Despite what many people think, miniature horses aren’t just smaller versions of full-sized horses. Minis have unique needs and require different care than other horses. If you do the same things for your minis as you do for your other horses, you could end up with draft-sized problems.
Whether you’ve had horses for years and have acquired your first mini or you’re new to the equine world altogether, there are a few things that you’ll need in order to care for your miniature horse properly.
The 7 Essential Miniature Horse Supplies to Get You Started
1. Halters and Lead Shanks
Things to Consider: Halters should be miniature sized, not pony, yearling, or weanling sized.
Most horses are sold with a halter and lead shank, but not always. Regardless, you will want to keep an extra on hand in case you need it.
For most situations, a nylon halter will do. If you live somewhere that experiences cold winter weather, you may want to keep a rope halter handy. Buckles on nylon halters are made of metal, which can be uncomfortable in the cold. If you plan to show your mini in conformation or halter classes, you will also need a leather show halter and shank for this purpose.
The Weaver Leather Nylon Miniature Adjustable Halter is a great all-purpose nylon halter, and the Showman Miniature Horse Leather Show Halter is easily polished up for horse shows. If you are in need of a rope halter, we recommend the Tough 1 Miniature Poly Rope Tied Halter.
Lead ropes are usually sold separately from halters. It’s important that you buy a horse lead rope for your mini and not a lead designed for a sheep or a goat. While your horse may be the same height as a goat, lead ropes for smaller animals aren’t made to tolerate the weight and strength of a horse, should yours ever test it out. We also recommend using a cotton lead rope, as poly ropes can cause slivers in your hands if you happen to be holding it when a horse pulls back.
2. Grooming Supplies
Things to Consider: Grooming a miniature horse is the same as grooming any other horse.
If you are already a horse owner, you likely have more horse brushes than you know what to do with. Fortunately, the grooming tools for a miniature horse are the same as for any other horse, so you don’t need to buy special tools.
There are a few brushes that are considered essential for proper horse grooming: hoof pick, shedding blade, curry comb, dandy brush, soft brush, and mane/tail comb. You will likely also need to invest in a sweat scraper, a face brush, and a mane and tail brush, as a comb doesn’t serve all purposes.
We recommend Derby Originals Premium Comfort 9-piece Horse Grooming Kit if you are just starting out and need grooming tools. It contains all the brushes that you need in a handy carry bag.
3. Medications and Dewormers
Things to Consider: How often you need to deworm your horse will depend on their fecal egg load.
Unlike other animals that can use the same type of dewormer over and over again, horses need their dewormer rotated over the course of the year. While Ivermectin is still the powerhouse dewormer, many horses (and parasites) become resistant to Ivermectin if it is overused. To avoid dewormer resistance, horses need a rotating schedule of Ivermectin, Moxidectin, Praziquantel, and Pyrantel to keep them worm free.
Veterinarians recommend that you have fecal egg counts done on your horses at least once per year in the spring to determine their overall parasite load. Horses that are low shedders (have low egg counts) can be dewormed twice per year in spring and fall. Moderate shedders need deworming three times per year, whereas high shedders should be dewormed four times per year.
Here is what you will need for a dewormer based on your horse’s fecal egg count:
4. Grazing Muzzle
Things to Consider: Miniature horses should not be left to freely graze on grass, as it has negative health consequences.
Miniature horses and ponies are at high risk for obesity when they are allowed to freely graze on grass pasture. This is different from full-sized horses, which can be left on pasture full time.
The risk of obesity in miniature horses is so high that many owners choose to keep their minis on a “dry lot.” This means feeding them hay year-round and not giving them access to grass. However, this isn’t an option for everyone, so some owners choose to use a grazing muzzle. This limits the amount of grass that your mini can consume while on pasture.
Things to Consider: Avoid alfalfa for miniature horses because it is too rich for their digestive system.
High-quality timothy or grass hay is usually appropriate for feeding miniature horses. Alfalfa should be avoided, as it can lead to colic and other health issues.
Miniature horses should be fed approximately 1.5% of their weight in hay daily. Most minis do not need grain, as obesity is a big problem for these horses. Obesity can lead to other health issues, like laminitis or metabolic syndrome.
6. Fly Protection
Things to Consider: What you need to protect your miniature horse from flies will depend on where you live.
In general, flies are a problem for horses of all kinds, no matter your geography. Horses poop frequently, and flies like horse manure, so they naturally gravitate toward horses.
Geography matters because where you live will determine what kinds of flies (and other bugs) you have and how much they bother your horses. The color of your horse matters too. Flies tend to gravitate more toward black or bay horses because they are warmer. Palominos, whites, and grays will tend to have fewer fly problems.
Flies aren’t just pesky. Some flies, like bot flies, can lay eggs on your horse, especially their legs. These eggs make your horse itch, and then your horse bites at the itchy spot, eats the eggs, and ends up with bots (this can be cured with a dewormer).
Every owner (and every horse) has their own preferences with regard to fly protection, but here are our top recommendations for fly protection for miniature horses.
7. Mini Housing and Fencing
Things to Consider: Miniature horses don’t require elaborate housing, but they do need protection from predators.
Minis don’t require elaborate housing or shelter setups. A stall in a barn or a run-in shed will do just fine.
The biggest difference between miniature horses and full-sized horses with regard to housing is that minis need protection, even from neighborhood dogs. Horses are prey animals by nature, but their size usually works in their defense. Predators like dogs, coyotes, or badgers won’t go after them because they are too big. Unfortunately, this isn’t true for miniature horses.
Woven-wire fencing is a good idea, but make sure the holes are small enough that a hoof doesn’t fit through. If a hoof can, it will, and this can cause serious injury to your horse. Mesh or wire fencing will keep predators from getting into your paddock.
Miniature horses are fun additions to any farm, but they’re not just “little horses.” Minis have special requirements and care needs that are different from their larger counterparts. Hopefully, this list of essential supplies gives you a good starting point in caring for your new mini so you can feel prepared.
Featured Image Credit: Peter is Shaw 1991, Shutterstock