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The 5 Smallest Horse Breeds

by ihearthorses

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The great thing about horses is that they come in all different colors and sizes – there’s a horse for everyone. Smaller horses may not be big enough to ride, but there are other uses for them, even just as companions. Thumbelina, a dwarf miniature horse, holds the world record for being the smallest horse as she stands at 17 inches tall. Can you imagine? Having a horse, the size of a dog that you can literally pick up and snuggle? These half-pint horse breeds may just be the cutest thing on the planet with fascinating backgrounds to match.


Neighing falabella stallion.

The Falabella’s ancestors can be traced back to Andulusian’s – when the Spaniards came to conquer new land, they left their horses behind. Inbreeding and biological changes over the years for adapting to their environment made their senses grow for watching for danger and hardy to withstand the intense weather changes. The Falabella family took time in breeding these hardy horses with other smaller breeds such as Welsh and Shetland ponies, as well as small Thoroughbreds. Under 33 inches tall and with excellent disposition, the Falabella horses first came to be registered in Argentina before the 1940s and bred to perfection by the Falabella family. Unlike other small breeds, the Falabella horse is perfectly proportional and can breed naturally. Falabella horses are a perfect choice for driving a cart or for a small child to ride.

The Miniature Horse

Two cute miniature horses interact in a field near Harrison, Idaho.

Miniature horses were first bred in Europe and kept as pets for the higher class. Some were also used in coal mines. Miniature horses in America today are the result of nearly 400 years of specific and selective breeding. These small horses cannot be over 34 inches tall at the withers and can come in any color variety – from black to buckskin. They make great companions with their awesome temperament – even being used as therapy animals for individuals with disabilities.

Shetland Ponies

Lone Shetland Pony in a field in Aberdeenshire Scotland.

The Shetland Pony Stud Book Society was formed in 1890, but these ponies’ history goes further back. Their original home base being the Shetland Islands, it is not exactly known how the ponies first appeared, but it is known they were domesticated early, becoming extremely important to the people of the Shetland Islands. Fish were the number one source of food for these people and the pony’s mane and tail hair was used to create fishing line and nets. Their value comes with a saying, “Cut any other man’s horse’s tail or mane – under the pain of ten pounds,” describing a fine and the worth of these little critters.

Noma Pony

noma pony

One of the few horses originating in Japan, the Noma Pony is extremely rare and their numbers are extremely low. They stand at 10hh and were used as pack horses for the people of Japan. Unlike other breeds, the Noma pony has no breeding influence from other horse breeds – they are completely pure.

Yonaguni Horse

Yonaguni Horse, native breed horse to the Yonaguni Island, western border island of Japan. It's a part of Okinawa.

Another horse of Japanese descent, the Yonaguni horse stands at 11hh and is another declining and highly endangered breed with only 200 living presently. Today, they occupy the islands of southwestern Japan and little is know how they came to be there. Some believe they came from Korea over 2000 years ago.

Horses on the vertically challenged side are not to be underestimated. Not only are they extremely hardy, but the history behind their breeding is fascinating. Plus, who doesn’t want a horse small enough to cuddle on the couch with? If they can be trained to drive, they can be housebroken too! 

What are your favorite small horse breeds? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

Dani Buckley is a small-town resident in Montana. She is a veterinary technician manager and mom of eight four-legged kids – 5 dogs, 1 cat, and 2 horses. When she moved back home to Montana, her horses and her dogs moved with her (Carbon and Milo). The pack grew by three when she moved in with her boyfriend, Cody. Altogether there is a German Shepard (Lupay), a Border Collie (Missy), a Blue Heeler (Taz) and her two adorable mutts.

Her horses are her free time passion – Squaw and Tulsa. Dani has owned Squaw for 17 years and this mare has made 2 trips across the country with Dani! Squaw is a retired rodeo and cow horse. Her other mare, Tulsa, is an upcoming ranch horse. The girls have an unmatched personality and bond with Dani. She has been around horses her entire life and rodeoed throughout highschool and beyond. Now, she enjoys riding on the ranch, working cattle and trail riding.

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