A little bit about Upset, our miniature horse mascot!

What are American Miniature Horses?

upset cart

American Miniatures Horses, or Minis, are the smallest breed of horse. To be a Mini the horse must be less than 34 inches at the base of the withers (the last hairs of the mane before the back). Miniature horses must be “a sound, well balanced horse, possessing the proper conformation characteristics common in larger breeds.” That means the Minis must be in proportion. There are multiple regulations for Minis and some say the Mini must measure under 36 inches.

Upset measures in at 34 inches.

Where did Minis come from?

True Minis did not get public recognition until 1960 even though there are mentions of small horses being imported into the United States as far back as 1888. Minis were likely bred from English and Dutch mine horses broiught over to be used in the Appalachian Coal Mines. Most were bred down from Shetland Ponies and other small breed horses until they were a desired height. American Mini bloodlines before 1960 are not clear.

The American Miniature Horse is not the oldest Miniature Horse breed... that would be the Falabella from Argentina, who have had strict breed bloodlines for many years. American Minis are by far the most common Miniature Horse breed found today but the Falabellas are also starting to be found all over the world.

Upset is registered as an American Miniature Horse in both the American Miniature Horse Association and American Miniature Horse Registry. His pedigree goes back three generations and he was born in Kentucky.

Are there different kinds of Minis?

Now that the breed has regualtions there are two types of Minis, neither is given a specific desigantion on breed paperwork. Minis are either built like a sturdy Quarter Horse and are called the “Stock Style” or more slim like an Arabian these are the “Refined Type”.

Upset is more of the Stock Style. With muscular legs and a strong chest. Plus he likes to make sure he has a full, round belly!

How long do Minis live?

Minis live a long time! Like many other domesticated animals, the smaller the breed the longer they live. Most horses have an average life span of 20-30 years. A Mini can live up to about 35-40 years. This chart shows their age in comparison to human years.age chart

Upset is 10 years old this year! His birthday is April 28, 2008. He is having a birthday party check it out! 

What colors do Minis come in?

Upset over shoulder

Unlike many other horse breeds where only a few colors/variations are common, Minis can come in almost any color. Minis even come in rare horse colors like dark bodies with light manes. The more colorful the mini - the more people seem to adore them! Some shows even have a fun competition for the most colorful Mini.

Upset is black. He does get a reddish “tan” in the summer from the sun, that is probably because his father was a Sorrel (a reddish-brown) and his mother was a bay (brown with black mane and tail). Have you ever noticed how much lighter he looks at the end of the summer?

What do Minis eat?

Anything! Minis love to eat, that is why you have to watch their weight. Like other horses they would forage for their food if they lived in the wild, eating grasses and foliage. Since Minis are not wild they most commonly eat grains, hay and grass. Most grains are used just to make sure the Mini gets all of their vitamins and is given in a very small amount. Forage (hay/grass) is eaten daily, usually a split up throughout the day. A horse should eat about 1.5% of their body weight in hay/grass or about 2-4lbs for a Mini. 

All horses love sweets. Sugar is their weakness. Like any healthy diets treats should be given sparingly.

Upset eats less than an 1/8 cup of grain and has hay twice a day. He eats grass in his field throughout the day… maybe a little too much grass sometimes! Plus he loves animal crackers, candy canes, and carrots.

Do Mini Horses have health issues?

They can. If a Mini is cared for properly and comes from a reputable breeder, their health problems should be limited but all animals are subject to developing some illness or health risk.

Minis most common health risks include: Obesity; they love to eat and it is hard to keep them from over eating. Dwarfism; if Minis are overbred to be small they can become disproportionate which can lead to many health issues. Dental Issues; overbites, underbites, and overcrowded mouths are very common with Minis because they may retain their baby teeth and may need them pulled! 

Upset is “as healthy as a horse”. We are very lucky he does not have a lot of health issues. We have had to have a few of his teeth pulled to keep him from having an overcrowded mouth which could lead to more serious issues. He is under a veterinarians care with regular "checkups", worming and shots.

How much do Minis weigh?

The average Mini weighs between 150-300lbs, obviously the smaller they are in height the less they weigh (unless they eat too much). The chart below  shows how you can measure your Mini’s weight using a sewing tape measure. 

Upset’s girth is 47” around so he weighs around 290lbs.weight chart

What are Minis used for?

When Minis first came about they were used for work… like many of our domesticated pets. Minis are one of the strongest horse breeds (relative to their size). They were small enough to be used in mines and easy to care for. Plus they could pull very heavy loads! A Mini can pull 3 to 4 times their wieght where a draft horse can usually pull 2 to 2.5 times their wieght. As their popularity grew they became more common as pets and gifts. Now they are shown in halter classes, driven in competitions, used to teach children how to ride, and make great companions. They are also gaining popularity as Therapy horses and are even being trained as Guiding Eye Horses! 

Upset has a lot of jobs. He is a mascot for our brand The Dark Horse which means he is a little celebrity! He does Meet & Greets, parades, special events, and more. He loves to go to Saratoga Polo Association and comes Downtown at least once a week in the summer.

Can you ride a Mini?

Children can! As long as you weigh under 60lbs an average Mini can carry you without a problem. Of course you will want to make sure your Mini is used to being ridden and in shape before you send a kid out on them unsupervised!

If you are over 60lbs and you want to take your Mini out to get exercise then you will want to drive with them! Mini horses can be hooked up to little lightweight carts with two wheels or even a wagon with 4 wheels. Most Minis can easily pull a cart with two adults in it for a very long time without tiring. They can be paried up in teams as well.

Upset loves to pull a cart. He can go forever! We usually try to keep his load light though he has happily pulled Mare and Maddy around in his beautiful cart that was custom made for him from Pequea Carriage Shop in the Pennsylvania Amish Country. Upset does know how to be ridden as well but we are a little big for him!

Where do Minis live?

Most Minis live outside in a setting just like a big horse, with a barn, stall, paddock, and shed. But some Minis actually live in their owner’s houses like pets! Minis can be outside year round as long as they have a safe secure place to get out of the elements and if they don’t grow a big thick coat they will need a blanket.

Upset lives outside most of the time with his best friends Poppy and Flye. They have a big grassy field with a nice comfy shed. They also have stalls they can come into if the weather is very bad. Poppy and Upset like to share a stall because they are so small! Upset grows a coat  that is about 4 inches thick in the winter!

Who are some famous Minis?

Therapy horses from Gentle Carousel in Florida are probably the most famous of all Miniature Therapy Horses. They even have two Bryer Models Horses designed for them! These miracle Minis have worked hard for over 20 years to help support

mini breyermany people in need. They are well known for their work at Sandy Hook but they visit nursing homes, hospitals, hospice programs, and many other organizations. 


A famous Guiding Eye Horse is Cuddles. She has ridden the MARTA in Atlanta, been on an airplane and was the first official Guiding Eye horse. Another famous Mini Guide Horse is Panda, right here in New York. Panda did some of her training in Saratoga Springs. You can watch a video about Panda here

Television shows and movies have used Minis as well. The moive Apple of my Eye came out in 2017 about a Mini Horse helping a blind girl. And Li'l Sebastian from Parks and Recreation was a big hit in both his fictional town and real life!

And of Course there is Upset! He is our favorite Mini horse! Bringing smiles to people all over Saratoga Springs since we adopted him in 2014. He has been a great addition to our Impressions Family and loves doing his job! You can follow him on Facebook

upset polo