Breed evolution: The history of this colorful, diminutive breed began in 1954, when Les Boomhower of Mason City, Iowa, a Shetland Pony breeder and attorney, was offered an Arabian-Appaloosa cross mare in foal to a Shetland stallion. The resulting colt was white with eye-catching markings, like black paint spattered all over his body. On his flank, one black smear was in the shape of a hand, so Boomhower named the youngster Black Hand.
The colt inspired Boomhower to gather a group of friends and Shetland enthusiasts to organize a registry for the Pony of the Americas, the name they gave to this new pony breed. The group also set standards that remain today with very little changed: a small head, dished like the Arabian; a body muscled like the Quarter Horse; coloring like the Appaloosa visible at 40 feet; a height of 44 to 52 inches (today, 46 to 56 inches); and a gentle, easygoing temperament.
The Pony of the Americas Club, Inc., tells us that one can get a POA by crossing registered POAs, by crossing a registered POA with a registered horse or pony of an approved breed (see the POAC handbook for a listing), or, by crossing a registered POA with a grade horse or pony that's been identified with the POAC for breeding purposes.
In 1954, Black Hand was the first POA to be registered; more than 50,000 ponies have been registered since. Eventually, the Shetland was used less frequently in breeding, replaced by larger Welsh ponies crossed on small horses, such as the Mustang and Arabian. Appaloosas have been used consistently to help maintain the pony's distinctive coloration, strength, and versatility.