How did miniature horses get so small?

According to researchers, recognizable horses have been around for more than 60 million years, far longer than humans.  The prehistoric Eohippus was quite small, just like many of today’s miniature horses.  Horses have been successful for such a long time because they have evolved to be safety-conscious.  These millions of years of natural selection make horses ideal guide animals because they are always on the lookout for danger.

While the exact origins of mini horses have been obscured over the centuries, early incunabula texts refer to miniature horses being kept as prized companions of Hapsburg royalty as early as the 17th century. Just as dogs have been bred to be small, centuries of selective breeding have resulted in miniature horses with calm dispositions. Many American miniature horses are extremely small because of the deliberate introduction of dwarfism genes.

Over the past 100 years there has been a great amount of disagreement regarding the origins and genetic characteristics of miniature horses.  Some miniature horse breeds such as the Falabella horses of Argentina were developed in a totally separate environment from the tiny European miniature horses of the eighteenth century, and independent breeding programs have been established on every continent.  In the USA in the 1960s, these horses were called midget ponies, while in South America they were known as Falabella horses.  In the 1970s a movement arose to change the name of tiny horses to miniature horses, and many registries were established with standard sizes ranging from 28 inches to 38 inches.

Tips on miniature horse breeding

Breeding a miniature horse is not much different than breeding a regular size horse. There are several ways to get the mare and stallion to breed but sometimes it’s trial and error on which works best.   Miniature horses can make wonderful pets and service animals making the breeding efforts worthwhile.

Obviously, you’ll need:

* in-heat mare
* breeding stallion

1. Watch your mare as she comes into heat. This can be from February through July. Eventually the mare will begin to cycle normally. This is the time she will accept a stallion for breeding. The mare will be in heat for 5-7 days and within about five to seven days after having a previous foal.
2. Introduce the stallion to the mare 24-48 hours before the end of her estrus cycle. This is the window of ovulation for the mare. If the stallion sperm is not present during the ovulation, the mare will not become pregnant.
3. Watch your mare to maximize the breeding time between the stallion and mare. A mare ready to breed will urinate more, raise her tail more and even show her vulva. When she backs up to a stallion, the mare is ready to breed.
4. Test the mare with a gelding or stallion so you will know when she is ready to breed.
5. If you have a breeding stallion, now is the time to put the pair together. It is best to have the mare and stallion alone together to breed. The only exception to this is if you do not have a breeding stallion and are taking your mare somewhere else. In this case multiple mares are put with one breeding male.
6. In about fourteen days, have a vet check to see if your mare is pregnant. If so, wait out the gestation period for the new foal. If not, try again during her next heat cycle.

Tips & Warnings
  • The breeding female must have a health maintenance program to ensure she is in top condition and free from viruses and bugs that could hurt a breeding stallion or the foal.
  • The gestation period for miniature horses is the same as for regular size horses, 330 days.
  • Sometimes in group mares and single stallion breeding, the mare and/or stallion will reject the other for unknown reasons.