Use and characteristics of the American Miniature Horse
There are several recognised types of miniature horse throughout the world. When planning to buy an American Miniature Horse, it’s important to bear in mind that the USA has two main registries, and breed standards vary according to the registry. Established in 1978, the American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) permits horses under 34 inches (86 cm) of any colour or marking to be registered as long as their proportion and conformation are those of a full-size horse. The American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR) is a separate registry but is part of the American Shetland Pony Club. The AMHR has two sections based on height, and so when AMHR breeders sell an American Miniature Horse it will either be from the "A" division for horses 34 inches (86 cm) and under, or the "B" division for slightly larger horses (34 inches/86 cm to 38/97 cm tall).
Origin and history of breeding American Miniature Horses
The best-known small pony breed in the world is undoubtedly the Shetland pony, which has played an important part in the creation of other miniature equines. However, Shetlands are viewed as having distinctly pony-like characteristics, while most breed registries for miniature horses require their registered animals to look like small horses. In the twentieth century, breeders concentrated on achieving this. Some of the foundation work, however, was done by Lady Estella Hope and her sister in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They achieved a reputation for breeding miniature Shetland ponies that were even smaller than the standard, although this was only part of the work of their breeding programme in Sussex, England. By selectively breeding miniature Shetlands with small individuals from other breeds, it has been possible to produce several types of miniature horse, including the Falabella of Argentina. Both the American Miniature Horse and the American Shetland Pony are now very distinctive breeds with their own characteristics. Along with achieving the conformation of a miniature horse, breeders have aimed to produce good-natured animals that bond well with humans, as well as being strong and hardy. Issues have arisen in some miniature breeds due to inbreeding but, on the whole, miniatures are long-lived, agile and active, and this the case with the American Miniature Horses. Because of their size, there has been a tendency to view them as pets, but miniatures can perform successfully in many types of event and due to their popularity, they have plenty of dedicated classes and shows.
American Miniature Horses in equestrianism
As well as participating in showing, driving, agility and other activities, American Miniature Horses are now well-established therapy horses, visiting hospitals and care homes where they are always a welcome sight. They are also increasingly used as service and assistance animals, performing tasks like those of service dogs, although there is some controversy about this. While they need less land than a large horse, their care needs are the same.