California Riding Magazine • March, 2014

The Miniature Horses of
Painted H Ranch
Breed's versatility gives these horses a unique place in the horse world.

Owner Operators of PHR Aimee Holliday and boyfriend Dustin Davis.
Photo: Arare Photography / Kelly Campbell.

Aimee Holliday breeds Miniature Horses primarily to produce her next in a long history of show ring stars. Fellow enthusiasts have benefited greatly from her high standards for conformation, athleticism and performance because she occasionally has to let a few of her horses go. Whether the new owners plan to enjoy their Minis in the show ring or as pets, they are assured an animal of top quality that will be a pleasure to train, work and play with.

Aimee inherited her love of horses from her late father. She grew up riding full-size steeds, primarily in the hunter/jumper discipline, and became intrigued by Minis after attending her first breed show in the early 1990s. By 1996, she had a Mini of her own, Shamrocks Irish Rose, who now enjoys a life of retirement at the 56-acre Painted H Ranch in Chino Hills. Since then, Aimee's interest has grown into a thriving breeding program that has produced many winners and, at present, counts 30-plus horses in the program.

California Riding Magazine editor Kim F. Miller had an enjoyable chat with Aimee to find out more about this adorable and accomplished breed.

(left to right) WF Zeus Phoenix - One of our Main Herd sires at PHR. World Reserve Champion Halter & Performance Horse & 2x Nationals Grand Champion Producer; PHR ZP Colossus - Gelding son of WF Zeus Phoenix. National Overall Grand Champion Gelding, Over; PHR ZP Magneto - Colt son of WF Zeus Phoenix Show Grand Champion & PCMHC High Point Champion.
Photo: Visel Photography / April Visel

Riding: Are there miniature versions of specific full-size horse breeds, or are Minis a breed unto themselves?
Some do resemble a Quarter Horse, Arabian or other full-size breeds, but they are a height breed unto themselves. There are two associations that govern the breed: the American Miniature Horse Association limits height of registered horses to 34" and the American Miniature Horse Registry has two categories: under 34" is an "A" and 34'-38" is a "B."
Height is measured a little differently than it is for full-size breeds. The measuring stick is put where the last mane hair ends, rather than at the withers, which is typical for ponies and full-size breeds and is usually a higher point. This has been a big issue with the breed because it can be a little subjective.

Rivenburghs Santana SE. World Champion in Halter, Driving, & Liberty. National Champion Driving& National Reserve Champion Halter. Photo: Arare Photography / Kelly Campbell

Riding: What are some of the breed standards?
The standard of perfection caters to the look similar to an Arabian, but otherwise there is no "correct type" so long as the horse has the conformation to do its job. One thing I love about the world of Miniature Horses is that there's something for every Mini to do. If you are going for halter classes, then you want that Arabian look, but otherwise there is no "type" needed to compete in the other wide array of classes offered at a Miniature Horse show.
Shows have many divisions. Driving, hunter, jumper, showmanship, trail and driving obstacles are a few of them. The newest is a versatility division in which you enter with the horse pulling a cart, then you have two minutes to strip the cart and harness, with the help of a groom, then there's a halter phase and, finally, a hunter class.

Rivenburghs Saltina. Shown competing in hunters.
Multi-National Champion Mare & dam of PHR ZP Colossus.

Riding: Except for driving, the classes are all in-hand, right?
Yes. The handlers are walking or running alongside in a trail or jumping class, and the criteria are usually the same as those used in these classes for full-size horses. In hunters, for example, it's the horse's way of going and form over fences and there are some strict rules. For example, you have to choose whether the horse will take the course at the trot or canter. If you've chosen trot, as most do, but your horse canters a few strides on landing, you'll be docked points for it. In the jumper classes, it's purely if you clear the fence or not; there are no gait requirements. One association breaks ties with a timed jump-off and for the other, the fences keep getting higher until someone has a rail. The jumps can be raised to 44", so it's pretty impressive to see a 33' or 34' horse jumping a 44" fence.

PHR ZP Colossus at 2012 AMHR National Show competing in halter.

Riding: What can you tell us about the breed's history?
I believe they came from ponies, who were bred together to get smaller and smaller. They first originated to pull carts in mining shafts. They were also bred as a kind of novelty in Europe, often for the children of royalty.
A 34" horse is a little under eight hands. They were not designed to be riding horses, except maybe for a very small child. But they have a ton of pulling capacity—often the weight of two adult men.
As a general rule for showing, smaller is better. The rules in a halter class say that if there are two horses of equal conformation, the smaller horse should win. In the past, the effort to produce smaller and smaller horses has led to characteristics similar to dwarfism in a person. Fortunately, the breed has really gotten away from that in the shift toward a healthier more balanced horse capable of going on to compete in performance classes
In the last five to 10 years, the breed has improved by leaps and bounds. Getting away from that short legged, heavier boned, courser horse for a more elegant, refined, and balanced horse with more leg underneath it that more closely resembles their full sized counterpart. It only makes sense that that horse is the better performer.

PHR Red E to Cha Cha. Yearling filly sired by Rivenburghs Lets Roll Muchacho making her debut in the show ring this year. Photo by Amie Anderson

Riding: What are your priorities in breeding?
Conformation and balance are very important, but athleticism is also very important to me because I enjoy the performance classes. In halter classes, the horse is what it is, but in the performance classes, that's where you can set yourself apart by the training you've done at home.

Rivenburghs Santana SE & Rivenburghs Lets Roll Muchacho - Herd Sires at PHR. Muchacho is a National Champion Halter Horse & Hall of Fame earner and a World Champion Driving & Liberty Horse.Photo: Visel Photography / April Visel

Riding: Do Minis have the same range of temperaments and personalities as full-size breeds?
Aimee: Yes.
They are just a horse in miniature and they need to have the same respect for and from their owners. I sometimes hear people complain that their Mini has become ornery. I ask if they've trained their horse to have good manners, etc., and they say, 'No, he's so cute, I can't bear to tell him 'no'." Minis need to be trained like a full-size horse in that way. Conversely, because of their small size, owners can sometimes be too aggressive with them, and that is unnecessary. Miniatures are a very intelligent and willing breed that, with a little time and patience, understands quickly what is expected of them.

PHR ZP Magneto. Photo: Visel Photography / April Visel

Riding: Are you offended when people refer to Minis as ponies?
No. It happens all the time and they did come from ponies. My only problem with that is if people attach "bad pony" stereotypes to Minis. Minis have a lot of heart and they always try their best for you. They're neat to be around.
Minis have a unique place in the horse world. In addition to being show horses or pets, they are popular in equine-related therapy programs and as a non-threatening introduction to the world of horses for young, timid or physically limited individuals. They can also be great for older horse people who want to maintain rewarding relationships with horses whose size makes them safer to be around.

PHR Muchacho's Mambo #5. Yearling colt sired by Rivenburghs Lets Roll Muchacho making his debut in the show ring this year. Photo: Amie Anderson

Riding: What's the best local source for those who want to find out more about Minis?
The Pacific Coast Miniature Horse Club ( is a great organization. They host monthly shows starting this month, March 15 at Ingalls Park in Norco, through July, which usually attract 100 to 125 horses. It's a great opportunity to see what these horses can do!

WF Zeus Phoenix & Aimee Holliday. Photo: Arare Photography / Kelly Campbell

For more information on the Painted H Miniature Horses, visit, call Aimee Holliday at 951-218-5185 or visit Painted H on Facebook.