The Gentle yet Strong Shetland Pony
● If you have ever been to a country fair, you may have seen—or even ridden on—a Shetland pony. As their name suggests, Shetland ponies originally came from the Shetland Islands, northeast of Scotland. In fact, archaeologists working there have unearthed the bones of small ponies dating back thousands of years.
Shetland ponies are easily identified by their short legs, long mane and tail, and thick winter coat, which serves as a protection against the inclement weather of their original habitat. The ponies are normally between 28 [70 cm] and 42 inches [107 cm] high and are commonly black or dark brown. Unlike other horses, Shetlands are measured in inches not hands, a unit of measure equal to four inches. Their maximum official height is 42 inches [107 cm], with the exception of American Shetlands, which cannot exceed 46 inches [117 cm].
Although small in stature, Shetland ponies are strong. In fact, for their size they are the strongest of all horse breeds. For this reason, the ponies were historically used to haul peat, plow fields, and work in coal mines, where only small animals could negotiate the tunnels. Indeed, many spent their entire life in the mines, never seeing the light of day.
When properly trained, Shetlands are gentle and docile, making them ideal for children. Their good temperament may account for the positive results obtained when this breed has been used in therapeutic programs for the disabled.
Because of their charming traits and their ability to adapt to very different environments, Shetland ponies have been exported all over the world and numerous clubs and breed registries have been established. But the animal’s name still links it with its original island home, where the Shetland breed continues to remain remarkably healthy and genetically pure.
[Picture on page 24]
For their size, Shetland ponies are the strongest of all horse breeds
[Picture Credit Line on page 24]
© S Sailer/A Sailer/age fotostock