small horse breeds

10 Of The Smallest Horse Breeds

Small colured horse tacke up ready to ride

Have you always dreamed of owning a horse but don’t have the space? Have no fear, small horse breeds are here to fulfil all your horse dream needs.

In this article, we’re looking at the top ten small horse breeds along with everything you need to know about where they come from and what makes them so special.

So grab your riding crops and let’s get into it.

An Introduction to Small Horse Breeds

Smaller horses offer some of the most unique characteristics and personalities in the world. While small, they are often very hard-working, intelligent, and gentle.

To be considered small, the horse breed should stand between 50.8 and 114.8 cm (8.5 to 14.25 hands). Some horses may be slightly taller, but this is the general guideline for miniature horses.

Some smaller horses may be labelled as “ponies” like the Welsh Pony and Shetland Pony, but due to their stature and characteristics, they are still considered a small horse breed.

10 Smallest Horse Breeds in the World

Let’s get into the top ten compact horses from across the globe.

1. Miniature Horses

Does the thought of miniature horses fill your dreams? A compact companion with all the characteristics of a full-sized horse, but in mini form?

Luckily, these mighty miniatures have been around since the 1600s, originating in Europe. While miniature horses might be a dream for most horse lovers they were originally bred for labour work like mining where their compact size came in handy.

If the size aspect wasn’t enough of a sales pitch, miniature horses are known to live very long lives (20-35 years), often longer than larger horses. Plus, they come in just about every colour you could imagine.

Known for their caring and gentle nature, miniature horses are the true definition of a companion.

Minature horse


  • Size: 86 – 96.5 cm (8.5 to 9.5 hands)

  • Colours: Black, white, palomino, bay, and chocolate

  • Physical traits: A small muscular build with similar proportions to larger horses

  • Temperament: Calm, friendly, and gentle

Uses and popularity

Miniature Horses are not suitable for riding, so if you want a horse to ride off into the sunset with, this isn’t it. However, if you want a gentle-natured companion then a Miniature Horse is the right fit.

This breed is often used as service animals and is extremely popular with those that might be allergic to other common pets.

The Miniature Horse often competes in events like showing and jumping without riders. The trainability aspect comes in handy here.

2. Shetland Ponies

These tiny horses developed in the Shetland Isles about 4,000 years ago. Shetland Ponies are one of the most powerful breeds in comparison to their size. They are known to pull upwards of double their weight.

The exact origin of the breed is debatable, but it’s believed they were bred from the extinct Mountain Pony of Europe and the Tundra Pony of Siberia. They then crossed over from Scandinavia where they made their way to the Shetland Isles.

Today they are one of the most popular pony breeds in Europe for driving and more recently as companion animals. They are generally very friendly and their sturdy nature lends itself to the breed’s popularity in therapeutic riding programs.

If you want a miniature breed with a magnificent mane and tail, you won’t be disappointed with a Shetland Pony. The tails and manes of this breed could turn even the highest-paid hair models green with envy.


  • Size: 71 – 106.7 cm (7 to 10.5 hands – American Shetlands up to 11.5 hands)

  • Colours: All colours (black, grey, white, chestnut, brown etc) except Appaloosa-like spotting

  • Physical traits: A broad head, compact body, short legs, and thick neck

  • Temperament: Witty, caring, smart, and courageous

Uses and popularity

The Shetland Pony is one of the most perfect starter pony breeds for children. Their stocky nature is great for getting little ones used to the ins and outs of riding.

A Shetland Pony for pulling buggies, ploughs, and carts is not unheard of. So, a little rider is nothing for this small but strong breed.

Shetland pony

3. Welsh Ponies and Cobs

If you’re looking for small breeds that have been through the wringer and made it out on top, look no further than Welsh Ponies and Cobs.

These strong and sturdy breeds survived in the mountains of Wales with nothing more than cold climates and half-frozen grass pastures. Welsh Ponies and Cobs were bred to withstand some of the harshest climates.

It’s believed they are a cross of hackney bloodlines and Arabian thoroughbreds, meaning they’re gorgeous to look at while being one of the strongest small horses.

I know, strong and good-looking, it’s not very fair.

Both breeds have broad chests, powerful hindquarters, and short necks, making them perfect for working farms and transportation. Their exquisite resilience and strength made them popular in the US, where they are still popular today for showing.

To top it off, both Welsh Ponies and Cobs have a very gentle nature that is caring to humans and other animals.


