The breed history
When the law in 1847 banned children from entering the coal pits, the Shetland pony colts became in great demand and many had to exchange the freedom of the hills for the darkness of the mines. In fact their docile and willing nature enabled them to adapt very well to their underground environment and they were treated with much affection by their handlers and every so often they were returned to above ground for a period of time. At this time several studs were formed in an attempt to improve the stock by the use of the best stallions available that would breed ponies with the bone and substance necessary for the pit trade.
The breed also attracted much interest for children to ride and for driving and many people including Queen Victoria owned several pairs of Shetlands for drawing their smart phaetons. In the last twenty years of the nineteenth century thousands of ponies left the islands, reports of over one thousand a year, and many were exported across the Atlantic.
The breed standard
Height: Registered stock must not exceed 42 inches (107cms). Ponies are measured from the withers to the ground, by measuring stick, and a level stance, preferably concrete, should be used.
Colour: Shetland ponies may be any colour known in horses except spotted.
Coat: A double coat in winter with guard hairs which shed the rain and keep the pony's skin completely dry in the worst of the weather and, in summer a short coat which should carry a beautiful silky sheen. At all times the mane and tail hair should be long, straight and profuse.
Head: The head should be small, and in proportion. Ears should be small and erect, wide set but pointing well forward. Forehead should be broad with bold, dark, intelligent eyes. Muzzle must be broad with nostrils wide and open. Teeth and jaw must be correct.
Body: The neck should be properly set onto the shoulder, which in turn should be sloping, not upright, and end in a well defined wither. The body should be strong, with plenty of heart room, well sprung ribs, the loin strong and muscular. The quarters should be broad and long with the tail set well up on them.
Forelegs: These should have good, flat bone. Strong forearm. Short balanced cannon bone. Springy pasterns.
Hind legs: The thighs should be strong and muscular with well-shaped strong hocks. When viewed from behind, the hind legs should not be set too widely apart, nor should the hocks be turned in.
Feet: Tough, round and well-shaped.
Action: Straight, free action using every joint. Tracking up well.
General: A most salient and essential feature of the Shetland pony is its general air of vitality (presence), stamina and robustness.
As Shetland ponies originate from Shetland they have to be very hard as the weather is terrible, with regular hurricane force winds in Autumn, winter and spring along with horizontal rain the Shetland pony has to become tough little things, so they developed thick double winter coats, (which are a pain come molting and show season), they also have an extra layer of fat to keep them insulated just like any other British native breed, so with this hardiness archived from the coat and layer of fat comes a very hardy pony that is a very easy keeper, they don’t need to be stabled or rugged unless they have been clipped, they can also make it through the winter with very little feeding which is why most people like their ponies to be overweight this this of year so they can limit the amount the get feed.
Shetland ponies are also one of the oldest and purest breeds of horse/pony in the world, with the first registered pedigree Shetland starting as early as the early 90th century originating for the same ancestors as the Icelandic’s and the Faeroese ponies.
Shetland ponies where bred to be short and well bones bred for their strength to work in coal mines making them the strongest breed in the world in comparison to size they are said to be able to carry half their weight and pull twice their weight, tough I wouldn’t recommend trying it out, apparently it is said that two Shetland ponies can pull the same as a Shire horse or Clydesdale, all of this account for the mass of bone as tank like stature they have, they are a true draft breed. Shetland ponies where also used to carry peats off of the hill in Klibbers as well as working in the fields for crofter. Shetland ponies are also commonly ridden by adults as they are more than strong enough to do so.
Shetland ponies in general have very placid natures making them excellent companions and coupled with their size makes them an excelled chose for a first pony or a child’s pet, they only become stubborn or badly mannered is improperly trained.
Shetland ponies have two classes: Miniatures and Standards, Miniatures mature between 26”(6.2hh) and 34”(8.2hh) whereas Standards mature above 34” but cannot be any bigger then 42” (10.2hh)
Please feel free to ask questions, I hope this made sense and you have learned a bit about Shetland ponies.