Please, don’t ever refer to a miniature horse as a “pony!” These horses are not ponies at all! Instead, they are bred to be the “perfect horse in miniature.” While miniatures do have some Shetland and Welsh pony in their ancestry, they also have Thoroughbreds and Arabians!
Some of the obvious differences between Shetland ponies and miniature horses are as follows:
Both these breeds have small bodies, but Shetland ponies could be slightly taller than miniature horses. The Shetland’s body is more compact and muscular and they have a shorter neck. Their manes and tails are rough and long, while miniatures’ manes and tails are much smoother. The coat of the Shetland is rough and thick, but the coat of the miniature is smooth. (Like a big horse)!
Little horses that bring such great joy! Breeding miniature horses came about as a total fluke. One late autumn a young friend of mine, with whom I used to go riding, asked me if I would come to the horse auction with him as he had a few horses to sell and wanted me to take one into the ring while he took the other. While at the auction I saw two absolutely tiny little miniature horses in a stall. When the first one came into the ring, something made me bid on him. However, the price went to several hundred dollars and I stopped bidding. Then the second one came in and I was determined to have him! I won the bid! I can’t remember what I actually paid but I think it was under $200. I drove to the auction in my mini van, so I loaded this tiny horse into the van with me, called my husband, and said, “I bought a mini-horse! Please meet me down at the barn to unload him!”
It was the beginning of November, and he was about six months old. We named him “Ittybit” and turned him out with the big horses.
He was so darn cute and sweet, but I realized that he needed someone his own size, so I contacted the lady who had brought him to the auction and asked her if she had any more of them to sell. We went to the farm and brought home “Oreo.”
Since Ittybit and Oreo were foaled and lived on the same farm, they were very happy to see each other again!
When we went to the farm to get Ittybit, we also came home with a yearling Arab who we named “Taxi.” Taxi loved the minis, as seen below!
Miniatures look completely different once that winter hair is gone! This is the following spring, and I’ve begun clipping Oreo’s hair off. There really WAS a nice-looking horse under there!
Here’s Oreo a few years later.
Below is Ittybit as a two-year-old, performing at a horse show up near Green Bay. This was a class called “Liberty.” You walk into the arena with your horse, take off the halter, and then as soon as music begins you must keep the horse moving by any means possible. You shout, chase him, and just keep him moving, so the judges can see his “movement.” The more he runs the better! But as soon as the music stops you have 60 seconds to get the horse to come to you and allow you to put the halter on. Of course you have been yelling and chasing them all over for three minutes so most horses will stay away, but I had always worked with Ittybit at home. My trick was that each time he’d come near me I’d drop down on my knees and give him a treat. He got used to getting a treat when I dropped to my knees, that as soon as the music stopped I dropped to my knees and he trotted over to me and let me slip the halter right on him in record time. We won 1st Place!
Here’s Ittybit all grown up!
Because these two miniature horses were so much fun I started to get serious about them and began studying up on breeding show-quality horses. I had Ittybit and Oreo gelded, as they were not really show quality. We kept them for many years, but as we began needing more room for our breeding stock, we sold them to a neighbor two miles down our road. We see them frequently, and they even spent one winter with us! I have a feeling they may end up coming back here to live, as their owner is getting on in years.
The horses listed below and on the next two pages are our breeding stallions, mares, and their offspring. The state after the horses’ names are the states they came from. The first thing I had to do was find good breeding stock; stallions and mares.
We also had to build a new barn! One big enough for my two remaining riding horses, but also with stalls scaled down for the minis.
Building our herd…….
WWC MINIATURE’S DESTINY’S RAMBO – Tennessee
Breeders usually choose a certain feature they want to concentrate on. Some breeders want to produce appaloosas. Some like duns, pintos, or blacks. I decided I wanted pintos with blue eyes. Size is also a consideration. There are two miniature horse registries in the US. One, the American Miniature Horse Association, requires all their registered horses to be 34″ or less. The American Miniature Horse Registration, on the other hand, has an “A Division,” for horses under 34″ and a “B Division,” for horses 34″ to 38.”
