A small horse stands between five to 14.25 hands tall from its withers (area between the horse’s shoulder blades). Small horses look like normal horses but smaller. They are sturdy and strong and often used to carry heavy loads. They make great companion animals for young children.
These delightful horses may not be big enough for an adult to ride, but they’re famous for their speed, strength, and gentle demeanor.
Keep reading to learn more about small horses.
What is a Small Horse?
A small horse measures under 14.25 hands tall. A ‘hand’ is a unit of measurement that is four inches. As an example, 14 hands tall would equal 56 inches tall.
For this article, we will define a small horse as a horse that never grows taller than 14.25 hands.
What is a Pony?
Ponies are considered small horses.
Ponies have thicker manes, coats, and tails than a horse plus shorter legs, a thick neck, and broader bodies.
Ponies are friendly and smart but have a reputation for being stubborn. Ponies are often chosen for young riders.
What is a Miniature Horse?
Another kind of small horse is a miniature horse or mini horse. They resemble normal horses but measure much smaller in height and weight.
Because of their small size, mini horses are measured in inches rather than hands.
The American Miniature Horse Registry describes a miniature horse as being 34 to 38 inches tall.
They have a flexible, long neck, straight legs, and a short back. Miniature horses are bred to be more elegant looking than a pony.
You can also visit the website of the American Miniature Horse Association to learn more about these amazing mini horses.
13 Small Horses
Small horses are popular as service animals, pets, and for working on small farms. Here are twelve of today’s most popular small horses.
1. Shetland Pony
The Shetland pony is a powerful small horse developed in the Shetland Islands as pack animals on farms. Their thick mane and tail hairs were used for weaving fishnets.
Shetland pony colors are black, bay, chestnut, brown with white markings. They make fun pets and are often known to nuzzle you like a dog when they want your attention.
Shy at first, but once they get to know you, they warm up. Gentle with kids and other animals, Shetland ponies fit in with all the animals on a farm.
Weight: up to 450 pounds
Height: 46 inches
Body: Sturdy pony, small head with widely spaced eyes and little ears. Muscular neck, compact body, and strong short legs.
Best for: Young children or small adults who are afraid of larger horses.
Shetland Pony Life Expectancy is 30 years
2. Icelandic Horse
Icelandic horses have a rich history. Bred in Iceland for centuries ago, there are several breeds of Icelandic horses. Some are bred for work while others are bred for show.
Although not a popular practice in the United States, some Icelandic breeds are used as livestock for their meat.
Icelandic horses can stand up to the harsh climate of Iceland as a working breed used to herd sheep and other animals.
They are friendly and calm horses, able to manage livestock well and maybe your kids too.
Weight: 730 to 840 pounds
Height: 13 to 14 hands, 52 to 56 inches
Body: Strong and compact, they look like a normal-sized horse with short legs
Best for: Young children, can manage livestock
Icelandic Horse Life Expectancy: 25 to 30 years
3. Fell Pony
Fell ponies originated in the northern part of England. These mountain horses’ have a history that goes all the way back to the pre-Roman era when the Vikings used them as plow ponies.
British farmers adopted the Fell pony for hauling hay and wood. During the Industrial Revolution, they were used as pack horses to haul copper and iron ore.
Stocky and strong, they’re easy-going, loyal horses known for their sure-footedness on rough terrain. Their colors are black, bay, gray, or brown.
Today, they’re considered a vulnerable breed due to their diminishing numbers with only 900 breeding mares. Fell ponies are used for riding competitively or trekking.
Weight: 770 to 990 pounds
Height: 13.2 to 14 hands
Body: Short back with a short neck, small head, and small ears. They have a wide muzzle and bright eyes. Full mane and tail with fine hair on their heels.
Best for: Riding or driving pony for persons with disabilities
Fell Pony Life Expectancy: 25 to 30 years
4. Hackney Pony
The Hackney pony is a cross between a Hackney Stallion and a Fell pony. This small horse was bred to be sturdy, but yet elegant.
