As in many breeds, the origins of the Miniature Horse are obscure. Said to have been bred as the playmates and companions of royal children in Europe, Minis came to the Americas as ore cart horses, working in the coal mines of Pennsylvania and Virginia. Their introduction to this country was not a kind one, as the small horses were worked long and hard. Kaliski said, “I hope it’s not true, but I’ve been told that the horses were blind from living always in the dark.”
“The horses were bred down from Shetland ponies, the Pony of the Americas, small Morgans, and Arabs,” said Kaliski. “As for their royal origins, legend or not, we’ll never know.”
The horses later became the hobby of wealthy fanciers, who kept the breed alive, but rare, until recent years. In the early eighties, there were only about four thousand Minis in the US. Today, there are around ninety thousand horses registered with the American Miniature Horse Association.
Minis are strictly a height breed; horses must not exceed 34 inches at the last hairs of the mane to be permanently registered with the AMHA. Another registry, the American Miniature Horse Registry, also offers a Class B registration for horses up to 38 inches.