Both these registries have stringent rules. Any horse registered with them must get a DNA test done to prove parentage. Only miniatures born to registered parents may be registered. I decided that I wanted all my minis to be eligible for both registries, (so any breeding stock I bought would necessarily have to already be double registered) and I wanted “A Division” horses which were under 34″ and preferably no bigger than 30″. Rambo, our first stallion, was bout 29.5″ high, a beautiful pinto, and he had blue eyes! He was a wonderful little stallion and produced many beautiful foals for us!
HIGH HOPES INDIAN MEDICINE MAN – Missouri
Indy, our second stallion, came to us in 2006 from Missouri. His owner, Terry Stieve, was a left guard with the St. Louis Cardinals football team from 1978 till 1984, but was born jst 45 miles away from us in Baraboo! Indy had it all… great conformation, a long line of championship show horses on his family tree, great black and white markings, and, of course, blue eyes! One of Indy’s foals, Li’l Miracles Dancing on Thunderclouds, was a National Reserve Grand Champion!
When Indy arrived he was sort of a stinker because he was a bit scared, being in a different environment. That was to be expected. He had already sired some foals so he wasn’t a tyro like Rambo who was just a yearling when we brought him home. Indy settled down quickly, though, and he became the horse we always called “The Character.” What a personality!
When Indy first joined us our big horse, Falcon, was in the big stall next to Indy’s mini stall. Indy, being a stallion, got all bent out of shape, and he’d jump up and try to challege Falcon.
The short video clip below shows Indy acting like a stallion, and Falcon not giving a hoot! The next day we had to put up a big piece of plywood on the metal bars, as we were afraid Indy might hurt himself.
NOTE: My videos are all linked to my Youtube channel. For some reason I can’t get the “stills” for videos which aren’t mine to not show up when my video clips stop.
The 6 second clip below shows Indy’s typical “buck and jump and run to the end of the barn” behavior before running into his stall, which is at the closest end of the barn. We loved watching this display every evening!
Many animals exhibit a behavior called the “Flehmen Response” when they sniff something causing a reaction. It could be food, a strange smell, or it could be a sexual pheromone. In Indy’s case, every time he came into an area where the brood mares had been urinating and defecating, he exhibited the response, as in the photo below.
On to the brood mares!
REECE’S HELLO BABY DOLL – Ohio
We always called this gentle, wonderful mare “Mama.” While she was not a pinto and didn’t have blue eyes, she had impeccable breeding, and she was only 30″ high. She came from a long line of Grand Champion horses. Here’s a pic of her sire:
Mama was the sweetest little horse! However, as our herd grew, she was definitely the “Alpha” mare! Nobody bothered Mama!
Mama gave us many foals, but unfortunately, she had a problem with her rear leg, called a “locked stifle” or upward patella fixation. This would correspond anatomically to a person’s knee joint. At first, she would walk and the leg wouldn’t bend for a few minutes, but then it would unlock and she’d be fine. This started occurring more frequently. After a few years it became permanent and she could no longer bend her rear leg. During the winter, if there was a thaw and she was outside and laid down on the side with the bad leg in a slippery spot, we had to roll her over so she could use her two good legs to get back up to a standing position.
We took her to our vet, and he recommended we visit the UW Vet Hospital in Madison. They injected a thick, black substance the consistency of tar. It was iodine with an almond-oil base. The purpose was to “irritate” the locking ligament so it would swell and more easily slip off the femoral protrusion. The needle was terribly large in order to deliver this thick substance, and it took 27 minutes to get it all in. All the while the assistants were holding Mama down. Unfortunately, this treatment didn’t work. We went back to our regular vet and he suggested cutting the ligament, which is sometimes done to end the problem. Since Mama’s leg was permanently locked, and sticking straight out under her belly, we felt we had to try. This was a dismal failure as well, and she spent the rest of her life basically being 3-legged. She got along fairly well, and could even run through the pasture, at which times that foot would touch the ground just enough to keep her going. She even gave us foals until we stopped breeding her due to her worsening condition. Because the great majority of the time she didn’t have that rear foot to bear her weight, the other rear foot began to take the brunt of it, and over the years it began turning in, despite corrective trimming of her hoof, and caused her a lot of pain.
