Mini Horse & Donkey - Nutrition, Diet & Health Tips
Nutrition, Diet & Health Tips - Just for Minis
I love minis – horses and donkeys both! I’ve had my mini herd of mares now for over 12 years. My oldest, Annie Rose, arrived in 2011 at age 15 (making her 27 in 2023). Diamond, along with Baby Dazzle, arrived in the summer of 2012 and Bella arrived in 2013 at age 10 with some rotation in both front feet. Her previous owner had foundered her from a poor diet and too many treats.
Because I’m an equine nutritionist, herbalist and supplement manufacturer, I’ve been able to balance my herd’s diet for the senior to foal age range I’ve had. Having a range of ages (and challenges) over the years, I realized a few years ago that we could not just take a horse supplement and try to decide what serving size a mini would need from the scoop a 1,000-pound horse would get.
To better nourish my Earth Song Ranch herd, I worked with Horse Tech to come up with the best mini-size products - formulated just for their unique needs. Note: all of the info below pertains to mini horses and donkeys.
Our “For Minis Only” product line is the result of my quest. We offer a daily vitamin/mineral supplement with pre/probiotics and digestive enzymes called Mini All in One. We also offer Mini Zyme and Mini Zyme Plus for the best immune boosting pre/probiotics and digestive enzymes for their overall immune health. Plus, we added safe herbal and homeopathic wormers, herbal treats and kelp for the micronutrients.
What Should I Feed My Mini Horse/Donkey? Any Other Tips?
We start with the basics - offer the best quality hay you can find along with fresh, clean water and salt. A mixture of soft orchard and Bermuda or a local grass hay like coastal is best for minis - mixed in a slow feeder. I do not recommend feeding alfalfa as it is too rich for minis in hay form, unless fed only by a small hand full. An exception would be feeding some alfalfa pellets that can be more closely controlled.
To balance out the hay, I feed soaked Timothy pellets as a carrier for specific supplements or other additions I use for them - like handfuls of herbs or kelp or digestive supplements. This allows my minis to get a balance of natural occurring nutrients from the variety of hay, plus a little more protein from the Timothy pellets and lower sugar/NSCs to be concerned about. Caution - I do not recommend Teff or Timothy hay for minis as it is harder to digest and one of my minis had an impaction on Teff hay.
In the cold winter months, I use an organic alfalfa pellet to add to their Timothy pellets. For my herd of four, I soak a tumbler (about 1.5 c of Timothy pellets + 1.5 c organic alfalfa pellets), which I divide into four black mini-size feeders (about ¾ c per mini).
To that I add their individual serving of Mini All in One, sometimes depending on the weather I may also add some electrolytes to encourage hydration, or some soaked Speedi Beet (beet pulp) to make sure they are hydrated in winter and summer.
Slow Feeding Tip
I have always fed them using Hay Pillow slow feed hay nets – they have a ground feeder that is sized just for a mini. My horses, and my minis, get ground feeder bags scattered around their turnout pasture (no one has shoes) and hanging bags in their stalls so that they have access to hay all day long. Not one of my minis is overweight from this system. They eat all day long, nibbling as they go, and do not have any issues with hay. In the spring they go out and graze on the grass and weeds. They do not have any weight issues either, except Annie who could weigh a few more pounds as she is 27 and has Cushing’s.
Mini Digestive Health - Sand Colic & Loose Stools
Minis can tend to have tummy troubles from not digesting properly - so using psyllium once per month for 3-5 days if they graze, or are fed on the ground, is recommended. I also make sure they have a daily pre/probiotic, which they get in Mini All in One along with their daily ration of vitamins and minerals. I also keep on hand a pouch of Mini Zyme or Mini Zyme Plus (with serving sizes and guaranteed analysis for just their mini size) if I feel one of them needs a bit of a boost.
Because minis love to graze on any little bit of greenery they can find, they are also prone to sand colic. I had a mini sand colic once, so I focus on prevention! My minis receive a daily amount of Nutra Flax and Nutra Chia, which keeps things flowing through the gut - it makes a sort of jelly so it can move any sand along. Once per month, usually from the 1st to the 5th, I use Sand Trap mixed in their wet bucket feed. So far, in the past 8 years, there has been no more sand colic.
Mini digestive health can be so easily thrown off from any stress, including the use of chemical wormers, vaccines, weather changes and from eating too much of rich spring grass or weeds.
This can also show up in loose stools, cow patties, or even fecal water syndrome. When you use a chemical wormer, it destroys the good bacteria in the gut along with the parasites! When you vaccinate that too affects the gut health! In all of these cases, we suggest that you feed the Mini Zyme Plus two time per day for at least a week to repopulate the gut. In the spring, with its rich grasses and weeds, for sure be feeding Mini Zyme two times per day to help your mini(s) digest and process the spring greens they are not use to. It also prevents gas colic!
Springtime Laminitis Tip
During spring, when the minis are eating green grass and native weeds, I will also give them an evening bucket of soaked pellets with added Mini Zyme to help them properly digest those things, as well as to help prevent sore feet or possible Springtime laminitis.
My minis are not allowed full time access to green grass – instead only maybe an hour per day as they are turned out on a dry lot.
Are Mini Nutritional Needs Different than A Horse's?
Yes. Mini needs are different due to their small size and reduced activity, which makes their nutritional needs also a bit different.
We designed Mini All in One to make it simple for mini owners to address the overall nutritional needs of the mini horse and donkey, as well as give them the balance of pre/probiotics along with specific digestive enzymes to help them absorb the feed stuffs they are being fed. Many benefits in one scoop of All in One!