Their characteristic trot makes them popular at pony shows. These natural totters were strong war horses used to haul artillery during the World Wars.
After the war, they were used for sporting events and harness racing competitions. If you see a Hackney pony trot, you won’t forget it.
Weight: 1,000 pounds
Height: 14.2 to 15.2 hands or 58 to 62 inches
Body: Muscular with a wide chest and arched neck
Best for: Harness racing or driving competitions
Hackney Pony Life Expectancy: 20 to 35 years
5. Noma Pony
The Noma pony is the smallest breed of horse in Japan. It’s only one of eight horse breeds in Japan.
The Noma pony is very rare with some estimates being there are only about 80 of them in existence.
Their name comes from Noma County in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan. Centuries ago, this small horse breed originated from the Mongolian horses.
The Noma pony came close to extinction, but in 1978 a breeding society was started to help preserve this small horse. Noma colors range from bay to chestnut and brown.
Height: 10.1 to 20 hands, or 40 inches
Body: Small, sturdy horse with a compact body.
Best for: Agile and good for difficult terrain
Norma Pony Life Expectancy: 20-plus years
6. Falabella Horse
The Falabella is considered the smallest horse breed in the world. It’s considered a miniature horse, but it’s even smaller than most miniature horses.
This Argentinian breed was first created by Patrick Newtall and continued by his son-in-law Juan Falabella, who christened the breed with his name.
Even though this breed is so small, it has horse proportions rather than looking like a pony. The Falabella adapts easily to any environment. They’re gentle and calm animals.
One interesting fact about this breed is that they have 17 vertebrae instead of the regular 18 other horses have. They also have one less pair of ribs.
Their colors are bay or black. There are pintos and palominos with spotted patterns.
Although not very common, black or red leopard-spotted Falabellas do exist. Today this breed of small horse is kept for show or as pets.
Weight: 175 pounds
Height: 7 to 8 hands or 21 to 34 inches
Body: Large head and stout body
Best for: Young children to ride, used to pull small carts
Falabella Horse Life Expectancy: 40 years
7. Haflinger Horse (or Avelignese)
The Haflinger horse originates from Austria and northern Italy in the Hafling region. They’re also called Avelignese, which is the Italian word for Hafling.
In ancient times, they were bred for touring the mountain ranges in that area. Haflingers are always chestnut color ranging from a golden chestnut to lighter gold color.
Their manes and tails are white or pale yellowish gray. They’re known for their easy rhythmic gait, wonderful personality, and good-natured temperament.
Weight: 800 to 1300 pounds
Height: 13.3 to 15 hands
Body: Compact, strong with large eyes, well-formed neck, and large head
Best for: Families, great for kids and beginning riders. Good for pulling carts.
Haflinger Horse Life Expectancy: 40 years
8. Gypsy Vanner Horse
Originally from Ireland, this small horse was bred over 500 years ago to pull Gypsy caravans. The first Gypsy Vanner horse came to North American in 1996.
Gypsy Vanner horses come in a variety of colors and can be pinto or have a splash pattern which is white markings with well-defined edges as if the horse had been dipped in white paint.
They’re easy-going, friendly horses often used as therapy horses due to their unflappable personality.
Weight: 1100 to 1700 pounds
Height: 14 to 15 hands
Body: Beautiful, feathery looking long hair on their legs, robust body, flowing mane, and tail
Best for: Family horse, good for therapy riding
Gypsy Vanner Horse Life Expectancy: 20 to 25 years
9. Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse
Bred in Kentucky as an all-around horse, this small horse will be your best friend. Their ancestors come from the sure-footed horse called a Narragansett Pacer.
The Narragansett Pacer was brought to the Appalachian Mountains during the 18th century. Farmers used these horses for riding long distances over rough terrain.
Their gentle personality makes them easy for kids to handle and ride. They’re great on rough terrain or rugged trails.
