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August 07, 2008 | | Comments 0

Gotland Ponies

Gotland Ponies

Discovering the Ancient Gotland Ponies of Sweden

There are a number of pony and horse breeds with ancient histories. Indeed, some breeds belong to bloodlines that are so old that they may even be considered prehistoric. The Gotland Pony breed is one of these old breeds. The history of the breed however is quite unique since it seems almost as if they came right out of the pages of fantasy literature.

Ancient Gotland Ponies

Gotland Ponies are named after the island of Gotland in Sweden. Not much is certain though about their real, ancient origins. This is mainly because they have been around for ages since even before the dawn of written history. Nobody seems to have written documents that detail how the ancestors of the Gotland Ponies developed. The earliest possible evidence of the early existence of these ponies can be traced back to the Goths. They seem to have used these ponies for transportation and for carrying loads.

Before and after the time of the Goths though, these ponies enjoyed a lot of freedom. They primarily roamed and lived on their own in dense forests. This is why they are also sometimes referred to as forest horses. This aspect of their history is what adds to their mysterious charm. Through the centuries, some of these wild ponies became domesticated and worked in local farm lands as beasts of burden. Gotland farmers however never truly restricted the freedom of this breed. There was always a constant number of wild forest horses.

The first real problem of this ancient pony breed arose during the 1900s. Farmers began using machines for agricultural work and forest lands were gradually being cleared. Many ponies found themselves shipped overseas. The U.S. in particular became a major spot for the breeding of imported Gotland Ponies. These three major events were like a triple blade that worked against the Gotland Pony population. They were no longer as desirable as before in their native habitat. Much like the Australian Brumbys, they were even occasionally considered undesirable because displaced Gotland ponies invaded private land properties.

At one point, the ancient ponies came very close to becoming extinct. Fortunately, a society formed for these ponies assisted in the breeding of more ponies in a fenced off part of land. Today, efforts continue to promote the survival of this old, hardy breed.

Gotland Ponies Today

The appearance of Gotland Ponies clearly reflects their semi-wild, work pony history. Despite being short, rising to a maximum of only 13 hands, they have strong, compact bodies that help them function well as work ponies. They can come in different colors but light colored ponies are not commonly considered as originating from Gotland. Surprisingly, despite their wild origins, these ponies have a pleasant disposition. They can easily be managed and are quite intelligent.

As with most ponies throughout the world, Gotland Ponies are rarely ever used for agricultural work. Most Gotland Ponies are now used for teaching children to ride. They can also be used for dressage, jumping, pleasure riding and showing.

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