A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles. - Tim Cahill

While the weather outside is frigid, freezing and many days, howling with wind, I sit inside and think about my 2017 journey – what I want to accomplish, how I want it to feel, how I want my horses to feel. Some days I feel completely overwhelmed with just the thought of what I want to have happen in 2017. Then I remember that I need to stay calm and centered and do as much as I can without sacrificing the relationship I am searching to have with my horses.

I always want my horses to come running when they see me. I always want my horses to be my friends. I always want my horses to be friendly and confident when in my presence. In this way we can accomplish so much!!

I see Sky and myself driving many miles on the roads and trails this summer. I see the girls and I enjoying a lot of hiking – even if I have to drag my two human boys along kicking and screaming! I see Zorro growing into a handsome young stallion and continuing to have nice manners and a curious nature. I see Captain Planet as my farm mascot, greeting new people and being very gentle and understanding with children. I see Bonnie getting super confident in harness and while dragging different things behind her.

I see helping my friends and neighbors begin to enjoy driving their horses as well. Then I see getting together with friends and neighbors for group driving days!

I know my grandparents are feeling overwhelmed with their 4 miniature horses so I am prepared to have them come to live with me. I will not be keeping them all but I do plan on training a couple of them to drive so I can find great homes for them! And I know that I may not be able to do all of this in 2017, but will do as much as I can. I am prepared to forgive myself if I can’t keep up with everything and have to ask for help. (I may have to bookmark this post and keep re-reading it so I remember to ask for help!)

I see letting go of 2016 completely so I can move on in 2017 with joy, light and laughter!

Though miniature horses are small, they are mighty! It surprises people when they find out how much weight a miniature horse can pull over flat ground in a well balanced cart or wagon. That number will change over difficult terrain, though they can still manage more than you think! (and you should NEVER hitch your mini to a poorly balanced cart or wagon!)

“When compared to a full size horse, most minis are less than half the height, weigh only 20% (1/5) of a big horse and eat only 1/4 or 25% of what they do. Due to the center of gravity being so low, they can pull 4 times the weight of a draft horse, size by size. A miniature horse is able to pull 3-5 times its weight, but younger horses should not be as weighted down. A miniature can also jump higher proportionally than a big horse.” – IAM Ranch http://www.iamranch.com/minifacts.htm

Craig driving Ellie.
My Handsome Hubby driving Ellie.

So obviously, driving is one thing you can do with your miniature horse!

Another is in-hand trail. This is similar to trail classes that people do while mounted on a big horse. We compete with the mini on the lead line and also do some trail classes while driving!

Circle J Duchess owned by Hurrican Hill Miniatures of Bearspaw, Alberta.
Photo by Equine Imagery – Circle J Duchess owned by Hurrican Hill Miniatures of Bearspaw, Alberta.
Obstacle driving class
Obstacle driving class

Miniature horses are the perfect size for therapy horses, visiting nursing homes and hospitals. They have been trained as seeing eye horses and service horses as well. Gentle Carousel is a well known miniature horse therapy program. They have been all over the news as well as all over the US visiting people in schools and hospitals, bringing miniature horse good cheer!

Therapy horses hard at work.
Therapy horses hard at work. Right: Honor, a Gentle Carousel Therapy horse.

Something rather new and very fun has been taking the horse world by storm –  Horse Agility. This is a wonderful way to spend time with your horse on the ground and since you can’t ride miniature horses it’s a wonderful thing to do with your little horse! I just purchased the book, “The Horse Agility Handbook: A Step-By-Step Introduction to the Sport” on Amazon and am so excited to begin this with my minis! I can see some obstacle building in my Handsome Hubby’s future.

Horse Agility
Horse Agility

There are two types of Liberty that you can participate in with miniature horses. One is a class at sanctioned shows. In this class you enter the arena with your horse in halter. You wait for your selected music to start and then un-halter your horse and encourage him to trot and canter around the arena, showing off to the crowd and the judges! When I did this I never did any encouraging of my own horse (this would help me catch my horse at the end), but had my two helpers run the stick and plastic bags – only in the corners of the arena. I didn’t like my mini to gallop around wildly, but to play more. We practiced this at home and they loved it! When the music is over you have 3 minutes to catch and re-halter your horse. I taught mine to come to me when I squatted down. So catching was never a problem. But it can be! I’ve watched a handler spend the entire 3 minutes trying to catch their horse and then need help after their time was up… The horses can get really fired up!

