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Miniature Horse FAQ's

What is the breeding of the SOUL Harbour Ranch miniature horses? What is a miniature horse? How tall are they? What do they eat? Why do they wear sneakers on visits?  Here are some answers to some Frequently Asked Questions. Do you have a question for us not listed? Contact us!

Wondering about the history of our miniature therapy horses?

We are often asked about the history of Barrington's original sneaker-wearing miniature therapy horses of SOUL Harbour Ranch and about miniature horses in general. 

Our minis' bloodlines trace back to Houck, Vant Huttenest, Dell Tera, Kokomo, Buckeroo, Hemlock Brooks Legend Legacy, and more. In fact, our own mare Unique is sister to Houck's Monique, a European Supreme Champion!

Our miniature therapy horses first became a herd of 3 in 2012 with our founder Jodie Diegel, who envisioned an animal therapy nonprofit with miniature horses. What started with a trio in 2012 became 9 miniature horses as of current! When you see miniature horses visiting in our Barrington community, just think, it all started with Mystery, Turnabout and Lunar! (Actually, Buffett was Jodie's very 1st therapy animal and the inspiration for mini horse thank you to Buffett, our loving therapy dog, who crossed over the rainbow bridge on 2/29/20).

At SOUL Harbour Ranch, our miniature therapy horses range in size from 28" (Unique) to 33" (CinderBella). The variety of sizes are great for visits, since our bigger minis can visit easier when residents are in bed, wheelchairs or for outside window visits. (Covid times). Unique sometimes has a hard time getting her head up high enough since she is so small!


Our herd is VERY loved at SOUL Harbour Ranch and their health is very Important to us. We have the best up-to-date veterinary, dental and farrier care for our entire herd!!! Miniature horses can live up to around 35 years, so we all better stay healthy to take care of them for a LONG time!  And If you call them ponies, they won't mind, LOL.

Miniature Horse FAQs

Q: What is a miniature horse?

A: A miniature horse is a horse that has been bred to be very small.  Although smaller than most small ponies, they still maintain many “horse” characteristics rather than pony characteristics, particularly in their build and conformation.

Miniature horses or "minis" were first developed or selectively bred in Europe in the 1600s, and by 1765 they were seen frequently as the pets of nobility. Others were used in coal mines in England and continental Europe. Small British horses, as well as small Dutch mine horses, were brought to the US throughout the late 1800s.

The first mention of a small horse being imported to the United States was in 1888. In the mid-1880's, Mr. Patrick Newtall and his son-in-law, Mr. Juan Falabella discovered small horses among the tribes of the Pampas Indians In Buenos Aires, Argentina. Through successive crossings, they gradually built the first well proportioned miniatures under 38 inches tall, the specialty breed of "Falabellas." Our black beauty CinderBella is a Falabella! The Falabella bloodline is a pure strain with all ancestors tracing their origins to the Falabella Farm.

It is believed that the American Miniature horse utilized the blood of the English and Dutch mine horses brought to this country in the 19th century and used in some Appalachian coal mines as late as 1950. The American Miniature horse, as documented in the pedigrees of some Miniatures today, also drew upon the blood of the Shetland pony.

As these small horses were being imported to the United States in the early 1900’s, Mr. Norman Fields of Bedford, Virginia started to raise them for working in the coal mines. By 1964, he had 50 miniature horses in his herd. Another breeder who promoted miniature horses in America was Walter Smith McCoy. He bred small "pit ponies" in West Virginia in the early 1900s to sell to the mining companies. When machines began replacing the ponies, McCoy began to sell his smallest horses for better prices as novelty pets and exhibition animals.

Q: What is conformation?

A: A horse’s conformation is the degree of correctness of a horse’s bone structure, musculature, and its body proportions in relation to each other. Each breed has a specific conformation that they look for.


Q: What breeds are our minis?

A: Eight of our miniature horses are American miniature horses. Miniature horses were originally bred in the mid -1800’s. Bloodlines include Welsh ponies, Shetland ponies, and small thoroughbreds, among others.


Q: What is the American Miniature Horse Registry?

A: In early 1971, the American Miniature Horse Registry was founded and opened to all miniature horses that met height requirements of 38 inches and under. There were approximately 900 miniatures registered as foundation stock under the open registry. At the year end 1973, the registry was closed and only the offspring of registered animals were eligible for registration. There are two divisions of height in the American Miniature Horse Registry. Class A consists of horses measuring 34 inches and under while Class B consists of horses measuring 38 inches and under.

Q: What is the American Miniature Horse Association? (see AMHA)

A: In 1978, the American Miniature Horse Association, Inc., was organized to aid and encourage the breeding use and perpetuation of the American Miniature horse, separate and apart from ponies and other small equines.

