... enjoy a Miniature Moment

Miniature Horse Information

Articles of Interest:

Miniature Horses - A Brief Overview- by Carolyn Aarup

Miniature Horse Harness Racing - by Carolyn Aarup

Selection and Training of a Miniature Driving Horse - by Laura Tennill

Articles of Interest -- From the Web

Getting Ready to Go Into the Ring (Link to a PDF article) - Notes from 2008 MHCO clinic presentation by Carolyn Aarup, Dakota Winds Farm


By Carolyn Aarup, Dakota Winds Farm Miniature Horses of Meaford Ontario
(Source: AMHA & AMHR Literature)

First and probably foremost to avoid confusion, Registered Miniature horses are not Ponies. Although they are small and bear resemblance to ponies, they are the product of almost 400 years of select breeding. A true Miniature horse should look like a scaled-down version of a regular sized horse, but can still be of a variety of body types (from fine-boned Arabian to heavier Draft looks) but must still be properly proportioned.

The first Miniature horse originated in Europe and it is believed that they were bred to be pets of European nobles. One of the most well known types of Miniature horse is called the Falabella Miniature which originated in Argentina, bred by the Falabella family. Today’s Miniatures have utilized the bloodlines of English and Dutch mine horses and have also drawn on the bloodlines of the Registered Shetland Pony. Miniature horses can carry only a small amount of weight (a very small child under 30lbs), but many of them can pull more than their own weight when hitched to a cart.

All Registered Miniature horses must be registered with a recognized Registry. They can be registered under one or both of the two main recognized Registries: The American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) and the American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR). The major difference between the two registries is the height restrictions. The AMHA will only register horses up to 34” at maturity (measured from the ground up to the withers at the last hairs of the mane). The AMHR registers horses by two height categories: Division A for horses up to 34” and Division B for horses over 34” and up to 38”. These registries issue Registration papers required by breeders who are raising AMHA and /or AMHR Registered Miniature Horses. When a registered Miniature Horse is sold, the seller must give the purchaser the original Registration papers for that horse.

Miniature horses make excellent companions for anyone but can also excel in a variety of disciplines: performance halter classes, jumping, costume and carriage driving. They are easy to care for, easy to transport, and certainly easy to love. They require most of the same care as a full sized horse but on a much smaller scale.

If you would like more information about Miniature horses, please be sure to check out the Miniature Horse Club of Ontario; a club for Miniature horse enthusiasts. The MHCO website is www.mhco.ca

Miniature Horse Harness Racing

by Carolyn Aarup

To view this article CLICK HERE

Selection and Training of a Miniature Driving Horse

by Laura Tennill

This introduction to driving article first appeared in the February/March 1999 edition of the Miniature Horse World. The following step by step information covers a detailed procedure of starting and gentling your driving prospect.

Permission to post this article has been given by:
Laura Tennill
Ten L Training Centre of Kentucky, USA

Driving a miniature horse is fun and rewarding, whether for show or pleasure. Driving your miniature is a great way to condition them and have fun at the same time. Driving will build up muscle on your horse, front and back, and help him stay tucked up on the underline. The majority of miniatures that I have trained to drive over the years really enjoy it.

What To Look For

When selecting a driving prospect, look at the horse’s overall conformation, does his neck fit well onto his shoulders so that he can raise his head and neck up? Does he have a fairly clean throatlatch so that he can flex to the bit? The headset of a driving horse really helps in his overall appearance, and can affect his movement also. Watch the horse move at the trot. He should bring his hocks up under him well, flexing them and he should have a reaching stride while flexing at the knees, not stiff legged or short stride. Look at the length of his pasterns. A horse with short straight pasterns will usually have a short and choppy stride. Watch for a horse running free that consistently carries himself well and is light on his feet. If you are planning to show you will need a horse that is naturally talented and has the potential to carry him well in the bridle. Todays driving competition is getting tougher all the time. If a horse has some natural talent, you can help him become even better by training him slowly and carefully and develping a good headset, good consistent gaits and good manners. The horse you choose should have a balanced trot in the front and the back, the action of the knees and the hocks should be in unison, with equal lift. Some horses are naturally short stride and will hav e choppy movement. These horses would be alright for driving just for pleasure, but it will take a more naturally talented moving horse to win n the show ring. Look for a smooth longer stride. If you are have the chance to watch some driving classes at the shows it would benefit you greatly. You can compete in the pleasure driving, country pleasure horses and the roadster horses. Look for the difference in their gaits, head carriage and way of going. If you horse has already been trained and you want to show him, put him in the classes he is best suited for according to how he moves, his speed and head set. There are also park classes which hare very exciting to watch, as these need to be the most naturally talented horses of all, with their high stepping action.

