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Miniature Horse vs. Pony: What's the Difference?

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Holle is a retired English and creative writing teacher. She is a professional freelance writer and contributes to Horseman Magazine.

Snickers, our miniature horse. Miniature horses are small but built in proportion to themselves. They are slimmer than ponies.

Snickers, our miniature horse. Miniature horses are small but built in proportion to themselves. They are slimmer than ponies.

A pony. See the difference? Ponies are small horses but they are built differently, with thicker bodies and necks than miniature horses.

A pony. See the difference? Ponies are small horses but they are built differently, with thicker bodies and necks than miniature horses.

Miniature horses are pint-size equine. Developed in Europe all the way back in the 1600s, they weren't designated as a distinct breed of horse in the U.S. until 1978. Ponies, on the other hand, are small horses and there are many different breeds. People often get the two confused, or think that they’re synonymous. While the two do share many characteristics, of course, they’re entirely different types of equine.

To read more about horses, ponies, and training tips, click on the article links below:

Ponies

Many horse experts will tell you that any full grown equine that measures under 14.2 hands at the withers is classified as a pony. This isn’t always the case, however. A pony is typically considered any equine under 58 inches tall when it reaches adult height, but a pony also has other distinctive characteristics other than just its small size.

For example, most pony breeds have thick, broad bodies and thick necks. Their legs are proportionately shorter for their body than a horse's. Some pony breeds also have broad heads, especially through the forehead, and larger eyes. Some ponies also have large hooves for their size.

Miniature Horses

On the other hand, miniature horses are even smaller than most pony breeds. Most registries won’t allow membership to a mini that’s taller than 34 inches when full grown. There are miniature horses, however, as tall as 38 inches.

A miniature horse is also built differently than a pony. Ideally, a mini is a scaled-down version of a horse, with a slimmer build than a pony, and longer legs for its size. The head is also in proportion to the body, as are the feet. Also, a miniature horse does not have the heavy bones often associated with pony breeds. In essence, a miniature horse is usually more refined than a typical pony. A mini is longer-lived than most ponies, too. They have an average life span of 25-35 years.

What can you do with a miniature horse? Lots of things! They pull carts and sleds, they make pets and companion animals, and they’re used as guides for the blind. Small children can ride them, and there’s special tiny tack made just for the minis. As a matter of fact, I just bought one for my granddaughter’s sixth birthday. As I watched her riding “Snickers” around the back yard today, I realized she’ll outgrow him soon. But that’s okay. She has a little sister who can “inherit” him after Lexi moves on to a bigger pony or horse.

Snickers is our first miniature horse. We’ve had lots of horses and ponies, but never a mini. I was impressed by his conformation. His little legs are perfectly straight and balanced and he doesn’t have the “potbelly” that a lot of ponies seem to sport. I was amazed at how small his hooves were. He also seems to be calmer than most Shetland ponies I’ve known. He hadn’t been ridden or handled in months, yet he didn’t offer to buck when numerous kids at a recent birthday party took turns riding him. He’s definitely the smallest equine I’ve ever owned. In fact, he isn’t much larger than some of my Great Danes!

Comments

Rick Benningfield from North Texas on November 11, 2018:

I am an old Farrier and used to trim many of these horses to include the Miniatures and Ponies. I even had one Miniature that was so small that I'd sit on the ground (I'm 6'3") and he would come up to me and lay in my lap! I'd trim his feet and rasp them he offered no problems then I'd get him up and he would stay there until he was led away. He was something.

Leola Solomon on June 29, 2018:

Is the horse free

StarbuksGSD on October 04, 2016:

Now I know, thanks for the article

Norma Lawrence from California on July 02, 2016:

Very good article. You put a lot into it. The information was great

chandler on May 21, 2015:

I love ponies!!!

Cheryl Nunez from AZ on March 31, 2015:

I would like to make one correction: miniatures are NOT fairly new. They also go back hundreds of years and were often gifts from royalty to royalty. Falabellas date back several hundred years. My first stallion was from Argentina; we could trace his lineage to Andalusians. My current stallion traces the beginning of his line to a mare foaled in 1806. She was an OLDENBURG! She was at the original Oldenburg (Germany) stud, from a foundation line. The sire was a Falabella of Andalusian descent - so even older a line. This mating created a new and very distinct line of miniatures with a longer leg and sleek body. My own direct descendent is 33" tall; if you sat on the ground and took a photo, he would appear to be a large, tall Warmblood.

Donna Campbell Smith from Central North Carolina on July 05, 2013:

I have an awesome little 19" mini who was the kind of the stable. He inspired me to write The Book of Miniature Horses. I think the biggest challenge to owning them is feeding them - we tent to overfeed. We had to divide Domino's little pasture and rotate him from one side to the other so he didn't pig out on the grass. They are great fun.

Barbara Anne Helberg from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA on August 09, 2011:

This is a great read and very informative! Thanks for sharing your life with horses and ponies.

Katie on July 13, 2011:

I have a mini that is 37 or 38 inches tall and one that is between 34-36. What are their essential needs.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 27, 2010:

Hi, Kaytee! Minis are really small, so I think a pony would be a better investment. If you get a Welsh, POA, or Quarter pony, your daughter won't outgrow it so quickly. She'll be able to enjoy it for years!

kaytee on December 27, 2010:

which one could a 3 year old get the most use of? you said your grand daughter is going to out grow snickers soon would it be the same time frame as a pony? just wondering because my daughter is 3 and i am expecting twins and want the best horse for all of them. omg the pictures are so cute and i just want to give them hugs!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 05, 2010:

Silver, from my experience, minis are calmer than Shetlands!

Silver Poet from the computer of a midwestern American writer on December 05, 2010:

Excellent hub. I was wondering if they mini-horses didn't have a better and more compliant nature than the tough pony breeds like the Shetlands.

Thanks for writing!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on October 26, 2010:

Cody, they're adorable!

Flinsura, thanks a bunch!

flinsura on October 14, 2010:

I love to ride a horse and experience riding a pony.. Great Hub!

Cody McArthur on October 05, 2010:

I love the little guys! I've trained horses pofessionally for 20 years and most of my peers think I am nuts, but when I see the little fellas I cant keep my hands off of them!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on August 22, 2010:

You're very welcome!

PaperNotes on August 18, 2010:

Wow, horses (all types of them big and small) are just so amazing creatures! Thanks for sharing with us those photos of lovely animals.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on August 12, 2010:

Thanks for reading, Myawn!

myawn from Florida on August 12, 2010:

A pretty mini so amazing! LOve the photos.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 23, 2010:

Lol, I don't think anyone would be offended!

rocknrodeogirl on March 23, 2010:

My friends had mini's (very awkward trying to put halters on and a little saddle once for birthday rides) and now they are showing shetlands. I usually call them all ponies and offend people, oops! ;)

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 22, 2010:

You're welcome, GV!

glassvisage from Northern California on March 22, 2010:

Aha, I see the difference! Thanks for the insight! I had no idea :)

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on February 26, 2010:

Jasmine, you're welcome anytime!!

jasmine on February 26, 2010:

im here again i cant stay away

they are just too cute

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on February 16, 2010:

Thanks for reading, Jasmine!

jasmine on February 15, 2010:

they are so cute