Miniature Horses – by Alison

How has the miniature horse adapted to its environment through evolution and behavior? I would say that the miniature horse has, like any given species, had to adapt to be able to eat, to reproduce, and to co-exist with other species, especially humans.

Miniature foals can be held by people, but normal-sized babies are already too big. Even an adult miniature horse weighs only from 150 pounds to 250 pounds, whereas a normal horse has a regular weight of  1,000 to 2,000 pounds. Newborn foals average 16 to 20 inches tall, which is approximately 4.5 hands, and weigh around 20 pounds, making them smaller than a fully grown German shepherd. They can only grow to be 34 inches tall maximum. 

Of course, if miniature horses aren’t to die off, they need to reproduce. That has never been a problem, though, because miniature horses are pretty overpopulated. This may have to do with the fact that most foals are born in the spring due to the mare’s cycle. Newborn foals won’t have to deal with harsh weather. It also may have to do with their long lives, stretching at least thirty years. 

However, reproduction isn’t always safe for the foal or mare. Sometimes size can be concerningly small, even for a mini. The smaller the mini foal, the more likely it is that they’ll have orthopedic issues such as tendon and ligament laxity (overstretching a muscle or bone) or tightness. 

Another difficulty with this species is that birthing miniature horses can be dangerous. If the stallion is too large, the fetus may be too large for the mare, and damage or kill her in the birthing process. The same is true if the mare is too young, and may not be able to birth the foal normally. For six months after a mini foal is born, it stays close to its mother. After this time, all miniature foals start to look alike in size.

Of course, reproduction wasn’t the only thing miniature horses needed to adapt to. They also had to adapt to having to find food. During the summer a miniature horse’s food source is obtained by grazing all day, but in the winter the horse’s owner needs to feed them. The most common foods that they are fed are hay, corn and oats. But people have to be careful; it is easy for a miniature horse to become overweight, making them much more susceptible to liver diseases such as hyperlipidemia (fat in the bloodstream), and hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease). 

One of the main threats to the species staying alive is humans When they became a fully evolved species, because of poaching and hunting for food, many other species were at risk of going extinct. However, the miniature horse adapted to humans, and were able to be considered valuable by them. These are some of the ways they adapted.

Miniature horses love being around people. If they want attention, they might follow humans around. This is helpful to get food. They’re a pack animal by nature, and love being around other miniature horses. 

Miniature horses were appreciated as early as the 1600s to 1700s when King Louis XIV had a zoo of animals that he considered rare or odd. A miniature horse was among those animals, and now, hundreds of miniature horse shows are held around the USA. In these shows, a miniature horse pulls people through and around obstacle courses for sport and competition. They can pull over twice their own weight. They also compete in jumping events at horse shows without the people. Horse shows are the full-time job of most show minis. Some trainers like to get pulled around town by them in carriages. 

If a person grooms and feeds them enough, mini horses and humans can even develop bonds. They can easily live in a big backyard. They also have thick enough coats to withstand harsh weather, and only need to shed to run into if it gets too hot. 

Despite their small size, they can give horseback rides to people who weigh under 60 pounds. They hardly ever bite or kick, proving them a viable option for small children to take riding lessons. They are also good for elderly or disabled people, who like being around them because they’re easier to deal with than full-sized horses. More recently, they can be used as the seeing eyes for people with impaired vision. In the 1970s the American miniature horse became an official breed in the U.S.

While miniature horses are small, they are strong. For instance, in the 1800s, they were used to pull wagons through coal mines, and were given the name “pit ponies” before machines took over the job. 

So that is how the miniature horse has adapted through reproduction, eating, and coexisting with other species (particularly humans) through evolution and behavior, and some of the challenges it has or still faces.