One of the world?s oldest breeds, the Mongolian Pony, sometimes known as the Mongolian Horse, developed over centuries on the continent of Asia. Used by the Mongol people as mounts for war, they carried riders into battle in neighboring countries.
There are several types of Mongolian Ponies depending on the region in which they?re bred and raised, and how much contact they?ve had with other breeds. Overall, some basic features appear among them. They stand 12 to 14 hands, and are lean in the body, with short legs and large heads. They have long, sloping rumps and tough, round hooves, and rarely wear horseshoes. Their coats are coarse and their mane and tail hair is tough, used for braided rope and violin bows.
The Mongolian Pony is still raised on the plains by nomadic Mongol people, and the ponies actually outnumber the people! More than 3 million of them roam free in vast herds, but a few are caught and ridden for transportation, packing, and herding work. They live in the open all year, resistant to extreme heat and cold, and able to survive on little feed, grazing for what they can find. The Mongolian people?s culture has centered on the ponies for centuries, and they even process their mares? milk into a national beverage called Airag.
The courageous, swift, and sure-footed Mongolian ponies have also been used for racing in their native land for hundreds of years. Mongolian racing is very different from horse racing as we know it. The ponies gallop at full speed with a child, sometimes as young as five, in the saddle, over courses of many miles. The ponies are trained not to stop even if the rider falls off ? assistants at the finish line catch any riderless ponies. As many as 400 ponies and children, chosen for their light weight in the saddle, may race at the country?s annual Nadaam festivities, a summertime national celebration.