The Falabella is the smallest breed of horse in the world, typically standing between 28 to 34 inches tall at the withers. Despite their diminutive size, they possess all the features and proportions of a typical horse.

Falabella horses are incredibly rare and make up a tiny portion of miniature horses registered annually. Only purebred minis that can trace their bloodlines to foundation stock in Argentina are considered Falabellas.

Despite the high demand for Falabellas in North America, the small breeding population contributes to a risk of health problems associated with inbreeding. Like all miniature breeds, Falabellas need nutrition and management programs tailored to their unique size.

This breed profile will discuss the history, characteristics, health problems, and nutritional needs of the Falabella breed. Keep reading to learn more about feeding and caring for Falabella horses.

Falabella Horse History

The Falabella breed originated from a breeding program in Argentina in the 1800s. Since then, Falabellas have spread worldwide and significantly influenced the development of other miniature horse breeds.

Origin

Like other South American horse breeds, Falabellas descend from horses brought to the Western Hemisphere alongside settlers and explorers. Many of these horses had Iberian bloodlines.

Geographically isolated populations of horses in the southern part of the continent developed without outside influence for decades. By the mid-19th century, a significant population of smaller, inbred equines roamed the Pampas plains of Argentina.

Patrick Newtall bred local Criollo horses descending from these animals to create a herd of small but perfectly proportioned miniature horses. By 1879, Newtall transferred his breeding program to his son-in-law, Juan Falabella. [1]

The Falabella ranch continued developing the breed and maintained careful records of these miniature horses for generations before creating a formal breed registry in 1940.

Historic Use

The Falabella family initially developed the breed to achieve a consistent height of under 100 cm (40 inches). Today, most Falabellas are even shorter.

Other small horse breeds were developed to fulfill jobs that required a diminutive stature, such as working as pit ponies. But many of these pony breeding programs compromised conformation quality for size. [2]

Early Falabella breeding programs prioritized maintaining the proportions of full-sized horses. Selection for horses with elegant conformations and small statures made them popular pets and status symbols in their native country.

The first Falabella horses arrived in North America in 1962. Some of these horses crossed with other minis to develop the American Miniature horse. While the breed is found worldwide today, purebred Falabellas are increasingly rare.

Breed Registry

The Falabella Miniature Horses Association (FMHA) is the official breed registry and organization for Falabella horses in North America. Established in 1973, the FMHA maintains purebred Falabella and Falabella blend registries.

Falabellas are also eligible for registration with the American Miniature Horse Association and the American Miniature Horse Registry.

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Breed Characteristics

Through selective breeding, the average height of Falabella horses has decreased over time. But despite their small size, Falabellas maintain conformation similar to full-sized horse breeds.

However, different breeders may produce slightly different types of these mini horses.

Conformation

Most Falabellas measure under 8 hands (32 inches) at their withers. While smaller sizes are more desirable in the breed, a short stature should never come at the cost of correct conformation.

Falabella miniature horses can resemble the type of any full-size horse. Arabian, Quarter Horse, and Thoroughbred type Falabellas are most common in North America. Recent breeding trends have increased refinement for all breed types.

Their bodies are small and compact. While most horse breeds have eighteen vertebrae in their spine, skeletal studies reveal Falabellas have seventeen vertebrae. These horses also have narrow, oval-shaped hooves. [1]

Colours

Bay and black are the most common coat colours in the Falabella breed.

The Falabella family favoured horses with appaloosa colouring, but pint