  • Size: 121.9 – 152.4 cm (12 to 15 hands)

  • Colours: black, grey, chestnut, roan, cream, brown, palomino, and bay

  • Physical traits: Deep chest, compact body, expressive eyes, strong build, and short legs

  • Temperament: Smart, caring, trustworthy, and sociable

Uses and popularity

Originally, Welsh Ponies and Cobs were used for mining, farming, and military work due to their strength and stature.

Today, the breeds are far better off as fantastic starter ponies for new and experienced young riders. They also make for fantastic trekking and dressage partners.

The calm and friendly nature makes these two breeds very popular service animals, often making an appearance at treatment centres for those with disabilities.

4. Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horses originated in… you guessed it… Iceland! These small beauties are well known for their unique gaits and charming personalities. Not to mention they’re as hardy as the ice they’re used to running on.

There are different types of Icelandic Horses, some are smaller and more stocky and others are larger with longer legs. But one thing that unites all Icelandic Horses is their gorgeous thick manes and tails that come in a variety of colours.

The thick coats of the Icelandic Horse are built for harsh weather, but our favourite part is that they look like a cute blend of fluffy cow and pony. But don’t let the sweet temperament of this breed fool you, they are built tough and are capable of running long distances.

One of the more unique characteristics of the Icelandic Horse is that they can perform a four-beat gait called a tölt.  See them performing it in the video below.


  • Size: 132 – 142 cm (13 to 14 hands)

  • Colours: Variety of colours including pinto, roan, chestnut, bay, black, and grey.

  • Physical traits: Stout, broader shoulders, muscular legs, and a deep chest

  • Temperament: Friendly, inquisitive, stubborn, and intelligent

Uses and popularity

Icelandic Horses are popular for riding long distances in cold weather. They are also used by many farmers for animal flocks as they make fantastic sheepherders.

Unfortunately, the Icelandic Horse is also sometimes bred for its meat.

5. Fjord Horse

The Norwegian Fjord Horse is a strong and small breed that originated in Norway over 4,000 years ago. This makes the breed one of the purest in the world, meaning strong genetics and a long lineage.

This breed has a unique appearance with a short wide head, muscular body, and broad neck. Plus, with a full gorgeous mane, the Fjord Horse is a bubbly thick-haired beauty. They come in a variety of colours, but the most common is dun, and they often feature unique markings on the body.

Fjord Horses have a very gentle temperament that makes them popular in training situations. These smaller horses also love getting to know their humans so get ready for some long rides while building an unbreakable bond of trust.

The Fjord Horse is very steady – they remain calm under pressure – so they’re the perfect choice for therapy animals.

One of our best horses in the riding school is a Fjord, called Regean. We don’t know what we’d do without him to be honest. He can Jump, do dressage, teach nervous kids and even take advanced adults. If you are looking for a great all round family horse, look no further than the Norwegian Fjord.

Norwegian fjord horse tacked up at Strathorn

Regean, our amazing Norwegian Fjord


  • Size: 134 – 152.4 cm (13.2 – 15 hands)

  • Colours: A variety, the most common are different dun variations

  • Physical traits: A muscular, compact body with a strong, arched neck, sturdy legs, flat forehead, small ears, large eyes, and erect mane.

  • Temperament: Courageous, kind, and steadfast

Uses and popularity

Fjord Horses are used in the agricultural industry for farm work. They are also used for carriage rides for tourists in Norway.

They are great with children and are often used in riding school programs that work with the handicapped.

6. Yonaguni Horse

Known as the Yonaguni Uma, the Yonaguni Horse is an ancient breed that is native to Japan’s Yonaguni Island. It has a short strong neck, straight back, and overall sturdy build for a smaller horse breed.

The Yonaguni Horse is a rare breed with around only 100 left in the world. Originally bred for agricultural purposes, the small Yonaguni Horse is now mainly obtained for its rarity and breeding.

This breed is very easy to handle, making them one of the most incredible companions for young children. The Yonaguni Horse lives to please and has the patience and intellect required to be an all-around incredible riding partner.

Conservation efforts are being made to keep the breed going. So, if you want to see a Yonaguni Horse up close, a trip to Yonaguni Island is needed!

Yonaguni horse

There are only around 100 yonaguni horses left in the world. Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons


  • Size: 116.8 – 119.3 cm (11.5 – 11.75 hands)

  • Colours: Cremello, bay, roan, brown, and tan

  • Physical traits: Sloping back with a large head and short neck

  • Temperament: Kind, caring, and gentle

Uses and popularity

The Yonaguni Horse is mainly used for riding by children and women in Japan. The horse is gaining popularity as more of the world learns of the conservation efforts to keep the breed thriving.

