
 

Sue_C.

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This is why I laugh when some of the Mini breeders today complain about 'Shetlands' being allowed to cross register as Minis or be used to breed Minis from.. they need to take a hard look at their background pedigrees-
Just on a side-note, in reference to this statement. Myself, and those I know that aren't so excited about the newest "Shetland influence", are not concerned at all about the real American Shetlands (foundation) being re-introduced into the miniature bloodlines, but ARE concerned about the Hackney influence some of the other types may bring with them. Should I wish to own a hackney, I can buy one.

I do beleive that miniatures had been bred long ago, as a curiosity, if not in the beginning as a working animal. I do think there is a lot of the Welsh influence in the look and build of many of the horses I've seen, and many of the "less refined" horses I know, remind me very much of the older type, UK Shetlands.

Hard to know, with the lack of records kept.
 

Michelle@wescofarms

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Dang! I want my minis to be from royalty - LOL!!! I hate that story! I heard a person in my area (breeder, trainer and judge) telling that to a group of people at a horse event. GAWD!!! Let's keep the myth alive . . . argh!

Hopefully Tony Greaves will chime in on this as he has been around through the whole 'formation of Minis. He did have some excellent articles on his site as well. What I found was much reference to the pit ponies and smaller breeds from England. Perhaps Rabbit can verify this but it was my understand Shetlands were considered to valuable for 'pit work' and often smaller Icelandics and crossbreeds were used in the pits.

As for the whole Shetland influence - I've only found it stupid to deny minis come from Shetlands it's bloody obvious and on the pedigrees for goodness sake! But that doesn't mean I want to keep reintroducing Shetlands back in - I have a dream that minis will be Minis some day not just a catchall for height qualified ponies.
 

kaykay

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My favorite story is the "a small herd was found wandering in a canyon" LOL.

I have to give it to the pony breeders of that time because they were marketing geniuses!

What many still dont understand is that there has always been pony breeders that bred very small ponies!! Winks ponies are a prime example as they are known for breeding small black and white kids ponies. These small ponies have been around forever. Many of these older farms will not cross register them (into mini) as they only want aspc.
 

minimule

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Thanks SO much for all the info so far. Now......I just hope I can get the other manager to let me have Sunday....just this once!
I'm going to have everything ready just in case. If I do get to do it, I'll post pictures.
 

barefoot

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My Dad worked with the pitt ponies when he was a boy. At Silverwood Pit in South Yorkshire (a coal mine). It wasn't long after he was a lad that they retired them. My Dad is 75 now. But much older than his years health wise. I should ask him to tell me the stories again. He has dementia and would probably enjoy talking about them.

Emma
 

Shortpig

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I think you have the real answer, here is my rendition of the origin of miniature horses.

The miniature horse was first bred by the Leprecauns so they would have fitting horses to ride. They had to be of small stature and resemble the horses that the royalty were using at the time. They had to be of sound mind and willing to give their all. At any given moment they would have to mount their mighty but small steeds to move the pot of gold to a new hiding place. Thereby also comes the reference to the rainbow bridge. They had to be gentle and loving horses that would be safe around the small children in the community should they be discovered. As Oats were hard to come by at the time they enjoyed a hearty breakfast of Lucky Charms and preferred the marshmallow treats the most. This is why when you have the little horse that you have connected with and developed that oh so special relationship with you truly feel you have found your Pot O Gold.
 

Songcatcher

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My Dad worked with the pitt ponies when he was a boy. At Silverwood Pit in South Yorkshire (a coal mine). It wasn't long after he was a lad that they retired them. My Dad is 75 now. But much older than his years health wise. I should ask him to tell me the stories again. He has dementia and would probably enjoy talking about them. Emma
That would be wonderful for both of you. Some people with dementia can remember things that happened 50 years ago as clearly as if it were yesterday, but can't remember yesterday at all. Good luck to you.
 

sassy1

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Take a voice recorder of some type and go and let him talk. And talk. And talk.

The history and stories will leave with him if you don't take the chance to preserve them.
 

mizbeth

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"""""I think you have the real answer, here is my rendition of the origin of miniature horses.

The miniature horse was first bred by the Leprecauns so they would have fitting horses to ride. They had to be of small stature and resemble the horses that the royalty were using at the time. They had to be of sound mind and willing to give their all. At any given moment they would have to mount their mighty but small steeds to move the pot of gold to a new hiding place. Thereby also comes the reference to the rainbow bridge. They had to be gentle and loving horses that would be safe around the small children in the community should they be discovered. As Oats were hard to come by at the time they enjoyed a hearty breakfast of Lucky Charms and preferred the marshmallow treats the most. This is why when you have the little horse that you have connected with and developed that oh so special relationship with you truly feel you have found your Pot O Gold.""""

I LOVE *THIS STORY!"

Beth
 

HGFarm

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Oh kaykay, I forgot about that one.. wandering in a canyon... must have been on a mystic isle or perhaps so far back in some mountains somewhere that nobody had ever come across it til then....
 

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