We stopped breeding her, of course, and we finally had to make the decision to put her down in Sept. 2014. She was only 14 and could have easily lived another ten years, but her suffering was too much to bear. Sadly, we’d also discovered two weeks earlier that our big, sweet lab Bailey had cancer. So on Sept. 9, 2014, the vet came to our house and both our beloved dog and our beloved Mama were put down. It was an extremely difficult, emotional day for us.
Our two grandkids who live on the land next to ours wanted to come over before they left for school to say goodbye to Mama.
It’s so hard to lead your wonderful horse out of a stall and know you’re leading her to her last moments on earth.
When we purchased Mama she was confirmed in foal to LTD’s Moonstruck, an incredibly beautiful horse with more fabulous markings than Mama’s sire (pictured above). The stallion she was bred to was eventually sold to a breeder in New Zealand.
When miniature horses are registered, they almost always carry the name of the stable where they were bred in their registered name. We decided to call our stable Weebiscuit Miniature Horses, so all horses that were born here were registered with the name “Weebiscuit.”
WEEBISCUIT’S MEDIA LUNA – Our first foal!
While every horse has its formal registered name, they always end up with nicknames. Media Luna became “Lucy.” Media (pronounded MAY-thee-ah) means “half” in Spanish. (My husband and I were both Spanish teachers). Luna is Spanish for “moon.” We named her “Half Moon” because on one of her rear feet there was a small patch of white hair that formed a half moon.
The one thing we learned breeding miniature horses is that you can never really tell what the foals will look like as adults!
When we decided Lucy needed to be on the show circuit we looked around for a professional trainer, and found Toys Miniature Horses in Minnesota. Very professional! They came to our place in November and looked at her and told us they thought she had the “right stuff” to do very well in the show ring. We had to deliver her to their place in early March. We delivered her when expected, signed contracts, visited a while, and watched as they started training her right away. Training basically consists of teaching them to stand still and put their ears FORWARD, as that makes them look so much prettier than laying them back. They are also taught to stretch out their necks and keep their feet next to each other so they are standing squarely. In the photo below, the trainer has given Lucy a partial clip.
The trainer did a beautiful job with Lucy! Here she is at her first show. There are many classes the horses can enter such as halter, liberty, in-hand hunter (going over jumps and puddles, etc.), obstacle, driving, solid color, multi-color, yearlings and under, two years and over, etc. They entered Lucy in several classes and the more shows they took her to, the more she won! Halter class is the best win, in my opinion, as it is all about conformation, and she was a consistent winner in Halter! Below, Lucy stands with her ears forward, as desired. And, all feet are squarely planted.
Behind the scenes at one of the shows. These trainers were fabulous. Lucy had her own “beauty parlor!” (She looked very light-colored here because of the very bright lights). Grooming a show horse is not an easy task. You aren’t supposed to see a single clipper line! The tail head must come to a point up on the buttocks. Their faces must be clipped so as not to leave a single hair anywhere on the head other than eyelashes. Even their hooves are polished! They must be cleaned repeatedly while between classes at the shows.
In order to gain an entry to the World Show in Ft. Worth, Texas in late September/early October, a horse must be shown at sanctioned shows all summer long. Winning earns a horse points, and a certain number of points are needed to qualify for the World Show. Lucy qualified! Pictured below are the ribbons she won at just one particular show! Her crowning achievement at this show was being awarded the Grand Championship. That is the horse considered to be better than any other horse across a wide category of criteria, including all ages and all classes. Before her show career was over, she became a Grand Champion , Reserve Grand Champion, and Supreme Halter Horse several times at several different shows. Those are the highest awards a horse can receive!
Lucy made it to the World Show in Ft. Worth, Texas. There were thousands of horses there! The dream is to get a Top Ten horse at Nationals, but we didn’t make it. One of the judges gave her a 9th place, though, and that was pretty amazing. But you need ALL the judges to come in under 10 and they didn’t. In the long run, we were simply amazed she made it to the World Show and we were very happy to get her back home. We decided to start breeding and stop showing her. That one show season, of approximately 8 months in the trainer’s care, was quite expensive. Lucy became a fabulous brood mare!
