The Pony of the Americas, usually shortened to POA, began in 1954 when Shetland pony breeder and attorney Les Boomhower purchased an Arabian-Appaloosa mare that had been bred to a Shetland stud. The resulting offspring seemed to combine the best traits of the three breeds. Mr. Boomhower was so impressed that he held a meeting with other breeders, and the POA organization was born.
Today’s POA has added new blood to the mix. As the pony standard has gotten taller, the Shetland has been largely phased out, and the Welsh has replaced it. Quarter Horses, mustangs, and Indian ponies were also added. The result is a breed that, ideally, has a small Arabian-like head, a muscular body, horse-like conformation, and the coloring of an Appaloosa.
Several coat patterns are acceptable on a POA. These include leopard, few-spot leopard, roan, blanket, snow-capped, and marble. POAs must have white sclera of the eyes and mottled skin, usually found on the muzzle, the sheath, the anus, the vulva, or around the eyes. In addition, most POAs have striped hooves.
An adult POA must stand between 46 and 56 inches tall at the withers. The association is unique in that it’s the only equine organization to specifically devote itself to youth riders. For years, showing in a POA event was limited to riders age sixteen and under. Adults were allowed to show in driving and halter classes only. In 1973, the age restriction was raised to eighteen. Beginning in 1987, riders over nineteen began being allowed to show the ponies in riding classes restricted to two, three, and four-year-olds in training.
Since the POA is bred specifically for children to show and ride, temperament is a major concern. Reputable breeders strive to produce ponies that are gentle, intelligent, and willing. The ponies should also be hardy and durable. The POAs are extremely versatile and can be used for practically any discipline. Because of their disposition, athleticism, trainability, and good looks, they’re often chosen as a child’s first mount or as a 4-H pony. A well trained POA is just as comfortable in a Western saddle running the reining pattern as it is in an English saddle crossing fences.
The POA organization has more than forty state clubs and provides numerous shows and events for its members. The club awards high point standings and Register of Merit Awards for halter, gaming, and performance. These ponies are so diverse and talented that a single individual sometimes earns all three ROM awards, thereby earning the Supreme Champion Award. Numerous breeder awards are also offered.
Typical events offered at a POA show include halter, costume, Native American costume, huntseat over fences, open jumper, hunter hack, huntseat equitation, hunter under saddle, leadline, pleasure driving, bareback horsemanship, Western pleasure, Western horsemanship, Western riding, reining, stock seat equitation, goat tying, showmanship, most colorful, trail, pole bending, figure 8 stake, single pole, go go, keyhole, cloverleaf, flag race, straight barrels, Texas rollback, handy horse, and longe line.
Not only does the POA make a great show pony for a young rider, it’s also a wonderful all-around family horse. Most members of this breed are very quiet and calm on trail rides and are sometimes used as pack ponies on long trips.