I was warned that the two little horses were not very good about getting their hoofs done. Often when people say this, it turns out fine, and sometimes when things don't go well, they say, "He's never acted like this before!" So the best thing to do is to go in with an open mind.
The first little guy was the more dominant stallion. He was cute as a button and listened attentively, peeking at me with impish eyes from beneath his huge Thelwell shock of forelock. He assayed a couple of playful nips, and when I put his forefoot up in front of him on the pillar, he thought this was a handy aid for standing up on his hind legs. In both cases, all I had to do was to say, "Silly boy, we're not playing that game right now!" and he cheerfully altered his behavior.
His cousin, best buddy, and pasture mate behaved differently. He had that slightly Eeyore-ish demeanor of the lower-ranking horse. As I worked on him, he struck at me a couple of times with his mouth, in a manner nothing like his cousin's playful nips. He didn't actually bite, and I don't think even opened his mouth. It reminded me of when Rose tries to convince Bridget that she's going to bite her - she puts on the most intensely peevish face she can muster and snakes her head at Bridget. Bridget is never impressed and either ignores Rose or backs into her in a very bossy-boots kind of way. I spoke sharply when the little stallion struck at me. I probably didn't need to, and perhaps should have dealt with it in a different way, but it felt like the most directly aggressive gesture that any horse I've worked with has ever made. Just like his cousin, the little guy settled down and let me work peacefully. Next time I'll try to connect with him a little better before I start working. I probably invaded his space a bit too forcefully. But I'll also be more vigilant, as I do not want to receive a bite, mini or otherwise!
These two little horses, like many of their kind, are - for the most part - inquisitive, engaging, confident, comical, affectionate, endearing. I wonder if all these positive characteristics are evidence of the way minis are treated. Their diminutive stature makes them so unthreatening that people don't shut them down or react to them with fear. It's not that they don't teach them manners or that they let them get away with murder, but rather that they correct them the way you would your child - gently. When the first little Mr. Stud wanted to nip and rear, my equanimity was not at all disturbed, and I could remain unruffled and friendly while asking him to stop. I was told that when the horse was younger, if his owner turned his back, the horse would try to mount him. The owner would then calmly turn around to face him and hold onto his front feet for a while, which was tiresome for the horse, and so he gave up the bad habit. If a 16:2 hh horse did that, the human's stress and fear levels would almost certainly shoot up, causing them to react unpleasantly. So while the large horse learns to be more constrained and reserved, the minis' exuberance is not dampened in this way.
We just have to figure out how to allow our full-size horses to express themselves freely, without causing us GBH in the process!