Miniature Horse Wheelchairs
Some miniature horses suffer from severe joint dystocia (crippled legs) and required special medications and support devices.
One of the Guide Horse Foundations rescue dwarf horses (Harry) is on medication (Adaquine and Bute) and requires special leg support to stay pain-free and mobile.
Harry is being fitted with a special quad wheelchair to allow him the freedom of mobility without placing excessive stress on his deformed joints.
The web site Doggone Wheels has already made successful dual and quad wheelchairs for miniature horses, and the quad device is being created especially for Harry:
It is hoped that this miniature horse wheelchair will reduce Harry's pain and allow him increased mobility and allow his joints to repair.
Harry was sold as a 'unique' tiny little horse 'very small but of show quality' to very novice owners.
Types of miniature dwarf horses
In the opinion of many Veterinarians, all tiny horses possess some of the genetic markers for dwarfism. Equine dwarfism is a relatively rare occurrence in large horses, but it is far more common in miniature horses that have been bred exclusively for small size.
Animal research indicates that there are more than 320 separate and distinct types of dwarfism, each with a unique genetic marker and characteristics.
Unfortunately, many breeders in the horse industry categorize all congenital anomalies as a singular condition of dwarfism but even more worrying is the practice of selling these genetically defect horses as unique very small horses when they know that they are going to have shortened lives and cost their new owners a fortune in vets bills. Some breeders are even giving these poor horses special 'breed' names to make them appear unique and increase their purchase price!
Literally "shortened extremities", some types of equine achondroplastic dwarfism have specific physical characteristics such as short limbs and small ears with a normal head, neck and torso. These deformities do not adversely affect the intelligence or lifespan of the horse.
Literally meaning “twisted limb”, these types of horse dwarfs are characterized by a roached-back with protruding spine, deformed leg bones, cow hocks and leg ligament anomalies.
While diastrophic dysplasia dwarfism are characterized by severe orthopedic deficiencies and a host of other physical problems, the diastrophic dwarf can sometimes be given a quality life with expensive orthopedic surgery, corrective shoes and hoof attachments.
Figure 2 - Bluebell, a Diastrophic dwarf horse with corrective hoof attachments.
Diastrophic dwarfism is especially prevalent in USA breeding programs that attempt to quickly downsize color breeds by deliberately breeding to a dwarf stallion. Below we see examples of this reckless breeding program for miniaturized leopard Appaloosa horses:
Literally meaning “large head”, these types of horse dwarfs are characterized by small size and large domed heads. This type of dwarf may exhibit deformed limbs, severe malocclusion (monkey jaw, an "under bite with the lower teeth protruding), and a mashed-in face, similar to a Pug dog.
The facial issues often require corrective surgery to open-up the nostrils and prevent suffocation.
Dwarf Miniature Horse Health Care
This section is dedicated to miniature horse health care, common problems, their causes, treatments and prevention.
Many brachiocephalic dwarfs suffer from crooked legs and numerous orthopedic malformations. In some cases corrective farrier work can be performed using glued hoof extensions to force the dwarf to stand flat. In other cases, surgery is required to correct leg deformities. These surgeries might include:
Contracted tendons - In some cases a dwarf horse will have a contracted leg tendon causing the hoof to rock backwards. The corrective surgery is simple and costs less than $100.
Locking stifles - This is a condition characterized by a peg-leg movement and failure to flex the patella (knee). The surgery is outpatient and less than $100 with a very high success rate.
Shoulder dysplasia - This is the same condition in dwarf dogs such as the bulldog, and the treatment is similar for the dwarf horse. Periodic shots of Adaquin help to relieve pain, but those with severe rotator cup dislocation may require reconstructive surgery costing over $10,000.
Restricted breathing - Many Brachiocephalic dwarfs have a "mashed-in" look to their faces, often casing restricted breathing. These types of dwarfs can suffocate , especially when getting a cold, other respiratory ailments, or when their permanent teeth grow-in, the rots further constricting their airways. If you can hear your dwarf breathing, it may have an issues with restricted nasal passages. You local horse hospital can perform a procedure to trim-away the excess nasal tissue and prevent suffocation for about $2,500.
Arthritis - Many crippled dwarf horses suffer from painful equine arthritis. The best treatment is periodic shots of Adaquin, a joint-function food supplement (FluidJoint) and corrective Farrior trimming.
Breeding parallels between canine and equine dwarfs
Sadly, some breeders of miniature horses report a typical loss of up to 50% of their foals each year. The foal losses are blamed in dystocia (abnormal placement of the fetus), red-bag deliveries and late-term abortions. We find the same types of birthing problems in dwarf dogs, suggesting that there are parallels in inter-species dwarfism and reproduction.
Dystocia is especially problematic in the dwarf dog breeds, especially the Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Welsh Corgi and Pekinese dog breeds.
Some miniature horse breeders can use the same techniques used by dog breeders to reduce the likelihood of loosing a miniature horse foal. These techniques include the creation of a clean room for field caesarian sections and the stocking of full equine hospital equipment. According to experts, some major miniature horse breeders invest in this equipment while the smaller breeders prefer to send their mares to an equine hospital shortly before foaling time.
