Pony of the Americas
 By Winniefield Park   •   26th Jul 2016   •   1,600 views   •   0 comments

Lots of kids ride ponies. In terms of size, kids and ponies seem like a good match. However, in terms of smarts, ponies may have it over a lot of kids. The reason for this is that ponies were not really developed with kids in mind. Most ponies were used as draft animals, useful where a full sized horse wasn’t necessary or possible. The diminutive Shetland pony was developed in the rugged environment of the northern coast of Scotland. These hardy, wiley survivors were used to haul peat, do farm work, and as mining became a common industry, they provided the ‘horsepower’ to get coal or other minerals out of the ground. It’s said that pound for pound, these tough little beasts are stronger than a Clydesdale horse. The Welsh Pony has a similar background and it’s only been recently that ‘ideal child’s mount’ has been added to their resume.

In the early 1950s a horse breeder acquired a mare that would give birth to an Appaloosa, Shetland, Arabian cross. The mixture sounds like a backyard breeders nightmare, but instead it inspired the development of a pony that was not only eye catching, but of the right temperament for young children to ride and handle. Within a few years, a registry was formed that included strict requirements for both physical and mental attributes of the perfect child’s pony. There are now over 40,000 Pony of the Americas in the registry.

What does a Pony of the Americas, or POA look like? The most striking attribute is their colorful coat. POAs come in all of the color combinations common to Appaloosas - from roans, or white with leopard spots to dark bays with snowflake blankets on their haunches. Like their Appaloosa ancestors, they may have striped hooves. And, like an Appaloosa, they have mottled skin in the thinly haired areas of their bodies such around the eyes and muzzle. All horses have a white sclera that encircles the colored portion of their eyes, but on the POA this is quite noticeable. Spotted or roan coat color is a must for a POA and solid color and pinto or Paint type coat patterns are not allowed in the registry.

Their overall impression is refinement, although many are a bit heavier set than their Arabian relatives. They often have dishy faces and elegant necks. They are larger than their Shetland ancestors, but any pony under 46 inches or over 56 inches at the shoulder is not eligible for registration. As the breed evolved, Quarter Horses, Mustangs and Welsh Ponies were introduced and each added their own qualities. Today, many POAs look like diminutive horses rather than ponies.

But more important than conformation is the temperament of a POA. This is a breed developed for children after all. In the show ring, fussing, disobedience and other behavior that indicates the pony may not have an ideal child friendly-temperament is frowned upon.

In the show ring, POAs are shown in every different discipline. They are shown under saddle, whether English or western by riders 18 years and under. They only time they may be shown by an adult is in line classes or in harness. The POA registry holds many events that promote both horsemanship and sportsmanship. Their motto is “Try hard, win humbly, lose gracefully and, if you must... protest with dignity.” The POA Club, Inc., offers many awards for sportsmanship, family participation and of course, breeder awards. Although POAs can be found at any horse show, the club also promotes breed specific shows across North America.
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