I've been researching and contemplating this post for a while. First, because it's about a kind of horse I've had very little personal exposure to, and second, because it has already become obvious that the breeders of these horses are, on the whole, stark raving mad. But hey, we all need some excitement in the middle of our boring work weeks, so today I'm going to tackle this topic.
I am pretty sure Miniature Horses became hot in the 1970s. I say this because I was an inveterate reader of the "Arabian Horse World" at that point (my closet door was just covered in Arabian pictures, much to the dismay of my mother, who pointed out that scotch tape leaves marks and I was in big trouble), and I still remember the little ads in the back that caught my eye for miniature horses. Here was a horse that could live in your yard! And they could be potty trained! OMG! For a horse crazy kid stuck in suburbia, this sounded like the perfect compromise. It was like a dog that whinnied! Awesome! Unfortunately for me, my mom didn't think that was such a great idea, and probably correctly surmised that our picky neighbor Mr. Huebner, who had a shit fit if we let the lawn go 2 extra days, would not tolerate livestock grazing on said lawn. Ah well. I continued to read the AHW and get trucked out for my weekly visit to a riding academy that I now recognize, in retrospect, I was lucky to have survived. But I digress...
I grew up, acquired a normal sized horse, and forgot all about those little midget horses for many years. Oh, sure, every once in a while I boarded somewhere with a mini and had to go through the desensitizing process all over again. I remember one boarding barn in particular where there was a mini that got hooked up to a cart and driven around the premises. Invariably, that went something like this:
Normal Sized Horse: What the FUCK is that? *snort* *scramble* *snort some more*
Me: It's just a mini. It's not going to eat you. It's like a dog.
Normal Sized Horse: The hell you say! It's a teeny little DEMON with WHEELS! Get me out of here!
Me: Knock it off, you're 10 times its size, relax!
Normal Sized Horse: Tell you what, I'll throw you in the dirt and you can relax and look at the little shaggy DEMON with WHEELS while I get the hell out of here!
Mini Horse: *little gay whinny*
Normal Sized Horse: It's speaking in tongues! It's possessed by Satan! *wheel and bolt*
So at least until recently, I mainly thought of minis as an annoyance. I had only a vague realization that people actually bred them, and I had NO idea there were horseshows for them. In the past year, I have received an education that I'm not sure I wanted. You know, kind of like when you're a teenager and you find out what guys really want you to do with your mouth, and it's not kissing! Particularly since I've started this blog, I've gotten e-mails that go like this:
"My pet peeve is in regard to miniature breeders. It’s become an absolute abomination in the miniature horse community that the only goal seems to be to produce more of them regardless of their futures or quality. It seems that every fool with two intact horses of each sex consider themselves a breeder these days an almost EVERYONE who has minis breeds them or plans to breed eventually. Doesn’t matter how horrendous the fault, dwarfism, fixated patellas, severe tendon laxity, red bag births--hey no matter, because after all you don’ t ride 'em. IDIOTS! Doesn’t matter that minis have the highest mortality rate for foaling, probably due to the low IQ of their breeders, and other brood-related complications because if they die, oh well they will just get another set of culls and breed some more."
"I think the whole Miniature Horse thing is strictly crap! I believe they're all just selectively bred-down ponies and the smaller they get, the more deformed they seem to come out. The dwarf gene is compounded, or something. Anyway, I've argued with people that they're just very small ponies, but those same people absolutely argue that they're horses, not ponies."
"I would love to see a FHOTD on miniature horses. These people are breeding just to breed and are producing some really unfortunate looking things. Then there are the ones that look like they have acrodysplasia! These poor dwarfs have some really sad health issues especially with their feet and yet the breeders do it on purpose!"
"Miniature horses are a dime a dozen and yet because Sassy has really pretty pinto markings she should be bred to Bob’s stallion to produce yet another horse that will end up in Aunt Jessie’s back yard cause it was cute. But does Auntie know that these are actually horses and need feet trimming, teeth floating, grooming… Nope not a chance."
This last comment is totally on-target. Much like I did when I was, um, seven, people get confused and think this is like owning a DOG. It's not. A miniature horse still requires all of the same care a normal sized horse does, and if you think the prices are going to be downsized like the horses, you are in for a surprise. Check out the long feet on our mini at the left. The truly appalling part is that he is allegedly owned by a farrier. Um, do you ever trim your own horse's feet? Let's add to this the fact that this thing is the Humpback of Mini Dame...it's got a topline like a donkey, not a horse. Conformation is conformation, regardless of size. I have seen minis with good conformation. This isn't one of them.
Here's another. I guess we are supposed to look at the baby and not look at Momma Mini's positively appalling looking feet, but they were the first thing that caught my eye.