Miniature horses in a Liberty Class.
Miniature horses in a Liberty Class. Left: Cygnet Farms All Fired Up, Right: Cygnet Farms Street Flame

The second form of Liberty is playing with your horse without halter or lead rope. In this case you can communicate to your horse exactly what you would like to do and being a good partner, they willingly engage.

Standing on a pedestal.
Standing on a pedestal.

In hand jumping is another really fun way to spend time with your miniature horse. Just like big horses, some of them are great jumpers and others aren’t. My Bonnie is a wonderful, correct jumper, but Sky doesn’t really like it so she either over jumps wildly or bangs into the jumps, barely clearing them.

Bonnie jumping some logs.
Bonnie jumping some logs.
Castrawes Paleface Orion setting a new Guinness world record in miniature horse jumping!
Castrawes Paleface Orion setting a new Guinness world record in miniature horse jumping!

CDE’s (Combined Driving Events) are another way to get out and enjoy your mini horse. CDE’s are the driving worlds equivalent to Three Day Eventing in the riding world. There are three different categories you show in, dressage, obstacle and marathon.

The first day’s combined driving dressage class tests a single, pair or team in the areas of obedience, freedom and regularity of motion, and impulsion through a sequence of compulsory movements executed within a designated area or arena.  -USEF website

Team Radar competing in the dressage portion of a CDE. You can find them on Facebook!
One of my favorite CDE teams, Team Radar competing in the dressage portion of a CDE. You can find them on Facebook!

Day two sees competitors tackle the fast-paced and demanding phase known as the cross-country marathon in which a horse’s fitness, stamina, agility, and obedience are tested together with a driver’s accuracy and judgment as they are asked to negotiate an intricate series of hazards which can include water, steep hills, and sharp turns in the fastest time while accumulating the least number of penalties. -USEF website

Team Radar running the marathon part of the CDE. You can find them on Facebook!
Team Radar running the marathon part of the CDE.

The third and final phase— the cone driving competition— tests a horse’s obedience, agility, and after two previously demanding days of competition, its endurance. Simultaneously, a driver’s skill, accuracy, and precision are tested as the single, pair, or team is challenged with negotiating an intricate course of narrowly-spaced cones cleanly and within the time allowed. -USEF website

teamradarcones2
Team Radar negotiating the final phase of the CDE, the cones course.

You don’t have to show your miniature horse to enjoy spending time with it. You can teach them to pull a sled in the winter time so you can spend time together playing in the snow! I have my game sled and am having an attachment made so I can put my easy entry cart shafts on it… then Sky can pull me all around our snow fields!! I’m so excited about this!

teamradarsledding
Team Radar (again!) playing in the snow with their game sled, shafts attached!

I take my girls hiking and walking all the time. They really enjoy getting out and I love having the company. You can also purchase little pack saddles for them so they can carry your lunch and water.

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I also really enjoy dressing them up and taking pictures of them. They all love it because I am very generous with the treats during our photo shoots…

If you can think of anything else that I didn’t include please leave it in the comments below! And as always, if you have any questions please leave a comment or send me an email.

 

Most miniature horse breeders will take offense if you call their horses, ponies. I call all mine ponies because I am aware that the Shetland Pony was used in the making of the miniature horse. From the early 1600’s people have been choosing the smallest Shetland ponies and crossing them on small horses to develop the mini horse.

The miniature horse is in essence a height breed. The AMHA miniature horse can be no taller than 34″ at the last mane hair. This typically is not exactly at the withers. In fact it can be further down from the withers toward the back. The AMHR miniature horse can be no taller than 38″ at the last mane hair.

In the late 1800’s these little horses were imported to America from Europe. They weren’t well known until about 1960 as they were primarily used in Appalachian coal mines. In 1962 the first Falabella horses were imported into the US by the Regina Winery in California. They used the little stallions to pull a stagecoach in parades, promoting their winery.

“The Falabella horse was originally developed in Argentina from local horses of Criollo stock, beginning in 1868 with the breeding program of Patrick Newtall.” Wikipedia

Patrick Newtall’s son-in-law inherited the breeding farm when his father-in-law passed away. He added Welsh ponies, Shetland ponies and small Thoroughbreds to the breeding program and with careful inbreeding was able to get the size down below 40″.