Getting Started

I begin to train our horses to drive as late two year olds in the fall or older. This gives the horse more time to mature both mentally and physically. It is best if the horse is already trained to lead, tie stand to be groomed and work on a longer line, I do a lot of the early training in a round pen as the horse is confined and I have more control and all of his attention is on me when working. I tie my horses in a grooming area and get them used to me brushing, combing and handling their legs, picking out their hooves and moving all around them. Give them a pat and a kind word when they stand quietly for you. When leading the horse, stay at his left side. Keep the horse walking willingly, staying even with your shoulder. Practice saying “whoa” in a calm voice and ask the horse to stop and stand. Cluck to the horse each time you ask him to walk on. Soon, he will stop for you at just your voice command. When you have accomplished this, go ahead and teach him to longer if he has not already been trained for this. Use a longer line about 15 to 20 feet in length and along whip. When beginning to train a horse to longer, it will help if you start in an enclosed area, or a two sided corner fenced area. This will keep him on track better in this circle with the fence outline to aid you. When you begin have your longe line attached to the ring in his halter, and your longe line neatly coiled in one had with the whip straight up in the other hand, Begin by stepping away from the horse a bit and keeping your body in line with his hip. The whip should always be kept in line with the rear of the horse and you can snap the end of it if you need to keep him going. Use a short line at first, gradually letting your longe line out a little at a time, always keeping it up off the ground as your horse can get his leg over it. Work your horse evenly each way so that he will muscle up evenly on both sides. You will find that most horses prefer to go one way better than the other in a circle. Be persistent in keeping him working both ways equally. Each time you stop say “whoa” and have him stand a moment before asking him to reverse. This will teach him manners. Hold the whip straight up as a signal and to have the horse stop, along with your verbal command. The whip is what propels him forward and he will watch it closely. If he does not want to stop, keep saying “whoa” calmly and start winding your longe line in shorter until he stops and faces you.

Make him stand a moment. Pat him and reward him with soft kind words. I work the horse on the longe at a nice strong trot, starting out the first few times at only 10 minutes and gradually increasing his workouts a minute or two up to 25 to 30 minutes. Most horses that are already used to people and have already been taught to lead can be longing well in a week to ten days (some will learn faster that others). Watch for smooth consistent workouts. This is when your horse feels comfortable with your workout session and it is time for your next step in the training process.

Teeth Check

Have your veterinarian or equine dentist come out and check your horse’s teeth. He may have wolf teeth or other problems that could cause a lot of pain with a bit in his mouth. Make it a rule to always do this. It will alleviate a lot of head tossing and bad habits as result of a sore mouth. In order to get him used to a bit in his mouth, I put a well-fitting halter on him and attach a snaffle bit with a small snap on the lower right halter ring. Stand at the horse’s head on the left aside and hold the bit gently up to his mouth. If he does not open his mouth, slide your left thumb into the upper left corner of this mouth on top of the tongue where there are no teeth. A horse does not like the taste of a human so he will open his mouth, let you put the bit in and attach it to the left lower side ring of the halter. Make sure the bit is up high enough in the mouth so that there is a wrinkle at the corner of each side of his mouth. Always be careful when inserting the bit so as not to rake it over his teeth. They are very sensitive to this. Also, make sure the bit is the correct width-if it is too wide, more than a quarter of an inch will show on both sides. If it is too narrow, it will draw and pinch his mouth. I prefer to star the horses out with a smooth snaffle bit. The bit lies on the sensitive bars of the horse’s mouth and you need to be gentle with him. He will open and close his mouth and roll his tounge as he get used to the taste and feel of the bit. I let the horse stand in the stall a half hour or so per day for three days with the bit in his mouth this way. Make sure there in nothing the horse can get his later or bit hung on in the stall. If it is very cold out, warm the bit up in you hand or pocket a few mom ents before putting it in his mouth.

I then longe the horse in a normal workout with the bit attached to the halter and longe line snapped to the center lower ring of the halter under the chin. I do this for three or four days or until the horse seems comfortable with it.