I mean, other than the fact that I personally think this little creature looks like a mutant. To each their own...but the hoof care, that's not optional.
Poor li'l mutant though...he's being auctioned off on the Internet in something called the "last chance" auction. Eeek. Nothing like screening your potential homes!
Lest you think I am just prejudiced against minis, I have found some examples online of good looking ones with good conformation. It just seems like there is a VAST range of quality, and although you see that in every breed and type, I am pretty sure the facts that you can keep a mini damn near anywhere and they don't eat as much as the big horses contribute to the low end being so...damn...low.
Here's a nice one. If you blew him up to 15.2 or so and kept all the proportions the same, he'd be a usable, attractive and athletic horse. His feet are done and everything! I still don't quite get the appeal of the teacup horsies, but I suspect a repeat viewing of "Best in Show" might remind me.
Here's a good article on irresponsible breeding of miniature horses. This article points out that the foaling death rate in minis is OVER THIRTY SIX PERCENT. WTF? And you mini breeders don't think you have a problem here?
Dozens of starved minis. You mean, they have to eat? We thought were like big stuffed animals!
And you are supposed to pick up their poop too? Well damn y'all, that's WAY too much work!
Here's an ad for a mini "stud." Gotta love it.
Okay, Here's the deal. Serious inquiries only. I am lazy about paperwork and Pepper is not registered at this time. So you can have one gorgeous unpapered stud for $300, or for $1000, I will catch him up with his paperwork and you can have a fully registered handsome little stud. (FHOTD: Does anybody EVER geld these things?) He has an excellent pedagree behind him with several champions on both sides. His mother taught my then 2 year old daughter how to ride. The disposition is rock steady and calm. He's never been off our farm (except to experience trailering) in his life. I love this little guy, but now he's making eyes at his mother so if someone wants a vise-proof little stud who stand for vets and farriers, leads, loads, grooms like a pro, this is your guy! OMG YOU INCREDIBLE DUMBASS. This is a 3 year old (foaled 5/04, ad posted 8/07). HE HAS ALREADY BRED HIS MOTHER IF YOU HAVEN'T SEPARATED THEM. I really hope she has separated them and is just whining about having to keep two separate pastures. I hopeihopeihope...
Despite all of these lovely examples, to really get the flavor of the low end of the mini horse business, you absolutely must proceed to Youtube to see them in action.
Here is a video of a mini stallion attacking the family dog and the owner's foot. How KYOOT! But the best part is the owner's own description of this unfortunate creature. "He is almost two years old, now, but this is an older video. Any way, he's still a stallion so he's kinda rascally. Enjoy! P.S. He is deformed, he is a braciocephalic dwarf and was born without tendons in his hind legs. Thats why his feet look like that, not becuase we don't trim them. We have a ferrier come out every 3 weeks to trim them. He is not fat due to over feeding, but becuase his organs are too big for his frame making his belly distended." All I can say is, I sure hope they don't own any mares!
This is priceless - the mini at liberty class. You have to watch til the end to see him wing kicks at the handler who is trying to catch him. Disposition plus!
This parent admits her daughter is a "little" big for the mini. WTF, it should be riding her!
Jesus, it's just a sea of stupid when you start searching for mini horses!
It's the Redneck Olympics Bronc Riding! (but seriously, these people should be arrested for cruelty...)
OK, I saved the WORST for last. They have an entire web site devoted to minis that suffered from dwarfism and died young! I kid you not. And they have the nerve to say breeders shouldn't be embarrassed when this happens, that it's just "a fact of life" when breeding minis. Edited to add: Make sure you look at the second page of that site. That is where they hide the pictures of all the really deformed ones.
In closing, I must share this lovely poem from that site.
Giants in miniature, look like Arabs, Quarter Horses,Thoroughbreds, Drafts, yet through our quest for perfection comes Mother Natures unseen forces.
A mishappened foal is born, neck too short, toes pointing in odd directions,mare was almost lost, foal not much better. Her tongue hangs out, nearly lifeless, cannot stand.
Foal was born on a cold stormy night, she shivers getting wetter.I blanket and stall mare and foal, nothing else I can do 'till morning, I pray for the best.One week later, foal is better, a dwarf, but no less a blessed foal.We call her "Miracle", the name suits her, she's an Angel sent for a reason.
She was here, momma mare was proud, she stood by her no matter what.This is one heck of an end to mare watch and foaling season,her survival is our only care, her comfort is our goal.She is beautiful, the time we share will be special,in my eyes she is perfect, nowhere near a mutt.
~ Christina Golubski - Pierce City, MO
*sits back to enjoy the show*