By Kim Lemmon, Ohio’s Country Journal
When browsing the Internet and Facebook, I often see advertisements in which people are looking for a miniature horse for their children. The advertisements often read similar to this:
“In search of a miniature horse for my young child. My child is a beginner. We need a very safe horse that leads and rides and is trustworthy. Nothing more than 13 years old.”
I usually become frustrated when I read these advertisements because I believe that due to a lack of knowledge about miniature horses these folks are often overlooking older miniature horses that can be active and work for many years to come.
I never understand their unwillingness to consider older or even senior miniature horses, because in my experience, miniature horses can often live longer and more actively into their senior years than their larger equine counterparts.
I myself have miniature horses of all ages, but I greatly appreciate and rely on my horses that are nearer in age to 20 than 10.
As it turns out, I’m not alone in my appreciation for senior miniature horses.
Double Diamond D Farm of Ashtabula, Ohio, uses two senior miniature mares in their farm programs.
“Lil Girl is 23 years old, and we still use her for single and double driving along with walk-trot barrels,” said Traci Chudzik of Double Diamond D Farm. “Cookie is 19 years old, and we use her for single and double driving.
“Our farm participates in parades and gives driving lessons,” she said. “We have also done a couple parties, and we regularly use these mares. They are hard to come by and great to work. They are worth their weight in gold by being kid safe.”
The owners of the senior miniature horses used at Double Diamond D Farm are not the only senior miniature horse owners that have no reason to believe their senior equines will not be slowing down anytime soon.
Ashley Harris, of Brookville, Ohio, owns and trains miniature horses on her farm, Versatility Farm and Training Center.
She and her family own Iona Excalibur, “Cal, “ a 21-year-old miniature horse that continues to excel in the show ring at the world and national levels despite the fact that some people would consider his age advanced.
“Cal” is a six-time World Champion and four-time Reserve Champion. He is currently shown at miniature horse shows in jumping classes.
“Cal” receives regular conditioning and care at home, and he still enjoys going to shows so Ashley continues to show him.
“I don’t regularly practice jump him at home,” Ashely said. “I practice him at home once before the season starts and once before the World Show. He loves the crowd attention and thrives on applause.”
Last year, as a 20-year-old he was the AMHA 2015 Reserve World Champion Open Jumper.
“Everyone asks when I am going to retire him,” Ashley said. “My answer is always the same…when he tells me he is ready to retire. He sure hasn’t told me that yet and until then, we will continue to show him in his favorite classes until the day comes.”
As with any horse, health, body condition, dental care and soundness are important to consider regardless of age. Every horse is an individual but in general, miniature horses often seem to be more active and more able to maintain their body condition without extra care to a more advanced age than many larger equines.
“Mini horses, like all horses, will have increased nutritional needs as they age,” said Christa Scarbrough, a sales specialist for Purina Animal Nutrition LLC. “However, mini horses are so efficient to begin with, that they may not show signs of these higher nutritional needs until much older ages than larger horses.
“If you are feeding a miniature horse, find a product that fits your horse’s age and lifestyle and make sure you are feeding it at the proper amount for their ideal weight. If you have an aging mini that is starting to lose condition or not maintaining muscle on the amount of feed that it used to do very well on, then it might be time to consider a senior diet,” she said.
So be sure to not overlook older miniature horses when you are searching for the perfect new addition to your herd. Anything can happen to any equine at anytime that can change the course of their health and lifestyle, but for miniature horses, the odds are that they can often be very active and competitive well up until their mid- to late-20s. Even miniature horses in their late-teens and early-20s could quite possibly have close to a decade left of being able to complete normal activity levels without compromising their health.
Instead of worrying about a miniature horse being “too old,” take a look at their over-all health, soundness and activity level. Senior miniature horses just might surprise you at how well they can often keep up with the younger horses and provide a very experienced partner for a beginner.