One of the most enjoyable aspects of having young horses around is watching them grow up. Like all of us, they must mature physically and mentally and there’s just no rushing the process. And like all young animals, they do goofy things and hopefully learn from their mistakes. Because all miniature horses are by definition small, it’s easy to forget that Mr. Peaberry and Java are still just babies, now just nine months old. Their growth isn’t as easy to see as it would be in a regular-sized horse, where almost daily changes take place. Their full-sized cousins also demonstrate a significant difference between weanling and yearling, but not so much in the minis. One things I hope they never grow out of is their delight when they see me come towards the paddock. Okay, maybe it’s just because they know they’ll be fed or fussed with, but they do seem to be happy to see me, with little whinnies of greeting as they rush over to the gate.
When the horses arrived two and a half months ago, they weighed in around 130 (Java) and 160 (Peaberry). They stood about 26 and 29 inches tall, respectively. Today, they appear to be growing at a steady rate, weighing in at around 155 (Java) and 190 (Peaberry) and standing at 27.75 and 30.25 inches. Generally, miniature horses achieve 90% of their growth in their first year so I’m guessing Mr. Peaberry will top out around 31 to 31.5 inches and Java around 28.5 to 29.
And for those of you who are about to ask if I held them on the bathroom scale like you might a dog, the answer is no. While it’s not an exact science, there’s an ingenious device that estimates a horse’s weight and height using a measuring tape.
Height is even easier. Since horse height is measured at the withers (just where the neck joins the body), putting a level measure at the withers gives you a good indicator of height. The horse needs to be on level ground and preferably barefoot to get an accurate reading. Since miniature horses have no need for shoes due to their remarkably hard little hoofs, this makes things easier. Most measuring sticks are made for full-sized horses and ponies, so miniature horses need a specialized measuring stick that gets at their height range without a lot of extra stick in the way. With the mini-stick, you can measure in hands (four inches is a hand) or in inches. Since it sounds sort of silly to say that your horse is seven hands high (most full-size horse breeds come in around 15-17 hands) and the miniature registries have size requirements based on inches rather than hands, most mini-owners will refer to inches when describing their horse’s height.
All in all, the little minis seem to be doing well. They are a source of constant amusement and joy as they grow out of their “puppy” stage and into their yearling year. In 2016, our goal will be to figure out a reasonable way to transport them and begin to socialize them with more strangers, crowds, kids, and unknown dogs. We’ll take it slow, but by the end of the year, we hope to have them in the Kona Christmas parade for their first official public appearance.