I have fallen, by accident, into another aspect of horses after a few years without a horse in my life. These horses may very well be ponies, but they're actually miniature horses, or something like that. So, horse nerd that I am, I sought help from the WWW. Random Google searches for the difference between Miniature Horses and ponies was rather inconclusive. So, I went straight to the horses' (or ponies') mouth and joined a bulletin board about Miniature Horses.
If you're like me, you were somehow taught that miniature horses are different than ponies because, well, they look like horses in miniature without the characteristics that scream pony: short sturdy (thick) legs, fuzzy manes, tails, and bodies, tendency to very round bellies, and those oh-so cute tiny little faces. Miniature horses on the other hand are quite refined with elegant and delicate legs, well groomed manes and tails with velvety smooth coats, lithe slim bodies, and faces more characteristic of a full sized horse. Put your average backyard pony next to one of the ritzy show miniatures and you'll immediately see the difference.
Except for one tiny little fact... Miniatures horses can be double registered as Shetland ponies (provided they have the appropriate parentage) and vice versa (browse shetlandminiature.com for more information)! Since I've been communicating with the Miniature Horse enthusiasts I've learned that Miniature Horses come in a wide variety of styles just like their full sized brethren. Some Minis are drafty, some take on an Arabesque look, others put the full-sized color breeds to shame with their flashy looks. Shetland ponies were the original stock for most of these Miniature Horses. Actually, I was surprised to know that the American Shetland Pony Club recognizes four types of Shetlands, any of which, provided they meet the height requirement (34" for Division A AMHR and AMHA, and up to 38" for Division B AMHR) , can be double registered as Miniature Horses.
Unlike my childhood memories, these little horses (and even the Shetland ponies) are not foolproof and food hardy. These Very Small Equines (VSEs) are prone to founder, laminitis, metabolic issues, and overall roundness associated with overeating. That's not to say they're fragile, but tying one out on a 20' grub line for a week probably would result in a very sick equine. However, if properly fed and conditioned, these VSEs can pull an adult (and maybe even a passenger) in a cart, sometimes with the total weight surpassing the VSEs body weight. They are also adept show animals that get primped and polished to a degree that amazes me. At shows they jump, go through trail (obstacle) courses, stretch out for Halter classes, high step to put a Saddlebred to shame, and zip around the arena at a pace a Standardbred would be proud of.
Many owners of these VSEs have a background in full-sized horses. However, there are also a number of them who have entered the equine world with these VSEs and are quite content to stay with their diminutive equines. Like all horse people, owners of Miniatures take pride in their breed and seek to educate others about their breed. Unlike owners of full-sized horses, many are able to keep their VSEs in areas restricted for full-sized horses including cities and residential neighborhoods. Like the full-sized horses, Minis require the same routine vet and farrier care as well as strict attention to diet.
I'm still unsure if the little guys I have the pleasure of working with are true miniatures or simply small ponies. However, it really doesn't matter. At the end of the day, the biggest difference, besides the obvious size difference, between Minis and full-sized horses is the amount of food required. If you've been in a horse accident, lost your nerve, moved into the city, or just want to see what horse ownership is like, check out Miniature Horses. They're like potato chips though, you can't have just one!
I hope you enjoy my original artwork featured in this post. This one is based on a photo by Bob Langrish and drawn on an iPad with a stylus for the game Draw Something2