Adding One Piece at a Time

Next, I put the surcingle and crupper on after I have let him see and smell in while he is tied with this halter. Don’t really tighten the girth the first few times as he will resent the binding feeling initially. Again, put the bit on attached to the halter and longe him with the surcingle and the crupper. He may buck and hop a little for a few days while he gets used to it. Have patience with him. The reason I use a halter with the bit attached to it during this part of the training is so he can see what you are doing to him. Reassure him with a soft voice and always try to end each workout on a good note. When your horse seems comfortable with the surcingle and crupper, usually three to seven days for most horses although some may take longer, he is ready for the driving bridle with blinders. Put the bridle on the horse making sure the bit is high enough in his mouth to see one wrinkle in each corner of the mouth. The blinders should be centered over each eye making sure they are not rubbing the eye. Buckle the throatlatch piece so that you can fit three or four fingers between it and the horse. It will tighten when he flexes his nick. Your cavesson (noseband) should be about an inch belowthe cheekbone. Put a halter on over the bridle with the over check or side check tucked under and longe the horse with the bridle, halter, surcingle, and crupper on for a few days until he is used to it. You will notice that the may try to turn toward you since he can no longer see you with the blinders on, but keep him going by clucking to him and popping the whip behind him. When he has worked like this a couple of times he is ready for side checks. These consist of two small lengths of leather strap with an adjustable buckle. These are connected to a piece of surgical tubing or elastic (to have some give to it) and a snap at each end to attach one to each side of the halter and bit. Attach the leather end and snap to the terrot (rings through which the reins are threaded) or a lower ring if you have it on your harness and snap the other end to the bit, leaving some slack in it all this time. The horse’s mouth will be sensitive and it will take a little time to get used to the pressure. I do not attach the over check or side check just yet but fold the end of it down under the throatlatch to keep it form slapping the horse. Longe or round pen him with the side checks on. He will probably want to back up a little at first. Keep him moving. Every few days take the reins up a notch on the side checks. The purpose of this bitting ring is to teach the horse to arch his neck with this nose in a vertical or near vertical position. He will gee used to the pressure of the bit and will learn wont to toss this head about as he is rewarded when his head is in the correct position. I try to develop a light mouth and a good head set in all my driving horses. It is easiest to teach the horse to bring his nose in first with the side checks, and after that, begin to raise his head with the side check over check. You will need to continue some bitting rig work even after his is broke to drive as this really helps develop a great headset. When you horse is working in the bitting rig, has a bit of an arch in his neck, is carrying his nose nearly vertical, and seems comfortable, it is time to teach him to line drive.

Keep Him Between the Lines

This teaches the horse to turn, stop, stand, back and simulates your driving him, only you will be holding the reins and walking behind him. Taking some time to train your horse in these steps will benefit him making him light on the bit and responsive to your commands. Take your time and be patient. I find that most miniatures really want to please you, but they must understand what you want them to do. By taking your time and taking one step at a time they will come along well in their training. To begin line driving, I put the harnessed horse in the round pen or enclosed area and attach the reins to the bit and lay them on top of the terrots. I do not run them through the rings yet be because the horse will probably try to turn around and see you and wrap himself up in the lines. I stat about five or six feet from the horses in line with the hip or slightly behind it to the inside of the circle of the round pen, clucking and asking him to walk off. I circle him around me at the walk with a driving whip in my hand. After a few workouts run the reins through the rings. At first he will make wide slow turns. This is normal. Ask him to stop and stand and walk off and turn and keep repeating this going around the circumference of the enclosure. The rail will give you more control and your horse will be more confident as this is an area he had become accustomed to during your workouts. After a few easy, go ahead and ask him to trot shores distances in the enclosure. Walk behind him now as you would if you were in the cart. Once he is standing quietly, walking off readily and trotting comfortably in the round pen (usually a week to ten days) I go ahead and start line driving him in larger areas. I do this until the horse will go about anywhere I want him to go. I will often ask him to line drive up or down a hillside over a landscape timber, do figure eights and line drive him in an area next to other horses. This can take anywhere from two to four weeks on the average. Please keep in mind that each horse is different and may take longer to accomplish each step in training. I the beginning of line driving I stay fairly closed the horse as I have more control when he is nervous and unsure of what is being asked of him. As he gets used to line driving and becomes more responsive I can use linger lines to have him circle around me and flexing his head slightly to the inside of the circle. This will make him supple and he will be able to bend his neck and be flexible. When line driving him from behind, once he is going well, I stay about five or six feet behind hi. I make him work in serpentines up and down the straight a ways. I also use a martingale after the horse has been line driven a few times. This helps him bend his neck in the right area and also gives you a little more control. This strap has a loop or snap at one end and a forked part at he other end with two metal rings. Attach the snapped or looped part of the martingale to the girth by snapping it to the existing ring made for this purpose or slide the girth through the loop and run the martingale up between the horse’s front legs. The reins will go through the rings. There should be a slight “v” or indentation where the reins go through the rings of the martingale. The only time that I don’t use a martingale is with a horse that over flexes his head and neck.

