Ponies are generally considered intelligent and friendly,
though sometimes are described as stubborn or devious. The
differences of opinion may result from an individual pony's
degree of proper training. Ponies trained by children, rather
than by experienced horse trainers, frequently turn out to be
spoiled because children typically lack the experience base to
correct bad habits. Properly trained ponies are appropriate
mounts for children who are learning to ride.
For showing purposes, ponies are often grouped into small, medium, and large sizes. Small ponies are 12.2 hands (1.27 meters or 4.17 feet) and under, medium ponies are over 12.2 but no taller than 13.2 hh (1.37 meters or 4.5 feet), and large ponies are over 13.2 hh but no taller than 14.2 hh (1.47 meters or 4.83 feet). They are also described by use. Some breeds, such as the hackney pony are primarily used for driving purposes, while other breeds, such as the Connemara pony and Australian Pony are used primarily as riding horses. Others, such as the Welsh pony are used for both riding and driving.
Ponies are used for both riding and driving in many equestrian disciplines, including show hunter and other horse show competitive events, gymkhana, and trail riding. They are seen in nearly every discipline within classes limited to ponies only. Though judges often will place horses over ponies in open competition, ponies also are seen in dressage, equitation, western pleasure. English pleasure and other events. One pony, a 14.1 hh (possibly, 14.2 hh) animal named Stroller was even a member of the British Equestrian show jumping team, and won the silver medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics.
Pony Clubs, open to young people who own either horses or ponies, are formed worldwide to promote responsible horse ownership and also to sponsor competitive events for young people and smaller horses.
In many parts of the world ponies are also still used as working animals, as pack animals and for pulling carts. They are sometimes seen at traveling carnivals, where small children can take short rides on ponies that are both saddled and hitched to a device akin to a hot walker that leads six to eight ponies at a time. This practice is controversial and is considered animal cruelty in some circles.
Some horse breeds are not considered ponies, even when they have some animals that measure under 14.2 hands. This is usually due to body build, traditional uses and overall physiology. Breeds that are considered horses regardless of height include the Arabian horse, American Quarter Horse and the Morgan horse, all of which have individual members both over and under 14.2 hands.
Other horse breeds, such as Icelandic Horse and Fjord Horse, may sometimes be pony-sized and have some pony characteristics, such as a heavy coat, thick mane, and heavy bone, but are generally considered horses by their respective registries. In such cases, there can be considerable debate over whether to call certain breeds "horses" or "ponies." However, the respective breed registries usually are the arbiters of such debates, weighing the relative horse and pony characteristics of a breed. In some breeds, such as the Welsh pony, the horse-versus-pony controversy is resolved by creating separate divisions for consistently horse-sized animals, such as the "Section D" Welsh Cob.
Some horses may be pony height due to environment more than
genetics. For example, the Chincoteague pony, a feral horse that
lives on Assateague Island off the coast of Virginia, often
matures to the height of an average small horse when raised from
a foal under domesticated conditions.
Conversely, the term "pony" is occasionally used to describe horses of normal height. Horses used for polo are often called "polo ponies", though in the United States and the United Kingdom, they are often of Thoroughbred breeding and often well over 14.2 hh. American Indian tribes also have the tradition of referring to their horses as "ponies," when speaking in English, even though many of the Mustang horses they used in the 19th century were close to or over 14.2 hh, and most horses owned by Native peoples today are of full horse height.
In some registries, such as the American Miniature Horse Association, a miniature horse is also not considered a pony--it is a small horse, under 8.2 hh (86 cm, or 34 in) at the withers. However, there are also miniature pony breeds.
This Pony Page is Copyright The Animal Web Guide © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub