Shetland ponies and miniature horses have fascinated us for years. At our stables, we have noticed that our Shetland ponies and miniature horses and some of our most popular animals!
They are loved by kids and adults alike! At the same time, we have a lot of visitors who want to know if these horses are able to have babies. There are a few important points to note when it comes to Shetland ponies, miniature horses, and babies!
Shetland ponies and miniature horses can have babies. On the other hand, the answer to this question is not so simple. There are trends when it comes to miniature horses and babies.
The Breeding Process Involving Shetland Ponies and Miniature Horses
One of our visitors came to our stable and asked us if our miniature horses were going to have kids anytime soon. This young child was curious because he had recently read a story about a Shetland pony giving birth to a donkey.
I was shocked. At first, I didn’t believe the story. I mean, there was no way this could happen! Well, I turned to the internet and found the story! It actually happened! While we have seen our Shetland ponies and miniature horses give birth before, we certainly haven’t seen THAT at our stable!
This made me realize that we need to do a better job of educating our visitors on how these miniature horses give birth.
The Popularity of Miniature Horses and Shetland Ponies
The reality is that Shetland ponies and miniature horses are popular for their small sizes. The beginning of this breed is a bit obscure; however, there have been accounts of them for the past few hundred years.
Clydesdales, Miniatures, and Shetlands are all the same species of animal. Therefore, they are all capable of interbreeding. Therefore, why are they different?
Why are Shetlands so much smaller than the Clydesdales from the popular commercials?
This has to do with something called selective breeding. This takes place over many generations. Remember how we talked about Shetland ponies and miniature horses being so popular?
They are so popular that horse breeders have conducted selective breeding for these subspecies of animals to keep them small. That is why there are some types of horses that are so much smaller than the others.
Breeders have selectively bred Shetland ponies and miniature horses for their small size.
So, it is clear that these horses can breed. There are other instances of selective breeding as well, including:
- Paint horses have been selectively bred for their unique appearance
- Appaloosa horses have been selectively bred for their color patterns
Selective breeding is common in the world of horses. This includes Shetland ponies and miniature horses, which are bred for their small size.
So, What Defines Shetland Ponies and Miniature Horses?
So, if Shetland ponies and miniature horses are just smaller versions of the same horse species, what defines them. Of course, this comes down to their size. There is a registry when it comes to Shetland ponies and miniature horses.
The first is called the American Miniature Horse Registry, which is abbreviated AMHR. This is a subsidiary of the American Shetland Pony Club, which includes a number of other organizations.
This registry is divided into two divisions. There is an A division for horses that are less than 34 inches in height. Then, there is a B division, which includes horses between 34 and 38 inches in height.
Horses that become members of this registry tend to meet certain criteria and are cared for in a specific way. The only way to keep Shetland ponies and miniature horses so small is to breed them carefully. That is why it is important for you to take care of your Shetland ponies and miniature horses appropriately.
This is where the registry comes into play. Some of the key facts to know about taking care of Shetland ponies and miniature horses include:
- Foals tend to weigh between 12 and 25 pounds when they are born, depending on their size
- They also tend to measure between 15 and 22 inches in height at birth
- By the time Shetland ponies and miniature horses reach a year in age, they are approximately 90 percent of their adult height
- Depending on their exact size, Shetland ponies and miniature horses will weigh between 150 and 350 pounds once they reach adulthood
When it comes to the breeding process, some of the key points to note include:
- Shetland ponies and miniature horses tend to be separated once they reach the appropriate breeding age
- Once pregnancy takes place, it will take around 11 months for a miniature horse to grow to the right size to be born
- This is the same period of time as full-sized horses because they are the same species
- Shetland ponies and miniature horses should not be ridden by anyone other than a very small child
- If a Shetland pony and miniature horse has something that is larger than 20 percent of its body weight on its back, this could lead to severe health issues in a short amount of time
- Shetland ponies and miniature horses are not technically considered riding horses
These are a few of the most important facts that you should note when it comes to Shetland ponies and miniature horses.
Of course, the breeding process itself is a bit different for Shetland ponies and miniature horses than it is for their larger peers. We have a process that we follow at our stable that we would like to share with you.
The Breeding and Foaling Process for Shetland Ponies and Miniature Horses
If you would like to breed Shetland ponies and miniature horses, you need to make sure that you do this process at the right time at the right pace.
While Shetland ponies and miniature horses are the same species as other, larger horses, their small size leads to a few major differences. Some of the tips we suggest include:
- We do not breed our Shetland ponies and miniature horses before three years of age because they need time to develop fully
- If Shetland ponies and miniature horses breed before three years of age, their small size can lead to difficult births
- It is not unusual for Shetland ponies and miniature horses to wait until seven years of age to deliver their first foal
When we feel it is appropriate for our Shetland ponies and miniature horses to breed, we usually turn the stallion loose into the pasture with a group of mares. This is called pasture breeding.
When this is done while the mares are “in heat,” this leads to more success. The specific timing of this process is known as hand breeding.
Once a pregnancy takes place, the typically birthing period is between 310 and 360 days of gestation. If the mare is of a smaller size, the foals might be born a little bit sooner.
If a foal is born between 300 days of gestation, the survival rate is incredibly low.
One of the most significant complications that might develop with the birthing process of Shetland ponies and miniature horses is something known as dystocia.
This takes place when the foal is too large (or in the wrong orientation) to exit its mother appropriately. For example, a hoof or shoulder might get caught on the pelvis as the foal tries to exit.
For this reason, it is critical to have a trained professional present at every birthing process involving Shetland ponies and miniature horses.
Foals Are Vigorous
The foals of Shetland ponies and miniature horses are usually very strong shortly after the birthing process has finished. They might even nurse four to seven times per hour. This is normal. Let them eat.
We have noticed that if the foal is sick, one of the first signs is that the nursing rate will drop. If you notice this, the foal requires medical attention immediately.
Foals tend to gain a few pounds per day. Missing this mark for even a few days could lead to a foal that is in medical distress.
If you notice that your foal is not nursing well, he or she needs the attention of a vet immediately. With the proper care and nutrition, foals should grow to their adult height within a year or two.