HALIGONIAN TARGETS ONE AND ONLY – Wisconsin
We nicknamed this brood mare “Annie.” We found her at a stable up north of us in Wisconsin. The reason I wanted her was because her sire was a Reserve 30″ and Under National Champion. She had great conformation despite having had several foals, and she had blue eyes! But even more than that, she was already bred to an incredible little 28″ stallion that was bred at a stable in Oklahoma, and I knew the breeder of that stallion through a miniature horse forum I had belonged to.
The only problem was that Annie’s owner “pasture bred” all her mares. This means you turn a stallion out into the pasture all spring and summer with the mares. Unless you stare at them all day long, you have no idea when a particular mare is being bred, so you have no firm due date. It could be off by a month or two! We always “hand bred” our horses. When we saw a mare go into heat, we would halter her and the stallion and bring them together in the barn, either once a day or every other day, until the mare or stallion no longer showed interest. This way, we could pin down the due date to within a few days. If our mares didn’t come back into season for the next expected cycle, we’d have the vet come do a pregnancy test so we were sure they were with foal.
When we went to look at Annie she was obviously very pregnant, but there were no signs of imminent foaling. Those signs would include an enlarged udder, dripping milk, or changes in the mare’s genital area. We decided to haul her home; a two hour ride. We put her in a stall, paid lots of attention to her, and later bedded her down for the night. All looked well. The next morning I went to her stall, and there she was, standing over a dead foal! The foal had not been dead long, as it’s eyes had not glazed over and it was still wet and limp. It’s umbillical cord was wrapped around its neck, strangling it to death during birth. It was a terrible experience, not only for us, but for poor Annie as well. If only I’d been there an hour earlier I most likely could have saved that foal. I learned two things from this: never transport a mare in her last trimester of pregnancy, and get video cameras and foaling alerts installed!
The video system we installed was awesome. When a mare was close to her due date we kept a halter on her with a “foal alert” on it. This was a little box strapped underneath the halter. When a mare goes into labor, she will lay down on her side with her head on the ground. Normally, they won’t have their heads stretched out on the ground if they are just resting. The position of the head being turned on it’s side sets off the foal alert under the halter. This alert sounded a pager I had in my pocket. We had a video camera in the foaling stalls hooked up to a TV in the house. As soon as the pager went off I flipped on the TV to look at the mare. Sometimes it’s a false alarm, and the mare was just stretching, in which case I didn’t go to the barn. But when a mare was truly in labor, you could easily tell, and then it was a quick trip down to the barn!
During easy births, the stages of labor go fairly quickly and the foal is born. The reason we always wanted to be there was in case of complications. There are several things which could go wrong. The worst, a red-bag delivery, happened once and thanks to the alarm system I knew the mare was in labor and got to the barn in time to cut the bag and pull the foal out before it suffocated. This type of delivery is a premature separation of the placenta. There is a great photo and explanation of it online here: RED BAG DELIVERY
Also, the foal could be upside down (very bad), or have one or both front feet tucked underneath, or be breech (also very bad). Luckily, we never had any of those problems except one red bag and I was there immediately and cut the sack and pulled the foal out, thanks to our pager/video system and the warning it gave me.
After Annie miscarried in March of the year we brought her home, she came into heat on June 1. We bred her but she came into heat the next cycle on July 7 . Had the vet check her and she had a bacterial uterine infection, so she spent a week in the vet hospital getting uterine infusions. She was rechecked by the vet on July 29th and found clear. On July 31 she came back into heat, and the foal below, Weebiscuit’s First Strike, was born in 2006.
JTR MEDICINE MAN’S SOUTHERN BREEZE – Oklahoma
Breeze was a beautiful horse, and one of the sweetest horses we ever had, but her foals were not always top notch. Breeze was confirmed in foal to a gorgeous stallion, Hart’s Tip Top Flash, when we brought her home from Oklahoma, and the filly she gave birth to was absolutely gorgeous. Her next two foals were out of our two stallions, respectively, and they were not show stock. In fact, one of them exhibited some signs of dwarfism, which is an affliction that runs in some miniature horse lines. While our two stallions produced fabulous foals from our other mares, breeding them to Breeze didn’t work well for us. Perhaps there was just something genetic going on that none of us were aware of.
Please look at all the foals born here by clicking on the drop-down “BIG HORSES” link at the top of the page or click here: MINIS 2