WHAT Is The Difference? Miniature Horse vs. Pony

Small Horses 

You have probably come across the terms ‘miniature horse,’ and ‘pony’ and have thought that they are synonymous. The difference between miniature horse vs. pony is like day and night. 

You could think that they are simply both small horse breeds; however, while ponies and horses are of the same species, their height and size make for their distinction. Temperament, conformation, and overall build are some of the unique characteristics that will help you tell a miniature horse and pony apart.

We will explore the difference between a miniature horse and a pony, equip you, and train your eye such that you can easily pick out a pony from a crowd of miniature horses.

What is a Pony?

The oxford dictionary defines a pony as “a horse of a small breed” that measures 14.2 h (58 in (147 cm)) tall at the withers. They are therefore not ‘baby horses’ or ‘child horses.’ While both are of small stature, ponies are notably stocky and have endurance and gentle temperament. 

The word pony comes from a french word meaning foal, a young, immature horse, which can also affectionately refer to a small horse, regardless of breed or size. You can characterize a pony by proportionally short legs, heavier bones, wide barrel, thick neck, short, broad head, thick coat, and mane and tail. 

Globally, there are over 350 breeds of ponies. Common pony breeds include Exmoor, Shetlands, Fell, Hackney, and Galiceno. The Galiceno is lighter than other pony breeds and has a smoother coat.

Ponies have been in existence since the 1600s. Ideally, they are stocky because they have had to weather harsh climatic conditions and endure jagged terrain. In 1800, people discovered their usefulness in agriculture and coal mines due to their hefty build and stamina.

How do you differentiate between a pony and a regular horse?

Pony Height

Ponies are more miniature compared to horses. A regular horse measures between 14 to 16 hands (56 to 64 in, 142 to 163 cm) while a pony is below 14.2 h (58 in (147 cm) tall.

The English disciplines take the matter of height very seriously. Well-behaved ponies that remain short enough to compete in the specialized classes can fetch good money.

Even though there could be differences in height maximums between discipline and show rings, they are the same.        

Physical Differences of Ponies

Ponies vary from horses in their physique. Both bone and muscle structures express differences. Ponies acquire thicker coats and mane than regular horses, making them more tolerant of cold than normal horses. They are stockier and more robust for their size, making them good horses for heavy tasks.

Pony Temperament

You might have come across the Napoleon complex, which refers to a short person with a more extensive, overcompensating personality. That could be said for ponies too. They have big conspicuous temperaments. 

Horses are quite cooperative and friendly to the point that they are gentle giants. On the contrary, ponies are minor detractors, each having a unique personality and temperament. Some ponies will be quiet and have steady mounts, while others will not be near your kids. 

Other Differences

The digestion of ponies is quite different from that of regular horses. Ponies will require less food than horses, maintaining weight with fewer fluctuations. That’s why they are called ‘easy keepers.’ The disadvantage to this is that it’s straightforward to overfeed them by accident, making them susceptible to developing laminitis and foundering

Weigh the portions for your ponies to suit their metabolism, thus helping to avoid overfeeding. Remember to monitor your body conditions consistently to ensure that it does not become obese. 

Ponies get very excited when they see green grass. You will need to exercise caution during grazing. They are prone to foundering in less than an hour after letting loose onto abundant pastures. Their ideal grazing will be that environment that requires more work to graze, unlike a horse whose ideal environment is the lush grazing fields.


Ponies have an exciting history. They are descendants of a wild ‘draft’ subspecies of Equus Ferus from Northern Europe. Ponies initially developed as a landrace (a local cultivar or animal breed that traditional agricultural methods have improved). 

After some time, people decided to domesticate ponies in the Eurasian Steppes that had attained the height of between 13 h (52 in (132 cm)) to over 14 h (56 in (142 cm)). 

Farmers noted the benefits of ponies that made them outperform their counterparts, draft horses, which led to the need to domesticate them. There was a significant need for domesticating animals working in the farms to fulfill local transportation and draft needs while surviving and adapting to unforgiving environmental conditions. 

Through breeding, many ponies by the 20th century had the Arabian and other blood that refined them making them fit for riding.


Ponies have become beneficial to the owner. They are working animals that pack and pull horse-drawn vehicles. Others like Connemara pony and Australian pony are used primarily for riding. 

Pony horse

What is a Miniature Horse?

You could tell that these horses must be small from the word “miniature.” As stated by the breed registry, their small height measures less than 34 to 38 in (86 to 97 cm) tall at the withers. 

They are essentially small ponies: This height qualifies them to be called small ponies, but they retain the physical appearance of full-sized horses and hence are considered horses by their particular breed registry. 

You will find these miniature horses with distinct color and coat patterns in Europe and America resulting from artificial selection. 

