Trying to offer more professional services to your clients and trying to boost your bottom line is no small task. Yet sometimes
a small thing can be just what is needed — 34 inches small to be exact. That is the height limit for animals registered with
the American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA), and these diminutive equines represent an increasingly popular segment of
the horse population and a potential new source of business for many practitioners.
Foaling is generally more difficult in miniatures than in full-size horses. The small size of the mare does not allow for
much manipulation and the potential for malformations, especially of the head (above), neck and forelegs of the foal, can
make deliveries challenging. Observation is crucial and some assistance is almost always needed. Veterinarians should be sure
that their mini breeders are aware of and use some of the foaling monitoring systems and devices that are available. Experienced
help should be on hand for the delivery, and a procedure for obtaining quick veterinary assistance should be discussed prior
to the delivery date. Dystocias must be dealt with rapidly or unfortunate results are much more likely to occur.
It is very important, however, that veterinarians become educated about these potential patients because they are substantially
different from full-size horses, and their care and management present unique challenges to the practitioner. Additionally,
these small horses are attractive to first-time horse owners. Miniatures are popular with older clients and with clients who
have reduced acreage but who want the equine experience. Many of these owners lack the husbandry skills needed to care for
them. They are neither small horses nor large dogs but are commonly treated as such by many owners. Good knowledgeable veterinary
care is critically needed for these clients.
The miniature horse is believed to have developed from a number of separate sources. A version of this animal was selectively
bred and developed in Argentina where they are referred to as Falabellas. The Falabella family began breeding these horses
in 1868, and it is believed that Shetland ponies were crossed with Criollo and Petizo animals, both Argentinean ponies. The
Falabella pony is not a separate breed but rather a different type of miniature that developed from similar genetics in an
isolated locale. There is, however, a separate Falabella registry.
Dwarfism or achondroplasia is believed to be an autosomal dominant condition that is commonly seen in some miniatures. Associated
malformations can occur in the feet and legs, head and face or in the teeth and bones of the jaws.
The American Miniature Horse (AMH) actually evolved from more European roots, and historical records dating as far back as
1650 mention a vast zoo at the Palace of Versailles where King Louis XIV (the Sun King) kept a large number of interesting
and exotic animals. Chief among these was a small herd of equally small horses. These horses were believed to have developed
primarily from Shetland ponies that were selectively bred for small size and then were cross bred to ponies of other types.
In fact, so much other blood went into producing the American Miniature Horse that only 60 of the original 209 miniature horses
registered in the first AMH Stud Book in 1972 were listed as having any known parentage. Fourteen of the original 60 were
sired by registered Shetlands.