Keeping a Mini Horse in Your Backyard: What to Know

Did you grow up hoping that one day you would be able to keep a mini horse in your backyard? Have you always admired the fleet of mini horses that makes an appearance in the Annual Rose Parade, decked out with colorful garlands and flowers tucked into their manes? Or perhaps you’re a bit of a cowboy at heart, whose days are spent in an office rather than out on the range.

Whatever your reason, keeping a mini horse in your backyard could create that rustic farm feeling you’re craving while providing the warmth and intelligent companionship you’d hope for in a family pet.

Although these animals are “mini,” they still require plenty of proper care and attention. There are several things that you should know about keeping a mini horse in your backyard. And we’re here to help you get started.

Important Things to Know About Mini Horses

There is actually a big difference between a mini horse and a pony. Most people confuse the two.

A pony measures more than 38” tall, making it larger than a mini horse, with a stockier build, shaggier mane, and wider belly. By contrast, a miniature horse is usually between 34” – 38” inches and is exactly what its name implies: a mini-sized horse.

Unlike a pony, a mini horse has the same overall proportions as a regular horse, with long legs and a slim body and neck. However, its proportions are miniaturized.

Because mini horses are only three feet tall, adult humans shouldn’t attempt to ride them. They definitely would not be able to support the weight of most full-size humans, although children under age ten might be able to ride a mini horse with a saddle.

Mini horses are strong enough to pull a cart carrying a child or sometimes a full-sized adult. Still, their main role is usually to provide companionship, rather than riding or towing.

Why Mini Horses Make Good Pets

Companionship is the number one reason why mini horses make wonderful pets. They are affectionate, smart, and easy to train. With their small size, they are not intimidating to children.

As children grow, they can learn about how to properly care for a mini horse, just like they would any other pet. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids about responsibility and the value of animals.

Why Mini Horses Make Good Service Animals

Mini horses also make good service animals for humans with disabilities because they provide warm and compassionate assistance. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the official definition of service animals is limited to dogs, but this includes an important exception that recognizes mini horses who have been individually trained to work as service animals.

Nowadays, it is becoming more common to see mini horses trained as service animals, such as helping humans with blindness to navigate their surroundings. Some mini horses can also be trained to provide emotional support to humans, much like other kinds of companion animals.

Mini horses who are trained to assist humans with disabilities can complete a remarkable number of daily household tasks. In such cases, mini horses can learn to help a person to load the dishwasher or the washing machine. They can also help to retrieve items from your refrigerator while holding open or closing doors.

Basic Requirements for Your Mini Horse

No matter what your reason is for keeping a mini horse, it will need enough space outside in order to be able to exercise, run around, and play.

Please check your town or city ordinances before adopting a mini horse, as these will usually include requirements for the amount of land that you need to have in order to keep a mini horse. In some places, you’ll be required to have at least an acre of land for your mini horse.

In other places, you may be allowed to keep two or even three hoofed-animals on an acre of land. These regulations are in place to make sure that animals have enough space to comfortably move about while protecting the safety, health, and wellbeing of everyone involved.

Building a Barn for Your Mini Horse

Some mini horses who work as service animals for humans with disabilities can be specifically trained to live inside a house with people. However, most mini horses who are pets typically belong in a barn outside in your backyard.

Unless you want to build a barn from scratch or host a neighborhood barn-raising party, you might want to consider ordering a pre-fabricated barn for your mini horse. Pre-fabricated barns are easy to assemble because many of the pieces are cut to size with instructions for assembly.

What to Feed Your Mini Horse

Mini horses also need sufficient outdoor space so that they can graze on ample amounts of grass or hay. In fact, mini horses are supposed to eat about 1% of their body weight through these natural sources of forage.

Once a mini horse reaches full size, it will weigh approximately 150-350 pounds (compare this to a regular horse, which can weigh anywhere from 800 to 2500 pounds!). This means that a mini horse will need to eat at least 1.5 – 3.5 of grass or hay per day, depending on its body weight.

However, you can also supplement the natural diet of your mini horse by providing grain-based feed. This will offer additional sources of protein and complex carbohydrates to keep your mini horse strong and healthy. Just note that it is considered much easier to overfeed rather than underfeed a mini-horse, which can put them at risk for developing unhealthy conditions.

Medical Care for Your Mini Horse

Although they won’t require as much food or as large a pen or outdoor area as a regular horse, your mini horse will likely still incur roughly the same medical costs. This is because they will need the same amount of annual veterinary care, in addition to any unforeseen emergency treatments.

Often, an equine veterinarian will make house calls directly to the farm, or in this case, your backyard barn. Veterinary care needs to include hoof care, dental care, deworming, vaccinations, and regular check-ups.

Grooming and Brushing Your Mini Horse

Be sure to provide your mini horse with plenty of fresh, clean water each day. Also, groom your mini horse daily by brushing its coat and mane.

Grooming your mini horse can be an important way to bond with your animal. Your mini horse will develop a level of trust through the simple contact of you brushing and caring for your animal in a tactile way.

Where to Adopt Your Mini Horse

If possible, you may want to try to adopt a mini horse from an equine rescue farm. These types of animal rescue facilities place unwanted or orphaned mini horses in new homes where they will receive good care.

Mini horses are usually well-cared for by equine rescue facilities during the interim period before they are adopted into a new home. Medical vaccines should usually be up to date when you adopt your mini horse from a rescue facility.

If you don’t have access to a rescue facility, you can also look for a breeder where you can adopt your mini horse. Unlike adopting from a rescue organization, buying a mini horse from a breeder means that your animal will be coming to you without a long prior history of interaction with another previous owner.

Do be aware that adopting an animal online can be complicated. Depending on what site you use, it can sometimes be a little unclear as to whether an animal is coming from a rescue facility or a private breeder, or exactly what the animal’s backstory is. Ask questions before purchasing a mini horse online!

The World’s Smallest Mini Horse

According to the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006, the smallest full-grown mini horse ever recorded is named Thumbelina. She stands at only 17” tall and she is absolutely adorable.

Thumbelina was born with a condition known as dwarfism, which inhibited her from growing to the usual size of 3” tall for a mini horse. She’s a trained service animal who visits children in hospitals and spreads joy wherever she goes.

And with your own mini horse, you can expect to find the same joy right in your backyard.

Wrap Up

We hope you’ll agree that an animal need not be large in size to have a huge impact on your life. It is important that you are well prepared to handle all of the requirements of their care before keeping a mini horse in your backyard.

However, if you’ve done your research, checked your town or city ordinances, and are prepared for the care and expense involved, we believe that adopting a mini horse can make a wonderful addition to your life!