Shetland Pony

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Shetland Pony by Sam Savitt

If ever a pony was made just for kids, it's the pint-sized Shetland.

One of the smallest and yet strongest of equines, he is the descendent of ponies brought centuries ago by Norse invaders to Scotland?s cold, wind-whipped Shetland Islands. A very intelligent breed, the Shetland pony is a lot like a miniature draft horse with a stocky body, small, pricked ears and short, well-muscled legs. His coat, mane and tail can get thick and shaggy, the better to keep him warm and dry in harsh island weather. He comes is just about every solid color, although many Shetlands have dark and white spots, too.

Years ago, the people living on the Shetland Islands tamed this hardy native pony and trained him to pull carts full of peat from the bogs to their cottages, where the peat was burned as fuel. They also used him to haul seaweed from the beaches to the fields (where it was used as fertilizer to help grow crops) and to plough those same fields. In the 19th century, the Shetland continued to be a working pony, pulling carts full of coal underground in British mines. Shetland ponies were even exported to America for use in the coal industry.

Today, this pony is most popular as either a pet or a children?s mount because of his size (usually between 7 and 11 hands at the withers) and his kind, gentle manner. He also makes a great driving pony and a pack animal for long trips through rough country. Despite his short stature, you will often see him carrying or pulling adults with ease! In fact, he can pull twice his own weight, something not even the biggest draft horses can do.