The basset hound is another example of brachiocephalic dwarfism. Just like miniature horses, basset hounds physical anomalies make it difficult, if not impossible for them to deliver puppies normally.
The dwarf horse has far more observable anomalies than the achondroplastic dwarf, and this type of dwarfism is far more disabling, primarily because of the severe leg deformities and nasal constriction.
Equine brachiocephalic dwarfism
Like all forms of dwarfism, brachiocephalic dwarfism may range from very mild to life-threatening. According to a long-time breeder, and some of the more severe dwarfs are killed by their breeders at birth because they are embarrassing to their breeding programs. Equine dwarfism photos are published at Horsie Heaven. Common traits of the brachiocephalic dwarf include:
Facial Anomalies – These problems include a bulbous head which gives the face a dished appearance and a flat nasal bridge with constrained passages, similar to the mashed-in face of a Pekinese dog.
Bad legs – These problems include enlarged leg joints, twisted legs and severe fetlock and pastern deviations.
Dental problems – The most common problems include a severe under-bite (monkey jaw), and retained caps, a condition where the baby teeth are retained after the adult teeth have erupted.
Spinal Issues – Common traits include protruding spinal vertebrae, a roached (hunched) back or a very short neck.
Physically, the domed head and the mashed-in look of the nose bridge of the Pug is distinctly similar to those of brachiocephalic dwarf horses. The characteristic “strong jaw” of the bulldog is the exact same trait as the monkey jaw in miniature horses.
It is also noteworthy that all of these dog breeds have reproductive problems associated with dystocia (difficult birth), just like the miniature horse breeds.
Achondroplastic Dog Breeds
In other dog breeds, we see the achondroplastic dwarf trait, most notably in the Dachshund, but also including the Welsh Corgi. The short limbs and tiny ears are a hallmark of this type of dwarfism.
A Brachiocephalic dwarf horse
The dwarf pictured above is a minimal dwarf horse. He has a severe under-bite and a protruding backbone, but has sound legs has the life expectancy or a normal horse.
Again, these traits are mutually exclusive and each trait may vary in severity. The factorial interaction of the 36 genes contributing to equine dwarfism creates thousands of variations on brachiocephalic dwarfism, ranging from a minimal dwarf with sound legs and a short neck, to a grossly-deformed “monster” with nostrils immediately under their eyes.
We also see severe lag deviations in these dwarfs and expensive surgery and farrier care are required to correct the condition. Sadly, it is rumored that some breeders will kill their ponies rather than undertake the high expense of having them them treated.
Miniature Horse Rescue
There are many kind people who adopt and care for the sad discards of irresponsible miniature horse breeders and rescue miniature horses.
A dwarf horse can be very expensive to maintain and dwarf horses can easily cost more than $1,000 per year in Vet care to maintain a quality of life. Several superb miniature horse rescue organizations include:
SaveTheHorses.org - A charity dedicated to helping horses, including miniature horse dwarves. You can sponsor the mini dwarfs and make a difference in their lives. Dickie needs leg surgery and special shoes and needs his piggy bank filled. Can you help?
US Equine Rescue League – USERL is a Non-profit organization which rescues abused, neglected, injured, or abandoned horses, provides them with food shelter and homes.
The Guide Horse Foundation - The GHF accepts refuse dwarfs and cares for them for life, providing orthopedic care, surgery and pain medication.
Many outraged miniature horse owners are lobbying to apply existing animal cruelty laws to sub-standard miniature horse breeders.
Some think that the production and suffering of crippled dwarf horses is a national disgrace.
Severe dwarf miniature horses may live for only a few days, while others may suffer for many years with crippling leg deformities and other serious health problems. Fortunately, some caring people will adopt and attempt to rehabilitate a crippled dwarf horse. Photos of dead dwarf horses are published at the Horsie Heaven web site.
Some of of the things that you can do to prevent animal cruelty include:
Report criminal miniature horse abuse
The actions of some irresponsible miniature horse breeders may be criminal, and animal cruelty statutes suggest that a miniature horse breeder who fails to adequately care for their dwarf horses can be prosecuted under felony animal cruelty statutes in some States. If you discover a dwarf owner who is not providing proper farrier and Veterinary orthopedic care, you can report them to your local police, PETA and ASPCA.
Volunteer your time
Volunteers are needed to rescue and care for crippled and deformed miniature horses. Some miniature horse rescue volunteers are working to monitor miniature horse Internet message boards in an effort to locate and prosecute miniature horse breeders with cruel and reckless breeding practices.
If you suspect a miniature horse breeder of deliberately breeding horses with dwarf characteristics, it can be very hard to prove that they are producing dwarf horses. Many of these breeders may kill their dwarf horse foals at birth, while the greedier breeders quietly sell the dwarfs to carnival sideshows.
According to Andrea Rollins, some miniature horse breeders have a stigma about producing dwarfs and many are killed shortly after being born: "some humanely destroy any dwarf bred on the farm."
Lobby for Federal horse abuse legislation
The reckless creation of dwarf horses is considered by many to be a national disgrace and work is now underway to lobby for Federal legislation to impose severe civil and criminal penalties against miniature horse breeders who fail to provide proper medical and foaling facilities.