This is one time you should be very careful to get your horse facts straight, especially if you’re looking for a mount for a child.
Many beginning riders incorrectly believe that the smaller the horse, the easier it is to control him. You might be thinking, I’m tiny, so I need a tiny horse! But many beginners have found out the hard way that a Shetland Pony is, sometimes, no piece of cake.
Shetland Ponies originated as far back as the Bronze Age in the Shetland Isles, northeast of mainland Scotland. Research has found that they are related to the ancient Scandinavian ponies. Shetland Ponies were first used for pulling carts, carrying peat and other items, and plowing farmland. Thousands of Shetlands also worked as pit ponies, pulling coal carts in British mines in the mid-19th century. The Shetland found its way at the same time to the United States when they were imported to also work in mines.
The American Shetland Pony Club was founded in 1888 as a registry to keep the pedigrees for all the Shetlands that were being imported from Europe at that time.
Shetlands are usually only 10.2 hands or shorter. They have a small head, sometimes with a dished face, big Bambi eyes, and small ears. The original breed has a short, muscular neck, stocky bodies, and short, strong legs. Shetlands can give you a bouncy ride because of their short broad backs and deep girths. These ponies have long thick manes and tails, and in winter climates, their coats of any color or combination of colors can grow long and fuzzy.
If you decide you’d like to own a Shetland, spend a great deal of time looking for one that is mild-mannered. Because of past years of hard labor, the breed now shows a dogged determination that often translates into stubbornness. So be careful, and don’t fall for that sweet, fuzzy face without riding the pony several times before you buy him. You might get a wild, crazy ride from a shortstuff mount that you never bargained for!