7. Guoxia

Originally from the Guoxia region of China’s Xinjiang province, the Guoxia is a very rare pony breed native to China.

The name Guoxia translates to “under fruit tree horse”. It gets the name because the breed was commonly used for carrying fruit baskets around farms. It was long thought to be extinct and was only rediscovered in 1981.

This sturdy horse is endangered and conservation efforts are being made to ensure we can enjoy watching this gorgeous breed continue to thrive for years to come.

If you want to see a steadfast and dedicated little horse breed, you can’t do much better than the Guoxia. They live to make their human companions happy and thrive in environments where running and endurance are needed.

Guoxia horse

Guoxia horse. Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons


  • Size: Up to 101 cm (10 hands)

  • Colours: Bay, roan, and grey

  • Physical traits: Straight back, small head, small ears, and short neck

  • Temperament: Hardworking, quiet, kind, and friendly

Uses and popularity

Traditionally, the Guoxia transported fruit through orchards in baskets. Today they are popular in petting zoos in China where children can learn to ride.

8. Noma

Originally from Japan, the Noma is an endangered mini horse breed that is a once-in-a-lifetime find. They are considered one of the rarest in the world, so prepare to travel to see one first hand.

The Noma Pony is the smallest native horse breed in Japan, but don’t let these tiny horses fool you, this breed is strong. In fact, the Noma was used throughout the Second World War as a pack animal.

While the Noma is exceptionally rare, there are efforts underway to keep the breed thriving.

Noma Horse

Noma horse. Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons


  • Size: 109 – 139.7 cm (some discrepancy here between sources)

  • Colours: Brown, bay, and chestnut

  • Physical traits: Thin legs, strong hooves, cylindrical body shape with oblique buttocks

  • Temperament: Aims to please, calm, and hard working

Uses and popularity

The Noma Pony isn’t very popular because not many people know that it exists. That’s why conservation efforts are so important.

This small breed can still be found in some zoos around Japan where those that do know about the Noma Pony travel from far and wide to see one up close.

9. Haflinger

The Haflinger is a small horse breed from Italy and South Tyrol in Austria, believed to have originated in the late 1800s. The breed is accustomed to the thin mountain air, so its lung capacity is at an all-time high.

The Haflinger’s compact size coupled with its friendly and caring nature makes it a popular breed for children learning to ride.

Additionally, the Haflinger has a very distinctive golden chestnut colour. The short broad head and thick tail also add to the beauty of this golden wonder.

This breed has a very gentle nature that makes them the perfect partner for dressage, jumping, and trail riding. They also thrive when pushed in the endurance department so riders shouldn’t be nervous to let go and feel the full force of the Haflinger.

Side note, if you’re after speed, learn how fast a horse can run.


  • Size: 142 – 144.8 cm (13.2 to 15 hands)

  • Colours: cream, white, and chestnut

  • Physical traits: Stocky, short, and strong legs

  • Temperament: Loving and gentle

Uses and popularity

The Haflinger is a great stock animal because of its strong stature. But today it is more popular for showing, dressage, driving and jumping events.

10. Falabella Horse

Native to Argentina, the Falabella Horse is one of the most compact breeds in the world. Originally bred in the mid-19th century by the Falabella family, this breed is a mix of Criollo horses, small Thoroughbreds, and Shetland Ponies.

The aim was to create a horse that was strong, agile, and easy to work with while keeping it small. This created the Falabella Horse — a perfect combination of all these desired horse traits.

Although they are small horses, Falabellas are capable of jumping, driving, and riding, and often appear in shows. They’re also great around kids because of their calm and inviting temperament.

The Falabella Horse is rare, with only a few thousand in the world, so conservation efforts are doing all they can to keep the breed’s bloodline going.



  • Size: 63.5 – 86.4 cm (6.25 to 8.5 hands)

  • Colours: Variety, commonly black and spot colours.

  • Physical traits: Small structure, large head, and sleek coat

  • Temperament: Docile and calm

Uses and popularity

The Falabella Horse is often used as a companion and service animal. They’re also small enough for indoor living, making them perfect guide animals.


What is the smallest horse ever?

A dwarf miniature horse named Thumbelina weighed 26 kg and stood 43 cm tall.

What is the smallest “full-sized” horse breed?

The Falabella is considered the perfectly proportioned small horse breed. It has a small stature with all the right proportions.

What is the smallest horse breed you can ride?

Many of the horses on this list can be ridden, as small doesn’t mean unrideable. But still, make sure that you are not too heavy before you climb on a small horse.

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