Mini’s can also get Cushing’s – so feeding them properly and making sure they get supplements like Mini All One can help to prevent the onset. If your mini has Cushing’s we can help with our Sunny’s Kit, but we size it for minis, and we can help you to balance their diet as well. Simply book a Consultation.
If your mini is prone to abscesses, then we know what your mini needs supplement wise and can make recommendations.
Is There A Natural Way to Worm My Mini?
I always recommend doing fecal counts quarterly, for horses or minis, unless you have a closed herd - then you can do fecals twice per year. Find out if you have an issue first before you do anything chemical or otherwise. We do offer a Herbal Mini Wormer sized for them. We also offer a homeopathic called Paratox, which you can put in their water daily as an anti-parasitic to make it even easier.
What Other Preventatives Should I Consider for My Mini?
My minis receive monthly chiropractic care and I also do weekly massage on them. Everyone benefits from better alignment and muscle function and our minis are no different. From running around, rolling and mini play they need their atlas and spine adjusted. If needed, they also get acupuncture.
Minis seem to grow their hooves at a different rate than horses do. My farrier trims at many mini rescues and he sees this faster growth rate too. My herd gets their feet trimmed every 4 to 5 weeks on average – and tend to need more frequent trims in the spring and the late fall.
Minis can also be prone to hoof abscesses if they are not getting proper nutrients, including copper and zinc. Mini hoof care is always one of the most important things to consider as they can also tend to develop mechanical laminitis if their hooves are left to grow too long.
Minis can also tend to have sore feet and/or laminitis episodes more often than horses, which most often is related to diet and lack of certain nutrients - especially copper and zinc. Again we are here to help.
Laminitis and founder in minis is not the death sentence it is in horses. With diet modifications and barefoot trims on a regular basis you can bring a tiny, foundered hoof almost back to normal - giving them a normal life where they can run, trot and play. I know, my Bella came to me foundered and rotated, yet with a careful diet and a wonderful barefoot mini trimmer you would not know she had any rotation at all. She is not lame and runs with the herd!
Dental care is another important element of mini health care. Dental checks need to be done yearly, depending on the mini. Some need it more often than others. One of my minis tends to grow “points” on her back molars that go backwards towards her throat, and she will start to drop a bit of weight when she needs a float. Because minis have teeth sometimes bigger than their mouths can handle there can be crowding and uneven bites/chewing. Be sure to work with your vet to make sure all mini mouths are in good condition.
Favorite Mini Specific Products I Use & Recommend
- Slow Feeders – Mini size Hay Pillow slow feeders (ground and hanging styles). My favorite mesh size is ¾ or 1”.
- Blankets – Performance Horse Blankets for minis
- Halters & Mini Tack - Mini Tack
- Toys - Toys at Mini Tackand Enrichment & Toys at The Hay Pillow
- Mini News & Info – The American Miniature Horse Association
Further Reading - Published Articles by Earth Song Ranch
- Healthy Gut, Healthy Horse: How Probiotics Help - Equine Wellness Magazine
- Prebiotics, Probiotics & Yeast for Horses, Dogs & Cats - Natural Horse Magazine
- Pro-Biotics: Bugs You Do Want in Your Horse’s Life - Equine Wellness Magazine
- The Zymes - What they Do, What they Contain & Why You Should Use them
- Balancing the Equine Athlete from Within - HorseBack Magazine & The Horse's Hoof
Questions? We're Here to Help
We know choosing the right natural supplement for your horse or mini can seem daunting. Earth Song Ranch is dedicated to educating our customers because we want you to make the best choice for your horse and your unique needs.
You'll find a variety of information in our published articles and archived newsletters here on our site. But sometimes, you just need to talk a situation out. For those times, we offer private phone consultations.
Consultations are available in the following increments.
- 30 minutes - $75
- 60 minutes - $125
Go here to purchase a phone consultation.
Mini Zyme & Mini-Zyme Plus - An Immune Boosting Blend With Colostrum
Mini-Zyme & Mini Zyme Plus - the best immune boosting pre/probiotics and digestive enzymes for your mini's overall immune health. Plus adds Colostrum.
Mini Natural Worming
All natural and non chemical alternatives. Choose from our Mini Herbal Wormer to add to bucket feed or our liquid homeopathic, Paratox, which you can add to drinking water.
This product is amazing. I can't believe the difference in Star after I started feeding it to her.
She was about 31 when I invited her to live with us, very arthritic, kept her head down and didn't move around much -- not anymore. Thank you for this product.
— Chantille C.
"I just want to take a few moments to tell you how much we love your products. I have 2 mini-donkeys who have your Mini vitamins and meadow blend on a daily basis. They both look forward to getting their treats. Thank you for helping me keep those 2 boys healthy and spunky."
- Love, Dolly, Curly and Peanut
"Our miniature horse had some digestive issues and I mentioned the Equine-Zyme Plus to our holistic veterinarian and she said she'd look into the product. She contacted us the next day saying that it looked like a very good product and to get him started on it. We had good results correcting the digestive issues and now the vet is recommending it in her practice."
- Melissa G.
We offer a 15-day return policy on our products. Some exclusions apply. Please see our return policy for details.
About the Author
Jessica Lynn writes articles for various national and international horse publications. She is the owner of Earth Song Ranch, an herbal feed additive, pre/probiotic & herbal supplement manufacturer based in Southern California. As a life-long equestrian and professional animal nutritionist, homeopath, herbalist and animal intuitive, Jessica uses her knowledge to formulate herbal blends, probiotics and digestive enzymes for equine immune health. She has been involved in alternative health care, herbs, homeopathy, osteopathy and nutrition for animals and humans for over 6 decades.