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Height at the withers:
87 - 107 cm
small, strong body, short legs, lush feathering, large head with wide forehead and large eyes
Colour of coat:
all colours, except for leopard complex
friendly, good-natured, confident, lively
flexible and light-footed
working and recreational riding, dressage and show horses
Did you know? In relation to their size, Shetland ponies are the world’s strongest horses. With their short but strong legs, they are able to pull twice their own weight. For comparison: A large cold-blooded horse only manages about half of its weight.
They are small and cute, yet incredibly strong: Shetland ponies. As the name suggests, the small horse breed originates from the Shetlands, a group of islands belonging to Scotland. Up to today, there is not much knowledge about the origins of the breed. Some experts believe that the horses were brought to the islands by the Celtic people of Scotland. Others believe that Shetland ponies originated from the Tundra horse breed. More than 10,000 years ago, there was a great number of Shetland ponies in Scandinavia, which is how they are believed to have reached the Shetland Islands.
The little horses from the north are distinguished by their small size, their strength and resilience, which goes back to the region’s harsh climate. Due to these characteristics, Shetland ponies were bred as pure working horses in the 19th century and used in mining. At times, breeders tried to make the small powerhouses even stronger by crossbreeding with other breeds. However, since the creation of the English stud book in 1890, Shetland ponies have been mostly thoroughbred.
The small Scottish horses are distinguished by their unique appearance: They have a rectangular and compact physique and measure about 87 to 107 centimetres. Their relatives, the miniature Shetland ponies are even smaller – their height at the withers is below 87 centimetres. The small horses have a strong neck and a large head with a wide forehead and large, expressive eyes. While their coat is short, smooth and shiny in summer, it becomes very long and shaggy in winter. The cute ponies come in all colours, with the exception of leopard complex spotting. Their lush mane with a bushy fringe and a long tail are also typical for Shetland ponies.
Due to their cute appearance and their humble nature, the small island ponies are especially popular among children. However, they can also be headstrong and stubborn. But Shetland ponies are much more approachable than one would think. With a little patience and treating them right, the little headstrong ponies will become gentle companions that are eager to learn. A sensitive and patient approach to training helps the intelligent and humble animals learn impressive exercises and demonstrate their skills with great joy. This is why Shetland ponies are also popular show horses. They are able to learn difficult advanced dressage exercises – just like larger horses – that will captivate their audience.