Have you been mistakenly calling baby horses ponies? Baby equines of any type are foals, whereas a pony, well, that’s an equine that does not even qualify as being a horse! At first glance, ponies may look like miniature horses, but upon inspection one can see several differences between their appearances. First and foremost is their size.
While there are always going to be exceptions within each type, the average pony stands no more than 14.2 hands high while the average height of a horse is 15.2 hands.
Pony vs. Horse
Side by side, the pony and horse display easily noticeable differences. Ponies have broad chests; short, stocky necks and bodies; and short heads with large eyes and small ears. The body of a horse seems to have much more proportionate parts.
Their large eyes and large ears are set in long heads atop long necks that join a lean torso all carried by graceful legs that match the size of the body. Their overall conformation, the primary bone and muscle structure, seems balanced and refined.
Although horses may be strong and sturdy, they tend to appear more fragile than the ponies that typically have thick bones of high density.
Horses and ponies even differ in their hooves and hair, too. Horses have thin hooves when compared to the hardy hooves of a pony. A horse’s hair that forms the coat, mane, and tail seems more delicate than that of a pony. Ponies, which originated in cold European regions, have thicker coats, manes, and tails.
During their early days in these climates, ponies fed themselves on low-quality forage. Horses would not fair well on such a diet. They require feed high in minerals and protein. When it comes to attitude and aptitude, each horse and pony will excel differently. Overall, ponies have a reputation for being friendly and smart, but these little rascals can be stubborn and cunning.
The features of a Quarter Horse, the most popular horse breed in the world, fall well within the described characteristics of a pony. While the Quarter Horse is usually 14 to 17 hands high, the Quarter Pony’s size is 11 to 14 hands. This type of pony looks so much like the Quarter Horse, the untrained eye may mistake it for being one.
Both are great farm animals. The Quarter Horse is often the first choice for ranchers because of its natural ease in working among cows. These horses are an all-purpose horse; they’re good for working, pleasure riding, and participating in competitions including racing. Quarter Ponies are admired for many of the same purposes. This type is often a choice of youth participating in Western sports like roping because they are quick and agile.
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Place a Shetland Pony next to a Quarter Horse or Quarter Pony, and it is a dwarf at 10 to 11 hands high. Besides its height, Shetlands display all the other characteristics of a pony. These stocky creatures originated in Scotland where they had been used to pull carts from mines. Shetlands have a great deal of pulling power.
While they would never match the power of a Suffolk Punch, Belgian, Shire, or Percheron (all standing over 15 hands), they are one of the best equines for training children. Ponies allow kids to excel at the fundamentals of horsemanship. The small size of a pony is manageable for youngsters learning grooming techniques, proper saddling, and how to ride.
Another great pony for trail riding and jumping is the elegant Welsh (12 to 13 hands). This versatile breed is often used for agricultural work as well. The Connemara (up to 14.2 hands), an Irish breed, loves trails, too, but it’s also known for its gait and ability to jump. Children who want to learn how to jump or drive an equine will find the Connemara easy to work with.
Ponies may not be as big as horses, but they can be as useful as them. Their size is ideal for children and smaller adults, and their value is as large as their caretakers want them to be.