King Louis XIV owned a private zoo of unusual animals, including miniature horses, at the Palace of Versailles around 1650 AD. The first miniature horses were imported to America in 1888 to work in coal mines. A 19-inch dwarf horse, by the name of Bond Tiny Tim, sired numerous offspring.
Tiny horses were first popularized in the 1960’s, but were known as midget horses. The term was changed to miniature horse as a marketing ploy and the term pygmy horse has been utilized for many show horse divisions. Due to the nature of the miniature horse’s small size and inbreeding, some health issues and special care is necessary.
The stalls should be kept mucked regularly. For exercise and grass intake, two to three miniature horses per acre of grass pasture is recommended. Miniature horses require regular vaccinations as prescribed by a veterinarian. Miniature horses need to chew food well before swallowing so good dental care is important.
Miniature horses should consume much less food than a full size horse, but are known to overeat. The small size of the intestinal tract requires a constant flow of food throughout the intestinal system of a miniature.
Miniature horses require a minimum of two daily rations of grain and hay. The portion size of each ration should be consistent with the size of the horse. Check with a veterinarian for specific recommendations.
Bran and alfalfa hay may result in enteroliths. Enteroliths are small stones that form around ingested foreign objects.
Colic is a major concern with miniature horses along with fecal impaction and diarrhea. The small size of the intestinal tract is the major culprit. Small colon impaction is a leading cause of colic in these small animals. Adequate water intake and physical activity is necessary. Coarse hay and forage should be avoided. Grass will serve as a laxative.
A regular deworming schedule along with mowing pastureland will help control intestinal parasites. Although, grass is an excellent nutritional source for the miniature horse, over ingesting grass may result in a painful condition, known as founder.
A sudden decrease in feed may cause hyperlipemia. Hyperlipemia results from fat being released into the bloodstream, which can damage the liver and kidneys.
*Photo courtesy of Tiny Horses by Luke Chapman at Flickr’s Creative Commons.
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