More about Shetland ponies



Arnie, pictured in the thumbnail image, was a popular feature of the farm for many years, but sadly he died a few years ago. To replace him, we now have Charlie (left) and Daisy.

Shetland ponies originated in the Shetland Islands, located northeast of mainland Scotland. Small horses have been kept on the Shetland Isles since the Bronze Age. People who lived on the islands probably later crossed the native stock with ponies imported by Norse settlers. The harsh climate and scarce food developed the poniesinto extremely hardy animals. For its size, the Shetland is one of the strongest of all horse and pony breeds..

Shetland ponies were first used for pulling carts, carrying peat, coal and other items, and ploughing farm land. Then, as the Industrial Revolution increased the need for coal in the mid-19th century, thousands of Shetland ponies travelled to mainland Britain to be pit ponies, working underground hauling coal, often for their entire (often short) lives. Shetlands are ridden by small children at horse shows, in riding schools and for pleasure. They are seen working in commercial settings such as fairs or carnivals to provide short rides for visitors. They are sometimes are used for therapeutic horse-riding.

In appearance, Shetlands have small heads, sometimes with dished faces, widely spaced eyes and small and alert ears. The original breed has a short, muscular neck; a compact, stocky body; short, strong legs; and a shorter-than-normal cannon bone (lower leg) in relation to its size. A short broad back and deep girth are universal characteristics, as is a springy stride. Shetlands have long thick manes and tails and dense double winter coats to withstand harsh weather. Height at the withers (shoulder) is between 7 and 11.2 hands (28 and 46 inches, 71 and 117 cm).

Shetlands can be almost every colour, and are generally gentle, good-tempered, and very intelligent by nature. They make good children’s ponies, and are sometimes noted for having a ‘brave’ character. They can be very opinionated or ‘cheeky’, and can be impatient, snappy, and sometimes become uncooperative. Due in part to their intelligence and size, they are easily spoiled and can be very headstrong if not well-trained.

Shetland ponies, like many hardy small horse and pony breeds, can easily develop laminitis if on the wrong diet. Therefore, owners must pay careful attention to nutrition, being careful to regulate feed quantity and type.