The miniature Horse Haven

by Ann van Engelen

Mini Ha Ha Horse Haven is a rescue and rehabilitation centre run by Jennifer and Lindsay Heperi for mini horses from across New Zealand, specialising in rehabilitating laminitis and grass-affected miniature horses.

“We care for minis, Shetlands and small ponies. We have two donkeys at present amongst our family of 21 fur kids,” says Jen.

“We came about creating The Haven after being asked to help some wee minis that needed care. The owners didn’t realise that they are different to big horses and we learnt about laminitis when we took in a rescue mare with a one-day-old foal and it was a big learning curve.

Jenny Patterson from Calm Healthy Horses is Jen’s mentor. “Jenny has taught me so much and supports us with her amazing nutritional products.

We also have regular volunteers including a home schooling family, and a photographer.

“Five years down the track we have a special feeding programme.

Some horses arrive and can hardly walk. Laminitis is like walking on crushed glass.

“Laminitis is especially a problem with Canterbury’s fast growing rye and clover grass. These are high in potassium and sugars and so are muesli and commercial feeds. Many owners don’t add salt and this can contribute to a laminitis attack when lush green grass is added into the mix. This can make a horse become grass affected.”

Jen says minis are often labelled little brats and are known for behavior problems due to being treated like large dogs.

“This gives a completely wrong impression of how awesome they are. If you don’t understand about potassium and sugars in the grasses, and metabolic syndrome, you are quietly killing them.” 

Horses get Equine Metabolic Syndrome if they are fed mostly grass.

Warning signs include a big thick hard cresty neck and fat lump pads on their body. “Signs of a grass affected horse include twitching and not standing nicely when you put the bridle and gear on.”

The couple built three ‘paradise tracks’, special yards with untreated post peelings so the animals walk on a soft surface, carpeted shelter huts, and they have macrocarpas to get shade.

“We have rehabilitated more than 30 laminitics in three years. They get their feet soaked in epsom salts and are given magnetic pulse blanket treatments. The nutritional programme involves adding salt, Grazezy, S.O.S and Premium Minerals, and hay is soaked and has no clover or rye in it.

They start on the painkiller Bute, and then are weaned onto a natural pain remedy made specially by Jill Shires and it takes two to four days to see a slight improvement followed by more improvement each day.

Chronically affected horses take up to five weeks to become comfortable. At two weeks a horse may lightly trot and by week four they can canter again.

“We build up their trust and they have the run of seven acres and come and go as they please.

“Rescuing and retraining is easy. Rehoming is difficult. We are extremely protective and ensure those we do let foster know exactly how to care for them.

“We recently became a charitable trust after five years of funding ourselves with help from many kind folk sponsoring us. Now we can apply for other sponsorship and grants.” The cost to care for one horse is more than $2,500 per year, or $20-25 a week to keep a mini in the lifestyle they deserve.

“We have people nationwide rescuing horses from vulnerable situations. We are known in United States, United Kingdom and Australia with others wanting help. I work full time and we couldn’t achieve what we do without our amazing supporters.

Mini Ha Ha Horse Haven have rehabilitated more
than 30 horses with laminitis in three years

“Our volunteer photographer Tracey Agnew comes and puts every animal’s photograph on our facebook page every Sunday night so people can see how their horse is doing. “Mini horses should always be in pairs, not company for a big horse. They need the dentist to file their teeth because they keep growing and the animal cannot eat. Feet need to be trimmed regularly and they need good quality hay.

“We love giving horses that are in so much pain their life back.

“The biggest reward is seeing them run around the tracks, playing, galloping and chasing. I often cry because we saw them start out crippled. We don’t know what goes on behind the hidden hedges, but quality hay warms their bellies and good shelter keeps them out of the wind and rain. “They are what they eat so therefore they are what we feed them.”

Check out ‘Mini Ha Ha Horse Haven’ on Facebook.