Pony: Horse Breed Profile and Information


Every child wants a pony, and that’s one wish that may or may never come true. If, as a child, you learned to ride a horse, there’s a good chance that you started learning on the back of a Shetland mix or a Shetland pony.

Although diminutive, the Shetland ponies are gentle, energetic, intelligent, and a little bit wily. We also cannot argue the cute factor, but don’t let that deceive you.

These ponies are hardy little fellows that are capable of outworking the biggest draft horse.

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  • Weight: 400 to 450 pounds
  • Height: 28 inches (7 hands) to 46 inches (11.5 hands)
  • Body Type: Compact; broad head; short legs; thick neck; lush mane and tail
  • Life Expectancy: At least 30 years

Table of Contents

History and Origins of the Shetland Pony


The real origin of the Shetland pony is not clear as it has been lost to time. History has it that as many as 4,000 years ago, ponies were roaming up and down the rugged Shetland Islands close to Scotland.

The Celtic pony possibly figured into the breed, together with potential crosses with the Norse settlers ponies. Strong and Resilient, Shetland ponies were used to plow farmland and pull carts, among other duties.

During the Industrial Revolution, these ponies were sent down into coal mines to help with hauling coal. They also quickly became popular companions for kids, thanks to their compact size and gentle disposition.

In 1890, The Shetland Pony Stud-Book Society was formed to register and keep track of this pony breed. In the United States, the American Shetland Pony Club was also there to register ponies.

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Shetland Pony Size

All registered Shetland ponies are no more than 10.5 hands (42 inches) at the withers. For ponies in the United States, you can find the American Shetland Pony Club allowing ponies of up to 11.5 hands (46 inches).

When it comes to the weight of a Shetland pony, it greatly depends on the height of the pony. However, it is generally around 400 to 450 pounds.

Shetland Pony Breeding and Uses

In the hot and harsh climate of their homeland, with rugged terrain and scarce food, Shetland ponies quickly developed into very hardy creatures.

They have very thick coats that help them cope with frigid winters, and they have broad bodies that make them agile and exceptionally strong.

In the United States of America, breeders have refined the ponies to be somewhat leaner with slim and long legs. These American Shetlands are quite agile, with a longer stride than those of the traditional Shetland pony.

They have been extensively used to pull plows, buggies, and carts. And in the 1800s and 1900s, the ponies were known for working in coal mines both in the United States and Britain.

Today, Shetland ponies are used for pulling carts, pleasure driving, pulling wagons, etc. and many of them simply used as pets and are the companions of kids in horse shows. In addition, there are still wild herds of ponies on the Shetland Islands.

Colors and Markings

Shetlands come in almost every equine color, and that includes pinto combinations ( this means patches of white and other colors). However, registered Shetlands cannot feature leopard spots just like the Appaloosa.

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The most famous horse coat colors include chestnut, black, gray, roan, bay, brown, dun, palomino, dunno, buckskin, cream, and champagne—with all variety of leg and face markings.

Unique Characteristics of the Shetland Pony

It is believed that pound for pound, a healthy Shetland pony can easily pull more weight than the huge Clydesdale.

Besides the crazy strength in their tiny bodies, Shetland ponies also are known to have a long lifespan, with many living longer than 30 years. And, of course, these horses are highly recognizable for their very short stature.

Many other small pony breeds have the Shetland ponies in their background, and that includes the miniature horse, American and National show ponies, as well as the Falabella miniature horse.

Diet and Nutrition

It is far difficult to underfeed a Shetland pony than to overfeed one. Because the pony breed evolved in very harsh conditions and had to search for nutrition independently, Shetlands can do well on very little food.

Rarely does a Shetland pony need concentrates or grains, which can lead to obesity. It is also important that you give them good quality grass hay.

Common Health and Behavior Problems of Shetland ponies

The good thing about Shetland ponies is that they generally don’t have lots of health issues. However, their size can make them easily susceptible to heart conditions and also laminitis.

Laminitis is an emergency condition in ponies in which their hoof becomes inflamed, and it is usually very painful. There are several causes of laminitis, and they include overeating grass or grain

In terms of behavior, everyone who knows a Shetland ponies will tell you that they are typically gentle but and gentle. But let’s not dismiss the fact that they can be a little bit uncooperative and headstrong, especially if they are untrained.

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Shetland ponies have evolved to grow very thick, soft winter coats. Usually, these ponies are the first to “coat up” in the fall and also the last to shed their winter coats in the spring. They have coarse outer hair and an undercoat that is soft as silk.

Just like horses, ponies require standard equine grooming that involves regular washing, brushing, and also combing. And you should check their hooves daily for any dirt, debris, or injuries.


  • Good with children
  • Hardy and strong
  • Intelligent


  • Sometimes stubborn
  • Prone to laminitis

Champion and Celebrity Shetland Ponies

Because of the Shetland pony’s longevity, it has led to several claims of it being the world’s oldest pony. For example, a pony called Twiglet died at the age of 50 in the year 2017.

These ponies have also had their time on the TV screens. In a 1976 Disney film titled “The Littlest Horse Thieves,” three kids plot to steal ponies from a mine just after they find out that the ponies are on the verge of being killed because the mine is mechanized.

This story goes along with the real-life history of the Shetland’s in mines.

Is the Shetland Pony Right for You?

The Shetland ponies are Even-tempered and good for both riders and owners of all experience levels, including children and aged people, though they can be stubborn and require consistent training. Because they’re so hardy and relatively independent, they’re typically easy to care for.

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