Many young girls and boys dream of having their own pony. What actually makes a pony a pony? How is a pony different from a horse? Are there ponies that are not really true ponies?
A pony (from poulenet, from the French meaning foal) is a small horse that, generally speaking, grows no more than 14.2 hands high (58 inches or 147 cm. FEI: 148 cm without shoes, 149 cm with shoes) when measured at the withers – the high point on the pony’s back where it meets the shoulder. In addition to size, ponies are different from horses in several ways. Ponies tend to have thicker manes and tails, are more closely coupled (have shorter backs), tend to be stockier in build, and have shorter strides than horses. Although not universally true, some ponies have a stubborn streak.
Ponies and Horses
Similar to horses, there are numerous breeds of ponies including the Welsh pony, the Shetland pony, and the Connemara. Although referred to as ponies, polo ponies are not ponies in the truest sense, but are adult horses. Horses who “pony” racehorses on a racetrack are also not true ponies, but are also adult horses. Miniature horses are a specific type of very small horse and there are miniature pony breeds, too.
Versatility of the Pony
Ponies are very versatile! Ponies are used for riding, driving, jumping, eventing, in dressage competition, for fox hunting, trail riding, and much more! Both children and small adults can ride ponies, and both will often begin learning to ride a horse by riding a pony first. Very young children will even learn to ride on the smallest of small ponies before graduating to a larger pony, then to a horse. And, ponies often play the role of companion to horses by serving as pasture buddies.
Owning a pony is a dream of children and adults. Taking your pony to horse shows or pony club events, exploring winding trails on the back of your pony, or running out to the barn after dinner to groom your pony and feed it carrots and apples – ponies provide experiences that last a lifetime!