The Shafts Have It

When your horse has been line driving smoothly for a number of workouts, it its time to use indian shafts. These shafts will accustom him to the feel of the shaft touching his flanks when he turns and being attached to the harness. It will also make some noise as it drags on the ground behind him. He may be frightened of this the first few times. The indian shafts may be made of PVC pipe or wood. Make sure they come somewhat behind the horse so he won’t step on the lower connecting part on the ground. Have someone hold the horse at the left side of his head while you carefully bring the indian shaft up over his rump and put them in the shaft loops .I do not fasten them the first couple of times in case the horse really panics and I can remove them easily. Standing behind of slightly to the side of the horse, ask him to walk off and have a helper lead him with a lead shank attached to the bit or a halter over the bridle. Always start off in a straight area for a moment or two before trying to turn. Make wide turns the first few times until he is quietly working. If the horse seems to accept this, you will not longer need your helper. Work the horse the next few days at walk and trot in the indian shafts. Some horses I have trained have been somewhat ticklish in the flank area and this gets them used to the feel of the shafts brushing against them in a short turn. This is the last step before actually hitching up.

The First Hookup

The first two or thee times I hook a horse up I use a helper and a safety halter. Harness your horse and add the breast plate with your traces. Your traces can each be doubles and tied in a knot to keep them from dragging the ground while leading the horse into and enclosed area to hook him up. Put a halter on over the bridle being sure that the nose band is above the bit and will not interfere with turning the horse. Have your helper attach a lead and stand to the left side of the horse’s head, being sure not to stand in front of where the shafts will be placed. Bring the shafts up and over the horse’s back and put them through the shaft loops. The tips of the shaft of the cart should be at the point of the shoulder or slightly behind. If you have your cart too far forward on the horse, the bit can be caught up in the tips or a rein can get caught in the shaft. Always keep safety in mind.

I fasten the shafts in the shaft loops by taking the shaft tie straps and wrapping them behind the shaft loop, then through the shaft loop, at least once around thin front of the shaft loop and then buckle it. To where it is firm but not too tight. This keeps the cart from rolling forward and hitting the horse in the rear if you are going downhill. The length of your traces is very important as your horse will be pushing against the breast plate to pull you in the cart. If you traces are too long they will sag and could flap and scare the horse or let the cart slide back too far. The traces should feel firm but not too tight running back from the horse to the cart. They should run flat between the shaft loops and the surcingle. Your girth should be just tight enough for two or three fingers to fit between it and the horse. I have the horse walk off with the cart attached and I line driving him from the side of the empty cart at first while my helper stays to the side of his head and leads him. I have most of the control and guiding of the horse but the helper will make him feel more secure until he gets used to the sounds of the cart. After we take him around the arena both ways a few times, I sit on the edge of the cart where I can step out quickly if necessary. You horse may be somewhat hesitant when he feels the pressure of the breastplate against his chest and the weight of the cart. Walk him a short distance, stop, then ask him to walk off again, letting your helper assist you. After a few times most horses get used to the weight. Make wide turns the first few times until he has gotten used to it. I don’t ask a lot of my horses the first few times they are hooked up, usually just walking them the first day. The second day I use a helper with a safety halter and line again. This time if the horse seems to be accepting every, we will ask the horse to trot a few short distances once he warms up a few minutes. If he does well, we will end the session there. The third day if he does really well and seems to accept the cart, I will drive without the safety halter. Ask you horse to do just a little more each time, always ending on a good note . Within a couple of weeks of driving he should be walking, stopping, trotting, backing and standing quietly. Always carry a driving whip. I start my horses pulling the cart for only a few minutes the first few days and gradually increase their workout times. If you’ve taken your time and have your horse driving smoothly and comfortably, you have years of driving enjoyment ahead of you. If you run into some problems, ask an experienced driver or trainer for advise.


Dwarfism in Miniatures - Article
(EXCELLENT article on dwarfism in Minis; and what to AVOID in a Mini)


Gelding - an interesting viewpoint

Teaching the Miniature Horse to Lunge by Tammie Cappuccio


Teaching the Miniature horse to Jump with Style by Jan Easter


Miniature Horses AMHR AMHA Registered Sales Breeder Miniature Horse Breeder Breeders Ontario Canada Canadian Quality For Sale Dakotawinds Dakota Winds Farm Winds Top Quality Showing Ribbons Perpetual Year End High Points Trophies Champion Reserve Champions Multiple Top Ten National Awards High Points Sales Conformation Movement Driving Halter Obstacle Performance National Leading Producer