The ASPC is the registry that started the American Shetland Pony Club, Inc. and is the main breed registry of the organization - the American Shetland Pony. Through the generations, there was a need for classifications within that breed registry to foster greater participation in the show ring and develop the best equine within this diverse breed. These four types are used to determine classes in which a particular American Shetland Pony will compete and each offers a variation in body type while keeping true to the American Shetland breed and conformation.

Read More about Classic, Modern, Foundation and
Modern Pleasure American Shetlands...

As published in the Dec 1996 issue of The Journal

1996 marks the 25th anniversary of the American Miniature Horse Registry, the oldest registry and sanctioning body for Miniature Horses in the United States. To help mark the occasion, The Journal is pleased to offer this historical overview of the registry and the Miniature Horse.

The AMHR was created in 1971 to sanction, register and promote the most diminutive animals in the equine industry. However, that was only the "official" birth of the American Miniature Horse. Miniatures had existed in Europe, South America and even in the Unites States for many, many years prior to the official organization of a registry.

Legend concerning the origin of the Miniature Horse varies. In 1888, the American Shetland Pony Club was formed to register, promote and give credibility to the Shetland Pony in the United States. In the early years, many Shetlands were much smaller than their modern-day cousins. The very first volume of the ASPC Shetland Stud Book offered information on animal height as well as pedigree. The average height of the ponies covered in that first Stud Book was only 40.07 inches. Approximately 25 percent were 38" or under; 36 of the ponies were between 28 and 34 inches. Translated, many of the early Shetlands would meet Miniature height requirements today. In fact, the premium list for the 1948 Shetland Congress included classes for mature stallions and mares under 38". Many of these ponies may well have been bred down and then have given rise to some of the "unknown" sires and dams listed on many of the foundation Miniatures first registered in the AMHR.

Some influence for Miniatures undoubtedly came from outside the United States. Many breeders who helped create the Miniature Horse breed as it is known today imported "midget ponies" from Europe, especially England and Holland. Like Shetlands, European "minis" were often play things for royal children or pit ponies in the coal mines.

Undoubtedly, some credit may also lie with the Falabella Ranches in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in South America. This ranch, dedicated to breeding down Miniatures from larger horses, was founded in the mid-1840s by the Falabella family. Some farms now proudly boast of pedigrees that include Falabella stock.

While Falabella undoubtedly contributed to the Miniature Horse breed, it may not have been responsible for the most diminutive of the breed's members. In 1967, the Falabella Ranch boasted of having the smallest horse in the world at 24". At the same time, however, one of this country's earliest small horse enthusiasts, Smith McCoy, had a 20" animal he often referred to as a "midget pony".

As the Shetland boom of mid-century began to wane, more and more of those interested in small equine began to pursue "miniature ponies". Here is a partial list of some of those early Miniature breeders: Russell Jackson, C.M. Bond, Delmar Moody, Billy Howell, Jean Hatch, Robert Stout, Audrey Barrett, Ray Lee & Ruby Lee, Vern Benna, Allen Goforth, J.C. Williams, Earl Soat, Smith McCoy, William Dalton, Alton Freeman and N.A. Williams. While this list is by no mean complete, it does cover some breeders who did a great deal to lay the groundwork for the Miniature Horse as a breed.

In 1971, a group of Miniature breeders approached the American Shetland Pony Club to request that the ASPC open up a registry division for the Miniature. Then ASPC President Bob Huston and former assocation Executive Secretary Brut Zuege met with that group to discuss the feasibility of starting such a registry.

At this meeting at the ASPC office in West Lafayette, Indiana, the American Miniature Horse Registry was born. A committee was established from among those early Miniature enthusiasts to formulate the rules and regulations fo the new registry.

Of note, this committee set both the name of the new division and the height requirement of the horses to be registered in it. According to writings by Bob Huston, both decisions were somewhat arbitrary. Although up to that time the diminutive animals under discussion had been referred to as "Miniature Ponies", a poll among the original committee set the name Miniature Horse; a majority of those polled simply didn't want to use the term pony. This may have been done in part to distance the new division as separate from the Shetland registry.