Like some ponies, you can keep miniature horses as pets as they are amiable and interact with people. As much as they are friendly, always be cautious, for they still retain their natural horse instincts like fight or flight. 

Treat them as fully grown equines as they serve as companion animals. Did you know that you could train your miniature horse to offer assistance akin to trained dogs, drive, develop equine agility and make them competitive to participate in horse show events? How cool!

How do You Differentiate Between a Miniature Horse and a Regular Horse?

Physical Differences

What is the difference between a pony and a miniature horse? The American Miniature Horse Registry (AMHR) standards state that miniature horses cannot exceed 38 in (97 cm), whereas the full-sized horse is about 14.2 h (56.8 in (144cm)). 

Look at a picture of a miniature horse without foreknowledge of its measurements. You will see features whose general characteristics, conformation, and proportion are identical to a full-sized horse. An excellent example of this type of horse is the Caspian horse from Mesopotamia. People thought this petite wild horse was extinct until 1965. AMHR standards stated that miniature horses are horses that retain horse phenotypes. 


AMHR helps us understand that a “pygmy horse” should be a petite, sound, well-balanced horse and give the impression of strength, agility, and alertness. A miniature horse should be eager and friendly but not skittish in disposition.” Being docile, playful, gentle, and curious is part of their temperament, making them suitable for human companionship. 

They are easy-going and obedient to their owner. Like humans, every miniature horse is different, and some could have eccentricities such as stubbornness, defiance, nibbling, and an independent mind, which will need you to watch out.

Unlike horses, miniature horses love to spend time with humans and love social interaction from both animals and humans, even strangers, which is possible because their friendly and gentle nature makes them easy to handle.

History of Miniature Horse

In the 1600s in Europe, breeders developed miniature horses such that by 1765 they were considered ‘pets of nobility. There was one king in 1650, called King Louis XIV of France, who kept a miniature horse in his zoo as an oddity in the Palace of Versailles. Keeping miniature horses as a misfit was common in Europe in 1600. 

With time, these animals shifted from being attraction sights to proving useful in the coal mines of England and continental Europe, especially when the Collieries Act of 1842 stopped miners from exploiting young children as mine laborers. They loved to use Shetland ponies, whose height was 24 in (61 cm) tall, as they would fit in the small mine shafts. 

Miniature horses found their way to the USA in the late 1800s. They included miniature British horses and miniature Dutch mine horses. People began to appreciate the sweet attractive temperaments of these small horses and their usefulness in different equestrian disciplines over time.

It’s important to note that breed registries state that those horses classed as miniature maintain horse phenotypes, classifying them as horses instead of ponies because size isn’t everything. Some horses are miniature horses even though they are pony-sized and stocky— for example, the Icelandic and Fjord horses.

Fjord horses

The Falabella, an Argentine-bred miniature horse with a height at the withers in the range 25 to 34 in (63 to 86 cm), was developed by Patrick Newhall in the mid-1800s. He later passed the breeding methods to his son-in-law Juan Falabella. He continued inbreeding and was able to get small-sized horses consistently.

Health Issues

These miniature horses also experience some health issues not found in the full-sized breed. Some of the health issues include:


One of the issues is that they are pretty prone to overeating. This problem is common for owners accustomed to feeding the full-sized horse, which will lead to obesity. 

Dental Issues

You will need to watch out for dental issues with your miniature horse. They have the same teeth as the full-sized horses in their smaller mouths. This case makes them prone to dental problems such as crowding, overbites and underbite, retention of baby teeth (deciduous teeth), and sinus problems. 


Other health issues they experience include Colic because their likelihood to overeat combined with a crowded mouth leads to increased Colic. 

Liver failure

Your Miniature horse can experience a condition called hyperlipidemia. Its liver could be overwhelmed by appetite-reducing stressors, which cause its body to break down large amounts of fat. This breaking down of more fat can cause the liver to fail.

Reproduction issues

Miniature horses also experience problems during reproduction. They are more susceptible to observing reproduction issues such as difficulty giving birth and a great propensity of eclampsia. Therefore, you will need to monitor your miniature horse during its gestation period and consistently consult with your vet doctor.

The good news is that medical science can resolve all the health issues mentioned above. Consult your veterinary doctor and properly feed and maintain your miniature horse.

What Can a Miniature Horse do?

These tiny cute equines have, over time, become pretty famous among people. AMHA confirms that their popularity has broken bounds, and these tiny equines have become the most beloved of the equine breed. These horses are safe to drive and participate in in-hand classes. However, do not ride your miniature horse as it is unsafe due to its small stature.

You can train your miniature horse to be a companion. Families with small children and retirees can use these tiny horses for amusement and pleasure. Did you know you could also own them as an investment? These minis have become increasingly sought-after in therapy.

