Many people believe that because miniature horses are so small and cute, they don’t really need comprehensive horse training. This is a big mistake! If you’re going to take on a miniature horse, you need to be prepared to train it just as you would a full-sized horse. A well trained miniature horse can be lots of fun to have around. An untrained one can be an incredible nuisance and dangerous. In this article, we share top tips for training your miniature horse. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
1. Halter Training And Grooming
Be sure to groom your mini daily and make a point of lifting and cleaning all of his feet. You should be able to completely and easily control your mini for visits from the vet and the farrier and in all other circumstances.
2. Lunging Is Good Exercise!
Just as with a big horse, a miniature horse can benefit from the regular exercise and education that lunging provides. Be sure you have a good sturdy halter that fits appropriately and a strong lunge line 30 or 40 feet long.
Follow standard lunge line practices to give your little horse a good workout. Regular lunging will improve your communication, burn off extra energy and help your mini be healthy, happy and well-adjusted.
3. Teach Your Mini To Do Something
A miniature horse is not a lapdog and will be happier with a purpose in life. Once your little horse has learned how to lunge well, move on to training with the bridle to prepare him or her for riding or driving.
For training purposes, you’ll need a well fitted bridle with a smooth snaffle bit. You’ll also need a surcingle especially made for miniature horses. This and a set of long driving reins will allow you to teach your little horse how to respond to reining.
4. Don’t Overdo It
Remember that anytime you’re handling your little horse, you are training. Regular, consistent, daily handling counts as training. Formal lessons (such as halter training, lunging and reining) are actually more effective when kept brief. Even five minutes of work on these tasks is helpful. Don’t drag it out to longer than half an hour. Fifteen minutes is a fairly ideal amount of time to spend on a focused task.
5. Teach One Task At A Time
Pay attention to detail by teaching one task at a time and making sure that your little horse has mastered it completely before moving on to a new task. Just like people, horses feel a sense of accomplishment when they learn to do new things. When your horse successfully masters a task, he will be pleased with himself. In future, you can use his mastery of an old task as a reinforcer for learning a new task.
If you’re working on something new that is difficult, take a break as needed and return to an old task that has already been mastered. This easy/hard method of teaching contains its own intrinsic reward because it allows your horse to have success in the midst of challenges. It’s also a good idea to end your training sessions by practicing a task that has already been mastered.
6. Always Be Consistent
Use the same words to mean the same thing every time. For example, every time you signal your mini to stop, say “whoa”. When training to turn, say “left” or “right” (or “gee” or “haw” if you want to be traditional and authentic).
7. Reward Consistently And Discipline Consistently
Your horse should always know what to expect for his behaviors. While many trainers like to use treats, this is not really the best idea.
When you join up with your horse, the goal is for him or her to want to work with you because you’re in relationship. For this reason, it’s best to reward your horse with positive words and praise, a happy expression, a firm stroke and good consistent ongoing care.
When your horse is motivated intrinsically to please you, he is unlikely to become a treat seeking spoiled brat.
How Are Miniature Horses Different?
In most ways, training a miniature horse is very much like training a full-sized horse; however, many people believe that miniatures are even more sensitive to body language, facial expression and other nuances than full-sized horses.
While all horses require a great deal of attention to detail and consistency in training, some say that miniatures require even more. For this reason, patience is a virtue, and you must be prepared to be very consistent and to repeat the steps of training as many times as necessary.
Miniature horses are very smart and catch on very quickly. They also think of ways to challenge their boundaries and may test you quite a bit. For this reason, it’s important to always treat them as if they are full-size horses.
It may be tempting to treat a miniature foal as if it were dog, but you will regret this as your bundle of joy grows. A 250 pound horse trying to sit in your lap or jump up on you is not something anyone wants.
The bottom line is that firm, consistent, knowledgeable horsemanship will result in a companion animal you can enjoy, be proud of and take just about anywhere.