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The Dwarfism Gene When Breeding Miniature Horses
 By Winniefield Park   •   12th Sep 2015   •   4,649 views   •   3 comments


Cracked.com lists Miniature Horses as one of the six most horrifying pets we’ve bred into existence. I think this is a bit unfair, as they’ve mixed up dwarf horses with minis. But unfortunately, dwarfism is a risk when breeding Miniature Horses. Ideally, when you breed any horse, (or dog, sheep, goat etc...) the offspring takes on all the best qualities of both parents. Responsible horse breeders assess their stock and choose mates that will compliment each other, in an effort to produce horses that are even better than their parents.

Despite good intentions, and especially when breeding for diminutive size, this doesn’t always happen. In regular sized horses, even well bred horses can have horrible conformation, or other problems. With Miniature Horses and a few other breeds, dwarfism can be a problem. This is partially because Minis are easy and relatively inexpensive to keep, don’t take up much space and become rather like collector’s items. The temptation is to get more, and one way to get more is by breeding them. Breeding stock may not always be carefully chosen. The owner may not go to the trouble of having their mares and stallions tested for the dwarfism genes. And, not all dwarfism can be tested for.



Related: A New World Record - Smallest horse
Related: Equine Dwarfism

What exactly is dwarfism? It’s believed that both mare and stallion must carry the genes for dwarfism. There are degrees of dwarfism, and the affected offspring may show only one characteristic or several. Those minimally affected can lead normal lives, with a normal lifespan. Others will be so severely malformed that humane euthanasia may be necessary. Often, dwarf fetuses are aborted or reabsorbed well before birth.

Characteristics of dwarfism include:

Protruding forehead
exaggerated dished face
unusually short legs
oversized head in proportion to body
turned up nose
protruding eyes
undershot jaw
very short neck
pot bellies
girth depth greater than leg length
malformed spines
shoulders higher than hindquarters
clubby hooves
possible mental deficiencies
possible physical pain due to deformities

Dwarf horses can have trouble walking, can have severe dental problems that can lead to episodes of colic as well as being susceptible to sand colic. They can suffer from chronic pain caused by their malformed limbs and spine, are susceptible to obesity, have difficulties carrying a foal and foaling, have heart defects, tendon problems and other health issues that can make life difficult. Trying to keep some dwarf ponies healthy can become very costly.

So how can dwarfism be avoided? Testing is an obvious answer, but this has only been available for a short time, doesn’t detect all forms of dwarfism and of course, costs money. Stallions and mares that show signs of dwarfism, or produce a foal with any signs of dwarfism should not be used for breeding. Some argue that if a mare and stallion combination produce a dwarf, they could safely be used for breeding with another mate that does not carry the dwarfism genes. But that means the dwarf genetics could be carried on to another generation. You might recall that what was once the world’s smallest horse, Thumbelina is a dwarf and her owners have chosen not to use her for breeding. Dwarfism may never be totally eradicated, but between science and responsible breeding, it may greatly reduced.
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Valkyrie   MOD 
It always bugs me that people get extremely tiny minis that are obviously dwarfs and everyone thinks they are so cute.

Also - minis aren't the only breeds that suffer from dwarfism as a result of irresponsible breeding. There are a fair few Friesians with it, too, due to their tiny genetic pool.
  16 days ago  •  4,701 views
 
FE Spare Barn 1
I agree with what Val said.

I own a 28" mare (I'm re-measuring her because I think she's more like 30" tall) who isn't a dwarf, and a 34" stallion. I think Jack, my boy, is put together so much better. He's so handsome with a beautiful trot and looks like a little mini Andalusian. But then again he came from excellent lines and a quality breeder.

That's what a mini should look like, a correctly confirmed horse shrunken down. Not some poor potbellied beast with crooked, corgi-like legs and a giant head. But, what's funny is that if I were to show him in an AMHA show and he got measured, his AMHA papers would be thrown out because he's too "big" to be a mini.

I think my biggest beef is with the AMHA itself. It's one of the two largest mini horse registries in the US, but unlike AMHR, who allows horses to be up to 38" (and if they're taller than that they can be registered as Shetlands, sport or show ponies, etc.) AMHA has a 34" height limit. So a lot of people breed tiny horses
  16 days ago  •  4,693 views
 
Lavandin Equine
This, I feel, is a very uneducated assumption to place on a breed. When people first started breeding down the size of horses, the goal was to obtain the smallest horse they could breed, almost regardless of the confirmation. If you look into the Komokos breeding from the mid-late nineteen hundreds, you can see a large lack of quality.
But now, the industry is producing amazing horses left and right, many of which look like small Arabians.
Anything can carry a dwarf gene, it's just about being a responsible breeding and not duplicating a cross if it shows dwarfism characteristic, or not using a horse at all if it shows signs. There is a test out now for dwarfism, and many breeders are using it on their herds.
I'm rather familiar with this topic as I myself am a breeder of the America Miniature horse. If you'd like to see my horses visit my website, www.pintsizeperfection.com , or if you just want to talk more about this breed :)
  Oct 24, 2015  •  4,437 views
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