Also, the height of 34" at the last hair of the mane was basically chosen based on a poll among the early organizers. Why? This height requirement allowed for the inclusion of most of the committee member's horses. According to Huston's writings, "it could just as well been set at 35" at the withers."

In December 1971, The Pony Journal announced the creation of the American Miniature Horse Registry and Stud Book. As then defined, the AMHR was established "to encourage the perpetuation and improvement of the American Miniature Horse by providing and preserving an accurate and concise record of births, pedigrees and ownership."

As it remains today, the early structure of the AMHR was, as defined in The Pony Journal, that the "American Miniature Horse Registry and Stud Book shall be operated and maintained by the American Shetland Pony Club". It was also set up that "the American Miniature Horse Registry and Stud Book, and all other records and documents pertaining thereto, shall be the sole property of the American Shetland Pony Club. Furthermore, operation of said registry and stud book whall be governed by rules and regulations enacted by the American Shetland Pony Club's Board of Directors". Miniature enthusiasts were encouraged to become members of the ASPC as it was the parent organization of the AMHR.

Of course, support by the ASPC board of directors was paramount to the creation of such a registry. Perhaps sensing the potential of this registry, the board agreed. 

Many of the rules and regulations for the AMHR and Miniatures came from the first AMHR committee. This group was established in the early actions to review the existing rules governing the AMHR and Stud Book and to make recommendations pertaining to the registry. Alton Freeman of Spruce Pine, NC, was the first AMHR committee chair.

The term American Miniature Horse was also defined in the early rules set by the first AMHR committee. In rules that appeared in The Pony Journal, "The American Miniature Horse shall be, as the name implies, an unusually small equine, not exceeding 34" (inches) in height at maturity. It shall be perfect in form and normal in function, with head, body and legs presenting a pleasing, well-proportioned appearance." In this same early definition, breeders were discouraged from registering and using for breeding purposes "any animal that possesses characteristics of a dwarf." It was also in these first definitions that allowances for temporary and permanent registrations were made.

At its beginning, the AMHR allowed for a period of "open" registration to establish the foundation stock of the registry. Any animal meeting the height and general description requirements could be registered. This period ran for two years, from January 1, 1972, to December 31, 1973. The first horse was registered in the AMHR in January 1972 by Russell jackson of Owensburg, Indiana, #001P Mini Pony Tony.

All foundation stock had to be foaled before December 31, 1971. Following the closing of the registry on December 31, 1973, the only animals eligible for registration were those produced by crosses of registered stock.

Of note, some consider the two-year open registration period as too brief. Some believe that this brevity, which meant other imported stock could not be registered with AMHR, led to the creation of subsequent Miniature Horse registries. According to Huston, the 1973 close date was, however, the proposal of the early AMHR committee. Huston and others argued that two years might not be long enough to allow for enough foundation animals to make the registry viable. At the annual meeting in 1972, however, despite arguments to the contrary, it was voted to close the registry at the end of 1973.

Later, as others tried to register animals but couldn't, new registries were started. First came the International Miniature Horse Registry established around 1977 on the west coast. In 1978, the American Miniature Horse Association was created in Texas. Other followed. in Huston's words, "it seemed as though every time someone didn't like what was happening, or there was a clash of personalities, another registry was formed." Eventually, however, most of these registries folded or were absorbed by AMHA.

During the early years as registries were established and sought to achieve a dominant market position, of course, there were attempts from some to buy out the AMHR. Also, there were a variety of legal actions taken or threatened against the ASPC over its Miniature registry. However, the AMHR stayed its course and now enjoys a healthy and growing market share.

The earliest activities for Miniatures began shortly after the AMHR was created. Mrs. Ruby Williams was the first Miniature correspondent for ASPC's publication then known as the Shetland Pony Journal. The first sale was held in late summer or early fall of 1972. The first show was held in conjuction with the second sale at the same time of year in 1973.

