August 22, 2008 | | Comments 0

Shetland Pony

Shetland Pony

Shetland Pony

Retracing the Steps of the Shetland Pony Breed

Shetland ponies are among the most popular pony breeds in the world. Most people have probably already heard a little about these small animals. Not everyone knows though that the Shetland breed has an ancient history.

Shetland Pony Origins

The name of the pony breed is derived from its place of origin, the Shetland Isles which are north of Scotland. Because the breed is so ancient, there is no clear account of how they ended up in the isles. It is generally assumed that pony breeds found their way into the isles when land masses were still connected to each other. The ancestors of the Shetland breed may have become permanent parts of the island after the isles broke off during the final Ice Age. Native stocks were then mated with Celtic and Norse breeds of ponies resulting in the Shetland pony breed.

In the Shetland Isles, the ponies were primarily used as labor animals. Aside from being agricultural aides, they were also used to pull loads including coal. They soon made it out of their native home to the rest of Britain and to America. Because of their small sizes, they were deemed most fit for work in coal mines. Stud books for the breed were opened in America in 1888 and in Britain in 1890.

In America, breeding goals of Shetland ponies were a bit different. Instead of the typical short and stocky British ponies, the American versions had slimmer profiles. The difference in appearance was the result of American breeders introducing other pony purebred breed influences into the Shetland breed.

Shetland Pony Traits

Shetland ponies look the way they do today because their ancestors have had to live through a difficult environment. The cold weather of their native home and their work conditions have made them small but sturdy animals. Shetland ponies descended from Shetland Isle ponies do not go over 10.2 hands. They have small heads, thick necks, sloping shoulders, short backs, full bodies and short legs. They have generous manes and tails and thick coats designed to protect them from the cold. American Shetland ponies on the other hand generally have longer, slimmer legs, necks and backs. The ponies can come in pinto, black, gray, chestnut or brown.

Shetland ponies are hard workers and are quite strong despite their size. They are also intelligent and amiable. They can sometimes exhibit a strong willful temperament. When handled in the right way however, Shetland ponies will react positively and in a willing manner.

Today, Shetland ponies are no longer used in coal mines and farms. They have instead found a spot in show rings and fairs. They may however also be used in pony driving and pony racing competitions. Of course, Shetland ponies are also popular among children. They can be used for fun rides or to teach kids to ride. Since they are a small breed, some individuals may choose to keep them as guide ponies. With these kinds of work that are obviously less physically demanding, Shetland ponies can live a little over two or three decades.

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