Miniature ponies are also sometimes referred to as miniature horses, toy horses, midget ponies, pygmy horses, Falabellas or Dartmoor ponies. They range in size, shape, color and conformation. They are the smallest horses in the world. Because of their size, they are not suitable to ride but are bred to be kept as pets.
History of Miniature Ponies
Many miniature pony breeds have origins in Europe. King Louis XIV had tiny horses among his collection of unusual animals at the palace at Versailles in the 1650s. Miniature ponies were bred from Shetland pony stock to produce smaller work horses for the coal mining areas of Wales. In the early 1900s, miniature horses were imported to the United States to pull ore carts in coal mines. During the 20th century, independent breeding programs were established throughout the world. By the middle of the century, several distinct breeds of miniature horses emerged.
Miniature Pony Standards
As miniature ponies were bred and developed, different standards also developed. More than 20 different registries for miniature horses and miniature ponies have been established, each with its own conformation standards. Some breeds have short, stout legs and elongated torsos while others prefer large-horse conformation in a smaller package.
Height of Miniature Ponies
Height standards vary among miniature horse registries, ranging from 28 inches to 38 inches tall. According to the American Miniature Horse Association, miniature horses cannot be taller than 34 inches when measured at the last hairs of the mane (at the withers). However, the American Miniature Horse Registry has two separate height categories. Division A miniatures are 34 inches and shorter, but division B miniatures range from more than 34 inches to 38 inches in height.
Miniature Pony Breeds
Southwestern England is home to the Dartmoor pony breed. Falabellas are an Argentine breed said to have descended from a single stallion with a "dwarf" gene in the 19th century. The Falabella (and the miniature horse) gained popularity in 1962 when the Julio Falabella family provided three miniature ponies to Robert Kennedy. Photos of the Falabella ponies on the White House lawn appeared in "Time" and "Newsweek" magazines. Other breeds of miniature ponies include micro minis, midget ponies, the American miniature horse, the miniature Shetland pony, the miniature toy horse (British), the pygmy Clydesdale and the UK Shetland pony.
Miniature Ponies as Guides for the Blind
Miniature ponies are raised and trained as guides for visually impaired people. They are proving to be safe, cost-effective, reliable guides that are not easily distracted by people or crowds. Miniature ponies might be ideal guides for blind people who are allergic to dogs or afraid of dogs. Horses also tend to live longer than other traditional guide animals.