Thursday, June 23, 2005

All about Dwarves

In addition to training Guide Horses for the blind, Janet and I also provide ongoing health care for crippled dwarf horses at our Miniature Horse Rescue.

Most people don’t know that there is a difference between “regular” mini horses and dwarf mini horses. Just like with people, dwarfism in horses is very rare, but the deliberate introduction of dwarf genes by some North American breeders has made equine dwarfism a major issue in miniaturized horses.

Dwarf horses come in two general types, Achondroplastic and Brachiocephalic dwarf horses.

Achondroplastic Dwarfism in Horses

The term “Achondroplastic” (also known as “achondrodystrophic dwarfism”) refers to a horse that possesses a normal-sized torso neck and head with abbreviated leg and ear length. Some horses are like “Weiner” animals, just like the Dachshund is a dwarf dog:

Here we see Twinkie, our 18 year-old dwarf mare. She has a regular-sized torso and head, but her legs and ears are very tiny. Twinkie is one of the smartest and friendliest horses that I’ve ever met. She was the prototype for our Guide Horse program, and she has a remarkable memory.

Brachiocephalic Dwarfism in Horses

The term “Brachiocephalic” refers to anomalies of the head and limbs, and this term is properly applied to this type of equine dwarf. The Brachiocephalic 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.

This is “Dirty Harry”, one of our Brachiocephalic dwarf horses with severe mandible and leg deformities:


Can you see why we call him Dirty Harry?

Some dwarf miniature horses have severe problems with leg and internal organ deformities. This link shows some excellent pictures of severe dwarfs who were not able to survive to adulthood.

However, not all dwarf horses have problems, and this is my daughter with Noel the dog and BB the dwarf:

To learn more about equine dwarfism and the dastardly people who deliberately produce crippled dwarf horses, see Janet’s new book “Helping Hooves”.