I've been thinking for a long time about getting some sort of small pony/horse creature to keep in my back yard, just for fun. I have a lot of experience working with horses (in fact, I currently work at a barn with 25-30 horses), but I have never had one at home before. I'm looking for something small, hardy, and relatively friendly. Ideally I want something that I can hop on bareback with just a halter and lead rope and ride around the field, or up the driveway to get the mail if I feel like it. Not often, not real work, just walking and maybe a bit of trotting. Most of the time it would be a pasture puff.
I know that are a few key differences between Minis and Shetlands, but it's one thing to read about them and another to hear them from someone who has owned them. I would even be willing to look at smaller Welshes, but nothing over 13 hands. I am relatively tall (5'6ish) and weigh about 120-125lbs, but I've been riding for a long time and I know how to carry my own weight. Honestly, this will be more of a big dog than an actual horse. I'm looking for info on ease of management/care, cost effectiveness (I know; all horses are expensive), temperament, etc.