Other than being helpful in farm work because of their incredible strength, you will find these Miniature equines in just about any equestrian sport. They are pretty popular with kids’ games such as children’s mounts, jumping, driving, and eventing.

Dwarfism In Mini Horses

Have you heard of dwarfism in mini horses? It is a genetic problem in breeding mini horses due to the recessive gene called dwarfism. In nature, when people begin to produce for one trait selectively, they often end up with genetic abnormalities that arise in the breed. Unfortunately, dwarfism is the most common one. 

Breed registries scowl on breeding horses that have dwarfism. Dwarfism means both parents are normal miniature horses, but they carry the dwarf gene. There is a 25% chance that a foal will be born a dwarf horse if both miniature stallion and mare carry the gene. 

Thanks to technological advancement, you can now screen horses genetically to rule out dwarfism for breeding.

Miniature Horses

What is the Difference Between a Miniature Horse and a Pony? 

Size and Appearance Matters

Height and size are the most evident distinguishing factors for ponies and mini horses. The stature and size of ponies are pretty different from that of a full-sized horse. Ponies measurement range between 14 h (55 in (142 cm)) to about 14.3 h 59 in (150 cm) are stockier than mini horses.

Their characteristic features are shorter legs, thicker necks, and broader barrels. Their coats, tails, and manes are thicker than the full-sized horse. Among the breeds of ponies, we have the popular Shetland and Hackney breeds and the abstruse Fell and Exmoor.  

On the other hand, miniature horses are horses whose breed resembles the full-sized horse on a small scale. Their small height measures less than 34 to 38 in (86 to 97 cm) tall at the withers (up to the last hair at the base of the mane). 

Measure miniature horses in inches rather than hands. You will find that the current tiny horse looks more refined than the pony with its straight legs, long flexible neck, and short back.

Historical Influence

Ponies and minis have come a long way in history in defining their current conformities, which involve their temperament, size, and appearances. 

They came to the United States in late 1800 to be used in the coal mine business as carriers due to the convenience of their small size. In South America, they have acquired a more actual and ideal petite appearance, as seen in the Falabella. 

Ponies are stockier and hardier than most horses; they had to survive in harsh climates and rugged terrain. They first appeared as domesticated stock in the United States in the 1800s in coal mines and agricultural work and driving. However, they have been in the wild in the U.S. since at least the 1600s on Assateague Island, off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia.

How Long Do Miniature Horses Live?

Lifespan and Health 

A mini horse’s lifespan is 25 to 30 years, with some of them living up to 50 years which is way longer than their full-sized counterparts. 

Have you wondered why lag dogs tend to live shorter lives than small dogs? The exact size to life comparison applies to equines. Tiny horses tend to live long, all the while resilient, braving the harsh conditions they find themselves in. 

It is not uncommon to find miniature horses in their forties. So if you have a mini horse or are contemplating purchasing one, you will need to know who will be its caregiver once you cannot take care of it. Some owners go to the extent of putting it in their wills or arrange with someone to take over its caregiving. 

How Long Do Mini’s With Dwarfism Live?

Dwarfism is a case of having an extra tiny horse and is responsible for some severe health issues in the mini equine. Linebreeding in miniature horses is strongly discouraged because it is accountable for dwarfism. Different types of dwarfism in miniature horses include;

Achondroplasia dwarf minis is a genetic abnormality that makes the tiny horse shorter than usual with irregularities in the ligaments and joints, making them experience joint pains their whole lives. Their barrels are the standard size, and lives can be somewhat expected. However, you will need to consult the vet often to check your mini-mini horse.

Brachycephalic dwarfism causes the mini horse to have a huge shapeless head with a shorter than usual spine. Their lives are shorter than their brothers and sisters.   

Diastrophic dwarfism results in several defects in mini horses. You will find their limbs twisted, backs coached, swollen and bobbing trunks, and have a forehead that has a dome shape. Their lives will be full of discomfort and pain with these deformities, which raises many ethical questions. Breeders often opt to euthanize these foals. 

Hypochondrogenesis dwarfism causes the mini horse’s bones to not ossify (harden) at all, which means they will have no bony skeleton. These foals get aborted or stillborn. Some, if born, die immediately after birth.

How to Feed Your Miniature Horse to Ensure a Long Life

Since minis are prone to overeating, you must know what hay you need to feed them. They don’t require concentrated feeds. You should provide your mini horse 1.5% of their body weight in hay every day. 

The hay provision can only increase to 3% if your mini is working. Let a nutritionist assess the quality of the hay you give your minis to be sure it contains enough nutrients or some of the nutrients are missing. If you see the need to supplement, only do it with a scientific reason. 

The Final Neigh

Due to their jolly mannerisms, the mini horse and pony are such a joy to have and hold. You can enjoy their companion but be sure to take good care of them. Ensure you feed them at the correct times with the required amounts, and they will thrive.