JC Williams owned Dell Tera Miniature Horse Farm in Inman, South Carolina. The Dell Tera bloodlines are still sought after by breeders today, especially those who want to breed the smallest Minis. 7 of our minis were bred by Janet & Dick Houck of A-1 Houck Minis In Burlington Wisconsin, winning many national championships. Charmer and CinderBella came to us through our dear friends at Shades of Blue Ranch in Hebron. They also have bred many amazing minis, many of whom have gone on to do therapy work too. ALL of our minis have vacationed at Shades of Blue Ranch over the years with Carol & Gary Swinford

Q: What is a Falabella?

A: Our "Black Beauty" CinderBella is a specialty breed of miniature horses called a Falabella. A Falabella is a specific breed of small horses from Argentina. They are known for their thick manes and tails, which she definitely has!

Q: How long do miniature horses live?

A: They usually live anywhere from 25-35 years, sometimes even longer!

Q: What do they eat?

A: They love to eat hay and grass.  Just like regular horses, they also sometimes get grain.  They have flat teeth, which means that they are herbivores.  In the wild, they are grazers. Depending on what other grain they are getting, they can typically eat anywhere from 2 to 5 pounds of hay per day. Ideally, Minis should consume approximately 1.5% of their body weight in hay daily.

Q:  How much do they weigh?

A: An average adult may weigh between 100-350 pounds, depending on their size.  Our minis weigh from about 125-250 lbs (Unique is the smallest, CinderBella is the biggest).

Q: Are miniature horses and ponies the same thing?

A: No. Ponies are a separate breed from regular horses just as miniature horses are a separate breed from ponies.  Miniature horses are no taller than 38”, although some people say the cutoff for a mini is 34” at the withers (shoulder).  Ponies can be up to 59” (almost 5 feet, or 14.3 hands) at the withers.  Ponies often have different proportions than horses, like short, stout legs, among others.

Q: Where do miniature horses come from and how are they bred so small?

A: The small size of miniature horses was established through selective breeding.  Horses started being bred smaller and smaller in the 17th century, mainly as pets for the nobility in Europe. They were also used as working horses, driving carts and even used in the coal mines.  In the United States, the miniature horse breed was refined during the early-mid 20th century. The American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) was founded to help establish the American Miniature Horse as a separate breed in 1978.

Q: How tall are our miniature horses?

A: Unique is the smallest at 28" at her withers. CinderBella is our largest at 33" at her withers.


Q: How old are each of the minis?

A:  See their birth dates under on our Miniature Therapy Horses page. 


Q: Do they need their hooves trimmed and do they wear horseshoes like big horses?

A: They do get their hooves trimmed because they grow just like people’s fingernails.  They do not wear horseshoes like big horses, but they do wear sneakers from Teddy Mountain and blingy Cavallo hoof boots! 

Q: How often do their hooves need to be trimmed?

A: They should be trimmed every 6-8 weeks.

Q: Why do they wear sneakers and hoof boots?

A:  Many surfaces can be very slippery, like tile, linoleum, and even asphalt.  It is like wearing socks on a wood floor for a person. Wearing sneakers helps keep them safe so that they don’t slip. It also keeps their hooves clean when we visit indoor facilities. PLUS THEY ARE ADORABLE!

Q: Can you ride the minis?

A: No, they are a bit too small for most people to ride and are not typically used for riding.  Depending on the size of the miniature horse, they can sometimes carry very small children.  Our minis are not used for riding.

Q: What do people do with minis?

A:  Some people just keep them as pets, some show them (like a show dog, or halter classes for big horses), and some people use them for driving carts.

Q: How fast can they run?

A: They can run up to 30 mph.

Q: What are their coats like in the winter?

A: In the winter, they grow very thick bushy coats to keep them warm since they are used to being outside in the winter.


Q: How big are the foals when they are born?

A: A miniature horse foal ranges from 12 to 25 pounds depending on their size. They can stand anywhere from 15 to 22 inches tall at birth.

Q: What is the gestation period for a miniature horse? (How long is a miniature horse pregnant?)

A: The gestation period is 11 months, which is the same as a full-size horse.


Q: How fast do they grow?

A: Miniature horses are about 90% full grown by the time they reach 1 year of age.

Q: How old are foals when they are weaned from their mothers?

A: Foals are typically weaned around 4 to 6 months of age.

Q: Can miniature horses be used as service animals?

A:  YES, but many towns have ordinances against having farm animals.  If your town does allow it, you still want to make sure they get plenty of time outside since they are still horses and not actually dogs.  They love being outside and can live completely outside as long as they have at least a three sided shelter to protect them from storms, wind, etc.



American Miniature Horse Association

University of California-Davis

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