I would say that most of the miniature horses today can be traced back to Shetland ponies and the Falabella. Often you will see an “Unknown” in a horse’s pedigree. That was common in the past to cover up the fact that the mini had Shetland in it’s pedigree. Instead they wanted people to believe they were exclusively bred down from big horses. Sometimes the “Unknown” means that they really don’t know who the parents of the little horse are. It was a common practice to hardship small enough ponies into the registries years ago. The rules for doing this have changed a bit over the years.

In fact people have used Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Welsh ponies to develop the miniature horse characteristics that we see today. Some of the most popular miniature horses today look a lot like the Arabian horse. The Arenosa bloodline (which is primarily American Shetland pony) is one of them. The Arenosa bred horses are tough to beat in the show ring! They have long legs, long necks and shorter backs – making them look more horse like than pony like.

Then you have the pony style miniature horse – shorter legs, thicker necks and longer backs. At the local shows I still see lots of minis like the ones below. I owned the 31″ tall gelding on the left for a few years and showed him locally! He was such a sweet boy and a wonderful driving mini, though he didn’t have the stamina that the larger minis have. The 32″ mare, Amber, on the right is still standing in the pasture at my mom’s. She is a wonderful mother and has had several very nice foals for us. She was never shown.

When bred to a leggier, more refined stallion the short legged, long bodied mares can make some beautiful foals!

The black and white stallion on the left is KLS Pistolero, an Arenosa bred stallion. The filly on the right is Chantilly, our filly out of Amber, above, and KLS Pistolero. I am using this to show how well thought out breeding can help take a short legged, long bodied horse and turn it into a long legged, long necked horse!

My minis fall in the middle of these two extremes. They are longer legged because they are the “B” sized minis, meaning they over 34″ tall. A few have nice necks and a few have short, thick necks.

Sky 36 1/2″ tall. She has a nice length of neck and it’s not heavy at all. She could have a shorter back and her legs could be a bit longer.
Bonnie is 38″ tall and has a thicker, heavier neck. It’s also a bit short. She has nice length of leg and when she’s not fat (as she is now) she looks very square. She reminds me of a little draft horse!
Zorro is also out of KLS Pistolero and Sky and is a half brother to Chantilly. He has a nice long neck and a short back. His legs are a nice length as well. Here he is pictured as a yearling. I can’t wait to see what he looks like as a two year old!

Years ago some breeders used Dwarf miniatures in their breeding programs to keep the size down. This is a little like playing Russian Roulette. Sometimes you’ll get a better version of the parents and sometimes you’ll get all the worst traits of the parents.

“In the miniature horse breed, dwarfism is estimated to be in over 50% of the population and affects all the miniature horse bloodlines.” – http://jcpminiatures.weebly.com/equine-dwarfism.html

There are some miniature horses that display a few dwarf characteristics but are not extreme enough to be pulled out of the breeding stock. We had a mare and stallion that when bred to each other produced a dwarf foal. We gelded the stallion and re-homed the mare as a pet. We were not willing to knowingly breed horses that produced a dwarf. This is totally a personal preference as there are many breeders out there breeding known dwarf carriers. They do this to keep the size down.

This is information that I dug up all over the internet. Some of it is my personal opinion and some is scientifically based. Hopefully I answered the question, “What is a miniature horse?”

Most of the time when you are dealing with laminitis you need to focus on pain management– AFTER you’ve changed your horse’s diet and adjusted their living situation to accommodate for the laminitis.

So we will focus on oils that will help manage the pain. First you can apply the Raindrop Technique, once a week. Definitely do the entire Raindrop, including legs and hooves. This will also help balance the horse’s body. Most likely they have been compensating for their feet and will be sore all over.

Then you can move onto oils that will help the hooves. You can apply these to the soles of the hoof and even around the coronet band on a daily basis. Choose one or two or layer on 3-4!

Most people will not go above and beyond for their laminitic or foundered horse, and that’s one of the reasons that laminitis is the 2nd leading cause of death.