Weight: 950 to 1200 pounds
Height: 11 to 14.2 hands
Body type: Medium, muscular build; arched neck; flat facial profile; deep chest with an arched neck
Best for: General or pleasure riding, working, and endurance
Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Life Expectancy: 25 to 30 years
10. Pony of American (POA)
This small horse breed was first developed in Iowa by an Appaloosa/Arabian/Shetland cross. These bloodlines produced a beautiful pony with distinct spotted markings.
The spot patterns can be leopard-like and they have a mottled look round their muzzle. Their colorings are brown spots on a white body or blackish spots on a white body.
These sure-footed small horses have a smooth gait. They are in between a small pony and horse, making them good riding horses for adults who want a shorter horse.
Weight: 900 to 1100 pounds
Height: 11 to 13 hands or 44 to 52 inches
Body type: Taller than most pony breeds, broad shoulders with a barrel body
Best for: Great lesson horse for beginning riders, foxhunting, and trail horses
Pony of American Life Expectancy: 25 to 30 years
11. Welsh Pony
As their name suggests, the Welsh pony originated in Wales as early as the Middle Ages. Welsh ponies were used as working horses on farms, calvary horses, and pit ponies.
Pit ponies were mining ponies used in underground mines during the 18th to the 20 centuries. The Welsh pony was recognized in the United States in 1907.
Their popularity fell during the Great Depression but was revived again in the 1950s when they began to be used for small farms, riding, and shows.
Today the Welsh pony is used for competitions in jumping, driving, and show. They’re also used for pleasure riding and trail riding.
Welsh ponies are solid colors of black, gray, bay, or chestnut. Some are palominos described as creamy white, buckskin, or smoky black color.
They have oriental-type heads, an ancient characteristic inherited from the Arabian horse or old.
Oriental horses are called “hot-blooded” because of their athleticism, intelligence and learn quickly. They’re flashy competitors and trotters.
Weight: 500 pounds
Height: 11 to 14.2 hands
Body type: Compact body with girth often called, “Welsh breakfast” for its size. Sloping shoulders, arched neck, strong legs.
Best for: Western pleasure riding horses, show horses
Welsh Pony Life Expectancy: 35 years
12. American Quarter Pony
This breed is often used for young riders to transition from a pony to a small horse.
They are built like their namesake, the American Quarter horse, making them a popular Western show horse.
Originally, these small horses were developed from horses that didn’t meet the American Quarter Horse Association’s standards for height.
Many of these horses had unknown breeding, but they were still used for this purpose.
In 1975, the American Quarter Pony Association was started to preserve the stockier types of Quarter horses that were smaller.
They are a good all-around pony with a quiet temperament. Early colors were solid, but today they’re pinto patterns, Appaloosa patterns, or painted patterns.
Weight: 800 to 900 pounds
Height: 11.2 to 14 hands or 46 to 58 inches
Body type: Sloping shoulders, broad-chested, and hindquarters. They have wide eyes on a board head and small ears.
Best for: Riding, driving, equestrian sports
American Quarter Pont Life Expectancy: 25 to 35 years
13. Norwegian Fjord Horse
The Fjord Horse has a history that dates back 4000 years. There are many stories of them being used by the ancient Vikings for a variety of tasks.
The vast majority of Fjord horses are brown in color. They are very versatile horses and have been referred to as a “Jack of All Trades.”
Weight: 800 to 1200 pounds
Height: 13 to 14 hands tall or 52 to 56 inches
Body type: They have powerful legs, a short body, a medium-sized head, large eyes, and rather small ears.
Best for: Light farm work, pulling buggies, jumping, pleasure riding
Norwegian Fjord Horse Life Expectancy: Normally about 30 years
What is the Smallest Horse Breed in the World?
Many people recognize the Falabella Miniature Horse as the smallest horse breed in the world. They only stand about 25 to 30 inches tall!
Small horses are so much more than cute little horses. They’re strong, robust animals with a rich history working on farms, mines, serving as war horses and cavalry horses.
Small horses also play the role of therapy animals in a unique and effective way for many people.
These good-natured equines adapt to any situation. It’s no wonder small horses are so popular with people of all ages and a great alternative to full-size horses.