Shetland pony breed information
Shetland pony horse general information
COLORShetlands can be almost every color, including skewbald and piebald, but are mainly black, chestnut, bay, brown, gray, palomino, dun, roan, cremello, and silver dapple. Registered Shetlands are not leopard spotted, nor do they carry the champagne gene, though these colors are sometimes seen in Shetland-sized crossbreds.
SIZEShetland pony stands maximum at 10.2 hands high, a can be as small as only 7 hands high.
WEIGHTThe Shetland pony usually weighs around 450lbs.
LIFE EXPECTANCYThe Shetland pony has a very long life-span, a can exceed 30 years.
ORIGINThe Shetland Pony’s ultimate origin goes back to Equids, larger than the modern breed, which lived in the Shetland Islands as early as the Bronze Age. When Norsemen invaded the islands, they brought ponies with them which were ancestors of the modern Dole Pony. These ponies crossed with native stock which created the Shetland Pony similar to that known today.
USESShetlands are used as children's riding ponies, are shown by both children and adults at horse shows in harness driving classes as well as for pleasure driving outside of the show ring.
TEMPRERAMENTBecause these ponies can very easily be described as "cute", their owners tend to spoil them and because of that they can express rebellious character, but if properly trained, can make a wonderful mount for children. Shetland ponies are generally gentle, good-tempered, and very intelligent by nature.
Shetland pony description
Shetland Ponies are hardy and strong, in part because the breed developed in the harsh conditions of the Shetland Isles. In appearance, Shetlands have a small head, sometimes with a dished face, wide spaced eyes and small and alert ears. The original breed has a short, muscular neck, compact, stocky bodies, and short, strong legs and a shorter than normal cannon bone in relation to their size. A short broad back and deep girth are universal characteristics as is a springy stride. Shetlands have long thick manes and tails and a dense double winter coat to withstand harsh weather.
Shetland pony history
Various stories about the ponies strength are legendary - for their size they are the strongest of all the horse breeds. For centuries the pony cultivated the land, carried the peat from the scatholds and seaweed for the fields, and was used to transport his owner. The pony was never a draught animal until the mid 19th century as there were no proper roads until then. The horse owning fisherman was able to use hair from the ponies tails for his lines.
When the law in 1847 banned children from entering the coal pits, the Shetland pony colts became in great demand and many had to exchange the freedom of the hills for the darkness of the mines. In fact their docile and willing nature enabled them to adapt very well to their underground environment and they were treated with much affection by their handlers and every so often they were returned to above ground for a period of time. At this time several studs were formed in an attempt to improve the stock by the use of the best stallions available that would breed ponies with the bone and substance necessary for the pit trade.
The breed also attracted much interest for children to ride and for driving and many people including Queen Victoria owned several pairs of Shetlands for drawing their smart phaetons. In the last twenty years of the nineteenth century thousands of ponies left the islands, reports of over one thousand a year, and many were exported across the Atlantic.
During this period of huge popularity the Shetland Pony Stud-Book Society was formed in 1890 with the aim of publishing a StudBook which was the first for a native breed of pony in Britain. Many of the registered ponies today can trace their pedigrees back to the first volumes of the Stud-Book and we owe much to the skill and dedication of the owners of these early studs in selecting the best ponies from the unregistered stock available to them. Most notable of these was the Marquis of Londonderrys stud which was formed in the 1870s on the islands of Bressay and Noss to supply ponies for the collieries he owned in County Durham. By careful selection of stock he produced a much improved animal in a remarkably short time and these ponies had the most significant effect on the type of ponies we have today. Ponies with the best conformation available were acquired and the stallions closely bred to, the most famous being Jack 16 who had 49 direct descendants out of the 58 mares entered in Volumes I and II of the Stud Book. The stud was dispersed in 1899 but most of the main breeders of this time acquired stock from this Stud including the Ladies Hope who brought ponies south to their home in Sussex where they bred with great success and the stud continues today. They kept only the best of their ponies for breeding and when certain the type was true they also bred close. They had the most Londonderry blood of any in their stock and many breeders acquired stock from them with the result that numerous ponies of today trace back to the Bressay stud through the Hope lines.
Shetland pony health and genetic issues
Shetland ponies, like many hardy small horse and pony breeds, can easily develop laminitis if on a diet high in non-structural carbohydrates.
Shetlands small size also predisposes some individuals to a greater probability of heart problems than in larger animals, on occasion leading to early death.
Shetland pony fun facts
The Shetland Pony is recognized as the strongest Equid relative to size in existence. Therefore, when the coal mining industry became extensively developed in Britain in the 1800’s, Shetlands were imported in great numbers to haul coal cars in the "pits".