– Stephanie Krahl

Laminitis is very frustrating for the owner. Once your horse has tipped over into laminitic stage it can be very difficult to manage. The best thing is to keep them off the green grass completely, both in the spring and the fall. Look around for low quality forage so you can offer your horse access to forage 24/7. **Low quality does not mean moldy or dusty.

Taking some time to study good wholefood, natural supplements really pays off in the long run. Many of us have been there and understand the pain and frustration of laminitis and founder. Reach out to a community for support! There are some on facebook or you can join me here.

Feel free to leave a comment below or email me with any questions you have about dealing with this.

I am a firm believer in equine body work. I have been amazed again and again at how a little massage, some manipulating and energy work can make such a huge change in my horses. I used it often for Billy Blaze and when Sky was having so many troubles this spring I used it again!

I love using essential oils along with the body work of my favorite Equine (and Canine!) Body Worker, Heidi Chretien. I often will apply oils for a few days leading up to our scheduled appointment to help get the horse ready. I also do some meridian work, as taught by Jim Masterson of The Masterson Method. Then for a few days after Heidi has been here I will support her work by letting my horse rest and applying more oils!

Many years ago I went to school to be an Equine Massage Therapist. I loved my class and learned so much about horses, their bodies and how they work – and sometimes don’t work! My allergies got pretty severe which caused me to have to stop doing this as a form of income. But I can work on my own horses to an extent. There are many things I just don’t feel confident helping my horses with – that is when I call Heidi!

heidiandbonniecollage
Bonnie relaxing into her session.

Bonnie had been showing me some signs of needing body work. She had been stiff and walking a bit wonky in her hind end. She would still run and buck and play, but she was always stiff. She would often roll and then just sit and sit on her butt before getting up. She didn’t often roll all the way over – that is often a sign that something is out along their neck and spine.

For the last couple of days I have had a persistent headache that would go away when I did some grounding techniques. This alerted me to the fact that one of my ponies was have a bit of a headache.

At first Bonnie was a bit apprehensive. It was sprinkling and cool so I had the great idea to do this in the garage! Bonnie hasn’t ever been in the garage. I drug the black horse trailer mat to the big door so she could stand on that instead of on the slick concrete. She walked right in without hesitation! I was so proud of her. She was very relaxed about moving around on the mat and even walking on the concrete. But when Heidi came in she got a bit tense. She doesn’t typically mind situations, like the garage, the horse trailer, the remodeled horse shed, etc. but when you add in people she can get worried. Heidi took her time approaching her, kneeling down and talking to her. When Bonnie has a bit to settle into a situation, without anyone pushing her, she will settle right down.

Once Heidi started putting hands on her, Bonnie walked forward to lean on me a bit. It’s best to not touch the horse while Heidi is working so I allowed her to lean for a quick second, then I asked her back up. As soon as Heidi did a little work on her neck area, Bonnie began to relax and understand what was going on! I’m pretty sure she’s never had body work done before, aside from the oiling and the Masterson Method I have done for her.

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Bonnie and Heidi

I love watching the horse as changes start to happen. Vertebrae begin to realign, sometimes with an audible click, muscles relax and tension is released. When Bonnie started to feel this she was yawning and yawning, shaking her body, rubbing her lips on the floor and pawing a little bit.

Bonnie yawning and yawning, then shaking to release tension.
Bonnie yawning and yawning, then shaking to release tension.
Working on the fascia between the vertebrae.
Working on the fascia between the vertebrae.
Bonnie paying attention to what is happening in her body.
Bonnie paying attention to what is happening in her body.

A session will last between an hour and an hour and a half depending on what is going on with the horse. Sky’s session was definitely an hour and a half and Bonnie’s was close to that long! It’s so interesting to me how even though Bonnie hasn’t ever had a foal or been driven in a cart, she still had some pretty major issues that needed attention. You would be surprised how much body work can help your horse! No matter if it’s a big time competitor or a pasture pet.

I highly recommend Heidi Chretien as your equine body worker! She is extremely reasonable. You can contact her at (406) 599-9095. (I have her permission to share her phone number.) She does travel a bit as she has clients all over Montana! So definitely call and check with her no matter where you are located. If she can’t make it to you, then she may be able to point you in the right direction.

Bonnie smiling during her body work.
Bonnie smiling during her body work.

If you have any questions please email me or leave a comment below!