Over the years, the registry continued to grow, although early growth was slow. Eventually, "hardship" registrations were created to allow Miniatures registered with AMHA to become part of the AMHR Stud Book, adding even more horses to the AMHR registry. By the early 1980's a network of shows began to exist. By the mid 1980s there were more shows and more profound growth.

This growth may ultimately have let to addition of the "B" Division for the Miniature Horse. At the 1986 ASPC convention in Williamsburg, Virginia, the "B" division was added for horses 34" to 38". Although this opportunity for larger animals led to immediate legal threats and maneuvering by other miniature organizations, the "B" division was widely embraced by the AMHR.

Some of those initially supportive of a division to support larger animals included Bob Huston, Sister Mary Benadette Muller, Billy Howell, Geaorge Hart and Jean Hatch. According to Jean Hatch, "some breeders found they were getting dwarfs. The gene pool was so small, and as ancestors were not known, there was inbreeding. New blood was needed. Small mares were having trouble foaling. Some breeders were coming up with excellent animals that were over 34", and without the B registry, they would [have been] almost valueless. So, [the B Division] came about by popular demand".

Hatch also indicated that a group of people looking to start indoor Miniature Horse racing with mchanical riders were also interested in the B Registry for larger animals. The preferred size for this group was 36" to 38". 

Sister Mary Bernadette of Monestary Miniature in Brenham, Texas, was also a strong supporter of the B Division. In a letter of suport she wrote following the death of Bob Huston. Sister Bernadette said such a registry would allow for the horses that sometimes get too big. She also felt that the larger horses made better driving animals and should, therefore, be legitimized.

The first Miniature registered in the B Division was Tinkerville Hobby, a 37.5" red chestnut stallion owned by Jean Hatch. The horse was registered on December 22, 1986.

Since the late 80s, the AMHR has experienced growth while the Miniature Horse has experienced ever-growing popularity. Currently a network of AMHR shows exists across the country. Awards abound such as National All-Star awards and Hall of Fame recognition. There are special youth honors and recognition for top breeders. A network of local clubs also exists. It is often these affiliated clubs that sponsor many shows and local programs and awards.

Over the past five years, AMHR's National Show has shown steady growth and improvement. The 1996 version held September 5-9 in Columbia, Missouri, was the largest and most successful yet.

Through new marketing strategies by the ASPC/AMHR, our Miniature registry will undoubtedly continue to grow for some time. One asset for the AMHR is its open and friendly acceptance of new Miniature enthusiasts and its support of amateur, youth and localized activities.

In the long run, the AMHR's position as part of the ASPC may also be one of its strengths. Every breed from Quarter Horses to Arabians to Shetland Ponies has gone through cyclical fluctuations. By being part of an organization that represents four basic division and operates more than one registry (Modern, Classic, Miniature Horse and American Show Pony), each group is somewhat more protected from downward fluctuations in their breed cycle as the broader organization allows for more financial security.

However, given the growing enthusiasm over the Miniature Horse and the AMHR, the picture for both the breed and its registry is quite rosy. Memberships are increasing every year. New shows and clubs abound. Members of other organizations are defecting and moving to the AMHR as its good reputation spreads. The National Show continues to grow at impressive rates.

All in all, it has been an extremely successful first 25 years for the American Miniature Horse Registry. Here's to an equally successful second 25 years!

Credits and Resources: Special thanks to Jean Hatch and Larry Parnell. American Shetland Pony Journal - June 1948, Dec. 1971, Aug. 1972, June 1973; American Shetland Pony Club Stud Book - Volume 1; Eastern Miniature, pp.9-11, July 1991, "From the Archives...Pedigrees" by Carolyn Miller; The Pony Journal, January 1984, p. 36, "Heights of Early Shetland Ponies" by Frank H. Smith; The Pony Journal - Jul/Aug 1987, May/Jun 1988, Sept/Oct 1988, Nov/Dec 1988, May/Jun 1989 and Jul/Aug 1989. Welch daily News, June 24, 1964 p.q "Smallest Ponies in World Bred in McDowell County."



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