That's exactly what my friend Sandy said when I mentioned miniature horses.
"But," she added. "I'd want to keep her in the house, and she might bite me."
"Well, as little as they are," I told her --
"You can bite her right back."
Click on any pictures to see a larger version.
Miniature horses need only a small exercise area where they can graze and run around. Twelve of them won't even feel cramped on two acres. They do need fresh water, hay and regular horse feed. And most of all they need someone with loving hands to handle and be nice to them.
Because of their gentle nature and small size miniature horses make great companions for just about anyone. The American Miniature Horse Association, better known as the AMHA, was organized in 1978. Now it has more than 12,000 enthusiasts in 30 countries.
Anyone who has ever wanted to own a horse, but did not have the room or was just afraid to get started, can easily handle a miniature horse or two. In fact, miniature horses are known for their intelligence and can be easily trained to work with the disabled.
Keeping miniatures does not present the problems and danger of having a full size horse close enough to step on you. "A small child may be intimidated by a large horse, yet that same child will show an eagerness to embrace and hug a Miniature foal." Consequently you can now see one or two miniature horses grazing in front yards all across the country.
Miniature horses are small. In fact, if the horse is over 34 inches tall at the withers, it is no longer a miniature horse. Keith Ruther, owner of K-V Miniature Horses Ranch near Mena Arkansas, says that your largest miniature horses will seldom weigh more than 230 pounds and usually weighs less.
Keith raises miniatures for a living, but what he enjoys most is the friends he makes because of the business he is in. He goes to shows in Wichita, Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, Memphis and other areas, making new friends and meeting old friends everywhere he goes.
Preparing the horses he enters in the shows starts months ahead of the show. "The first thing I do is take the hay away from them and put them on special rations so they are feeling their oats by the time the show starts."
Every day his prize horses are put in the round pen for personal training and exercise, then looped to the walker for an hour or so to exercise themselves and learn to trail. "When you want a horse to look its best you want it to be well-muscled and alert."
Keith works hard teaching his show horses how to stand poised and confident for the judges, and how to show themselves off to the best advantage.
Before the trip to the show ever begins Keith takes extra pains to clean all the loose hair off, and wash them so they are used to the process. At the show he works at highlighting the features of each horse.
About the toughest side of keeping miniature horses (in a pasture) is trimming their hoofs. There isn't that much to trim, but getting the horse to behave during the trimming session can be a big problem for beginners.
Keith has a cure for that.
The first time a horse needs the hooves trimmed he will put a halter on, then use a soft rope to bring one hoof up. The horse will begin to kick at this unusual practice, but soon quietens down. Then Keith lets the foot back down to touch the ground and lets the horse rest a moment.
Once again he raises the hoof with the rope. Once again the horse kicks, but becomes quiet a little bit quicker. Once more the foot is lowered to the ground. Keith continues bringing the foot up with the rope and lowering it until the horse pays it no mind at all. Then Keith goes to the next foot and starts all over again. When he is finished with all four feet the horse will usually let him pick up any foot and trim the hoof at any time. Incidentally, miniatures are not shoed like full sized horses. Click HERE for more grooming tips.
Just having top stallions and great brood mares does not guarantee you a solid stream of prize-winning progeny or quick sales. "First of all, with miniature horses you never know what a colt will look like when it is born. He pointed to a palomino colt and added, "The parents of this one were both pintos, for example."
Miniature horses come in every possible horse color between white and black. Pintos (a horse with one predominant color with large spots of another color) do occasionally bring higher prices, "But you never know what colors the buyer (or the show judge) in front of you will like best."
Blood lines are less important than distinctive or unusual colors when it comes to commanding high prices and winning Blue Ribbons at the shows. In fact, Keith estimates that 80% of the reason a horse wins at a show is determined by its color.
Which colors are the best winners and easiest to sell?
Each judge will be different, and buyers will have different preferences too. "Sometimes it seems to be just a case of two fools meeting and nobody else knows why one horse gets bought instead of another one." Maybe it complements the house color?
Keith has been raising miniature horses since his grand daughter's birthday in 1989. He bought one for her, and one for himself -- then began acquiring more because he loved them. Once he turned serious about the business he invested in a syndicate which bought a top stallion to the tune of $30,000 "Recently there was another top stallion on the market that went for $225,000 so the ceiling is pretty high out there."
Keith has twenty five acres for his horses to run around in. The colts remain together with their mothers for about four months. The stallions are kept completely apart until their services are needed.
Are you ready for a miniature horse?
The one thing you absolutely must have is the time to care for them --
Very little room is needed. Your front yard may be big enough for one. A dozen miniature horses won't even feel cramped on two acres.
What about protection from the weather?
The K-V Miniature Horses ranch is near Mena Arkansas -- which lies in the friendly mountains known as Ouachita. Very rarely are the winters here bitter enough to require inside housing for the horses. However, just in case, Keith has a large barn where all his horses can be kept. Beside the barn is the walker and exercise area.
Where more severe winters are experienced you can have the door open to a hallway which leads inside. This keeps the wind from whipping straight in. But again, let the horse decide when the weather is inclement. Yes, horses can be made to live in barns and in stay cooped up in their stalls inside of barns, but like kids they usually prefer the outside and fresh air.
Where some form of shelter is required you could use a small barn, garage, or shed. In milder climes you can have the door leading straight in and out so the horses won't have any trouble leaving whenever they want to, and they will prefer the outside long after temperatures drop far enough to send you scurrying for a blazing fire.
Where Did Miniature Horses Come From?
As early as the sixteen hundreds, these tiny horses were being bred as pets for the European nobility. And right here let me point out these horses are not midgets, dwarves, runts, or "genetic" errors. They were painstakingly produced by selectively breeding them down in size -- with the emphasis placed quite solidly on maintaining as near to perfect conformation (shape) as possible at the same time.
Miniature horses were first introduced into the United States, back in the 1880s. Coal mine workers used them simply because they were small. Little horses were just the right size to be tugging the ore carts in and out all day long with scarcely a neigh being said. Today one of the favorite activities with miniature horses is to hook them up to a classy carriage and going for a spin.
If you have loving hands and an urge to be nice to your very own miniature horse Keith is ready to answer your most pressing questions. You can write to Keith at:
K-V Miniature Horses
207 Polk 71
Lin Stone is an author, writer and photographer living in Van Buren County in Arkansas. His articles and essays
are syndicated by talewins to be published automatically on other web sites. You can have immediate, and free, reading of many more pieces when you send your little surfer scooting to Lin's home page at http://www.amazon.com/author/linstone/
where he keeps stirring up more good things for the soul.
No advice on this site should be used
without first contacting a professional in that field.
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