Raising miniature horses a joy
Love and horses are a magical combination on the Hooley acreage just outside Shipshewana, Indiana. Lois and LaVern have raised horses for their entire 53-year marriage. "I had to sell my first horse in order to have enough money to marry her," laughs LaVern.
But like their love for each other, the love of horses has never waned. When they first saw a Miniature Horse, or Mini, at a show, they immediately fell in love with Charlie, who became their first purchase. Now they have at least 22 Miniature Horses and Shetland ponies at any given time. Three years ago they built new stables for their beloved Shetlands and Miniatures.
LaVern offers good advice for the novice buyer. "If you're in the market for a Miniature Horse, look for a well-proportioned, refined animal." The American Miniature Horse Association (www.amha.org) says the Mini has been the product of over 400 years of breeding. To be registered, horses should not exceed 34 inches in height.
"Overall, caring for a Miniature is the same as for the larger breeds," says LaVern. Minis are vaccinated for the same diseases as larger breeds and are not costly to feed. "You feed them the same quality hay and same feed as a Shetland or saddle horse in a smaller portion."
Hoof care in Miniature Horses is also important. Owners need to have young horses' feet trimmed at an early age to help avoid any conformation problems. Hooves should be picked out daily and trimmed for balance on a regular schedule. If possible, try to choose a farrier who specializes in working with Miniatures.
Teeth should also be checked at an early age. It's easier to do routine dental care rather than to wait until teeth become challenges. "Proper, routine dental care and maintenance is very important," says LaVern.
Since Minis stand low to the ground, they are affected by airflow more so than larger horses. "An open, airy barn also helps to maintain good health," says LaVern.
It goes without saying that these lively, hardy little horses need time outdoors to run, play, and roam around.
The Hooleys agree that part of the fun in raising these wonderful little horses is showing them. "They are docile, friendly, and easy to train," says LaVern. Miniature Horses can be trained to jump and run through obstacle courses. "They are very smart," says Lois.
Once their young son encouraged a Mini to trot into the house and stand in the kitchen. "I sure was surprised to see that little horse in my house," Lois laughs. "My son thought it was a great joke."
Their small size and gentle disposition makes them attractive to people afraid of a full-size horse. Older folks who can no longer handle full-size horses might find that having a Miniature is a great solution.
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