American Miniature Horse

By PetMD Editorial. Reviewed by Courtnee Morton, DVM on Dec. 8, 2022
American miniature horse

Reviewed for accuracy December 8, 2022.

The American Miniature is a unique yet common horse breed in the United States. Although its proportions conform to current standards, it is distinctively small. Nevertheless, it is still used for several disciplines including jumping, driving, and halter.

Physical Characteristics

At most, an American Miniature horse can measure 8.5 hands (34 inches, 86.4 centimeters) high at the withers. One centimeter more and it cannot qualify for the American Miniature classification.Essentially a full-size horse that has been miniaturized, the American Miniature has lengthy and angled shoulders; a long and flexible neck; well-formed forearms; wide-set and large eyes; flaring nostrils; and medium-sized, pointed ears that seem to be perpetually standing at attention. Though muscular, the American Miniature moves smoothly and gracefully, which may be due to its short back, straight legs, and long, sloping pasterns. Its head is not overly large or small but rather proportional to the rest of its body, while its neck is long and flexible. The American Miniature comes in various coat and eye colors.

Personality and Temperament

The American Miniature is a friendly and gentle yet playful and curious animal. It is a good pet for children, and a good cart-pulling horse for adults. The American Miniature is also useful as a therapeutic horse.

Miniature mares are known for their refinement, whereas the males are known for their boldness.

History and Background

The American Miniature breed comes from a diverse number of sources that have been interbred in different combinations by various breeders. The horses of English and Dutch extraction that were brought to the United States in the 1800s, to work in the coal mines of the Appalachia, are ancestors of the American Miniature. The Shetland pony, which belongs to the American Indian Horse breed, is also part of some American Miniature’s bloodlines. Then, there were the Miniatures that were bred and raised in various European countries (e.g., Holland, Western Germany, Belgium, and England), which were later imported to the U.S. and used for breeding.

Some breeders, on the other hand, used the Falabella of Argentina for improving the stock of the modern American Miniature horse. While other breeders experimented with larger horses to come up with smaller versions.

The lineage of the American Miniature, however, is not as pertinent as its height. Only horses that are fully-grown under 34 inches tall can qualify as an American Miniature.

The American Miniature Horses Association was formed in 1978 with the express purpose of keeping a record of American Miniatures and their breeders in the United States. This association has set the standards for all American Miniature Horses.

Health and Care 

Although standard horse care applies, the American Miniature is less costly to maintain than full-size horses -- requiring less food, a smaller pasture, and cheaper equipment. It is important not to overfeed them, however, as they are prone to becoming overweight which can predispose them to conditions such as laminitis.

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