Shetland Pony

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Breed Name: Shetland

Shetland Pony, Copyright Alicia Slocumb


Origin: America

Physical Description:

The Shetland Pony is a very strong creature considering its size. The average height is 9.3 hands and usually doesn't exceed 11.2 hands. The ponies have short but muscular legs, thick coats, and substantial mains, tails and forelocks. They are also recognized by their prominent eyes and refined ears.

Shetland conformation should be that of a strong, attractive, versatile pony, blending the original Shetland type with refinement and quality resulting from American care and selective breeding. The barrel should be well rounded, back short and level, with flat croup. The head should be carried high and on a well arched neck and should be symmetrical and proportionate to the body, with width between prominent eyes; a fine jaw; short, sharp and erect ears; small muzzle, with flaring nostrils and a refined throat latch. The pony shall have a full mane and tail; coat should be fine and glossy; no discrimination should be made because of color of coat or eyes. The pony's structure should be strong with refinement; high withers; sloping shoulders; flat boned, muscular legs (not cow or sickle hocked); strong, springy pasterns and good, strong serviceable feet.

Breed History:

The American Shetland Pony Club, incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois, is the only official registry of Shetland ponies in the United States. The reason for existence, according to some, is that people will pay more money for a Shetland that is registered than for a pony that is not registered. However, when false records are written in the pedigree of the pony, the pedigree is worthless to the breeder. The integrity of the breed is dependent on accurate records that are submitted by the breeder and recorded by the organization. The buyers of Shetland ponies should know that the Certificate of Registration is a paper that assures the new owners, the pony is indeed a purebred.

The American Shetland Pony Club was organized in 1888, and the first Stud Book was printed in 1893. In November 1899, the initial convention meeting was called by a group of men to commit the breeding interest of the country to support the International Livestock Exposition at Chicago. The meeting was held in the Livestock Exchange Building at the Union Stock Yards, in Chicago. According to reports, by 1909 the membership had increased to 310. 

Over the years the increase in membership and number of ponies recorded was very slight, with sometimes only eight to ten members attending the annual meetings. In the year 1929 only one new membership was issued. In 1937 the corporation was dissolved by a decree of Superior Court for failure to file an annual report in 1936. This made it necessary to re-incorporate and form a new club. The minutes of the meeting of June 10, 1942, show that the application for incorporation was signed, and a new constitution and by-laws were adopted.

In 1946 the first breed promotion sale was held in Janesville, Wisconsin, in 1946-47 the Harness Show Pony Registry was started for the recording of crossbred ponies (half Shetland and half Hackney or Welsh). The height limit of the Harness Show Pony was established as 47 inches, measured at the withers. The year 1947 was the first year prefix and suffix listings were available, and in 1948 the first American Shetland Pony Journal was published.

In 1951 the first banquet was held on the evening prior to the annual meeting, thus establishing a tradition which has been enjoyed every year since. Each year showed a definite increase in the functions of the club, registrations, transfers, memberships, and other activities. The first membership cards were issued in 1952, and in May 1956, the American Shetland Pony Club moved to the new office in Lafayette, Indiana.

The ASPC membership voted to re-validate the certificates of all living Shetlands in 1968. This was done to find out exactly how many registered ponies there were in this country so that better projections could be made for the future, as well as clear out once and for all a lot of old registrations laying around. In 1970 the B Division of the American Shetland Pony Club was established, which allowed the crossing of registered Hackney or Welsh blood with Shetland Blood.

As times changed, so did the active breeders, and it was their desire to have a more streamlined, show type Shetland pony. To achieve the breeders' goals, in 1970 the Shetland Pony Club started accepting for entry in the registry the result of crossing registered Hackney blood or registered Welsh blood, with registered Shetland blood, provided that the animal carried no less than 50% Shetland blood. These animals were entered in the Division B of the Shetland Registry, as compared to Division A, which were those animals that were the offspring of a registered Shetland sire and dam. This crossbred pony is known as the Modern Shetland Pony. Both Division A and Division B Shetland ponies must measure no more than 46 inches at the withers.

The 1970?s and early 1980?s were years of decline for the American Shetland Pony Club, and in 1984 the American Shetland Pony Club was relocated to Peoria, Illinois. In March of 1971, the Executive Secretary and the President of the American Shetland Pony Club met with several breeders of miniature equines at the ASPC office in Lafayette, Indiana, to discuss the feasibility of starting a registry for these small animals. The same group met again in August 1971 at the same location to formulate rules and regulations for the registry, and in January 1972, with the acceptance by the ASPC Board of Directors, the first American Miniature Horse was registered. This registry was for horses 34 inches and under, measured at the last hair of the mane.

In 1972 the American Miniature Horse Registry was opened, which accepted animals 34 inches and under. In 1983 the ASPC Board of Directors passed a resolution, on a one-year trial basis, establishing a show circuit for Original Shetland Ponies. These classes were for the original type Shetland, and the ponies had to be registered Division A. This pony is known as the Classic Shetland Pony.

In 1986 the B Division of AMHR was opened for horses 34 to 38 inches. To address the issue of breeders using animals over 34 inches for breeding of the miniature horse, at the 1986 National Convention the "B" Division or Breeding Division was opened for horses measuring 34 to 38 inches. The registry remained open until November 1, 1992. Breeders expressed interest in showing these animals and B Division classes were added to sanctioned shows. On December 31, 1994 the Miniature Horse Registry was closed and the A Division of the Miniature Horse Registry was also closed. At this time, both registries remain closed.

Each year the Modern Shetland Pony Congress is held for the Modern Pony, the National Classic Congress is held for the Classic Shetland Pony, and the National Miniature Horse Show is held for the Miniature Horse. These are held at different locations and on different dates.

Primary Uses:

Classic Shetlands can be up to 46 inches at the wither. They are the perfect size starter pony for children. From their early history of pulling ore carts in coal mines, Shetlands have retained an innate driving ability and their popularity as a driving pony for children and adults alike is ever growing. They can be found in almost every equine role from children's lead line and short-stirrup competitions, to school ponies to driving teams of four or more ponies in hand.

Modern Shetland Ponies combine the beauty and hardiness of the Classic Shetland and the excitement and animation of a Hackney pony. These sophisticated ponies with their extreme action and spirited personality are at home in the show ring. They are shown in two height categories--under 43 inches at the withers and 43-46 inches at the withers. They excel in performance classes including roadster, harness and pleasure driving. A well-trained Modern Shetland makes an athletic, responsive mount for a child and can be used for everything from gymkhana to the popular pony jumper division.

Famous Horses:

Hollywood Dazzle was a ten-time Grand National Champion Modern Formal Pleasure Driving Pony.

JT's Sprinkles on Top was a champion classic halter stallion and won multiple national championships in driving and CDE competitions.

SG Up and Atom was a National Grand Champion Stallion and sire of multiple Grand Champions.

Breed Association: American Shetland Pony Club

(Information courtesy the U.S. Equestrian Federation and the American Shetland Pony Club)