While some refer to horses as livestock, others consider horses to be a companion animal, especially if they are kept for recreational purposes. Miniature horses—which measure 34 to 38 inches in height—are also recognized by many as companion animals. However, if you want to own a miniature horse as a pet, don’t assume a miniature size means less upkeep and expense than a full-sized horse.
Dr. Leslie Easterwood, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, offered some insight on caring for miniature horses.
“General care and maintenance are exactly the same for miniature horses as for full-sized horses, the only difference is size,” she said. “Vaccinations, dental care, hoof care, feeding, and housing are consistent for all equines. Miniature horses are also susceptible to the same diseases and ailments as full-sized horses. They are anatomically exactly the same as full sized horses, so they have the same risk factors for lameness, gastrointestinal issues, respiratory issues, and other health complications.”
Although miniature horses share many similarities as their full-sized counterparts, they have a few behaviors that can cause issues full-sized horses don’t often experience. Miniature horses tend to eat things that full sized horses wouldn’t, such as rocks, pine shavings, and large amounts of sand. They also have a tendency to be “easy-keepers,” meaning they can become overweight on high caloric diets. Because of their small size, miniature horses have a low need for calories. Owners may mistakenly overfeed them, which easily can lead to obesity.
Housing requirements for miniature horses are smaller than that of a full-sized horse. However, they still require a pasture for adequate living space.
“Miniature horses can live out in a pasture with trees for shade, good grass, and clean water,” Easterwood said. “Most owners choose to have a barn or shelter so that individual animals can be separated for feeding. Fencing can be shorter if you only have miniatures in the pasture. They are not dogs, so they should not be housed in dog-sized areas, such as backyards.”
How do you know if a miniature horse is the right pet for you? Determine the expense you can afford and the activities you would like to do with your pet.
“If you are looking for a companion animal that can come in the house, make trips to the park, vacation with the family, go on runs and or play fetch, a miniature horse is probably not for you,” Easterwood said.
Additionally, you should consider your level of commitment to your pet.
“Miniature horses require the same level of commitment as a full-sized horses. The care, health requirements, and management requirements are the same for miniature horses as full-sized horses,” Easterwood said.
If you think you are interested in a miniature horse as a companion animal, you should consult a large animal veterinarian about providing adequate space and housing for the horse. In addition, you should become familiar with common requirements for owning a miniature horse, such as vaccinations, dental care, hoof care, and feeding. Miniature horses are just as big of a responsibility to care for as full-sized horses, so make sure you are ready for the commitment.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.