Shetland pony: description of the breed, especially care and breeding


Shetland pony - a universal breed of horses, widespread throughout the world. This is one of the most numerous horse breeds in general and the most popular among pony breeds.

Young horsewoman on Shetland pony.

The appearance of the Shetland pony is familiar to everyone, because it has become a kind of symbol of all the little horses, but few know that this is one of the oldest horse breeds and, moreover, not decorative, but quite working. The place of origin of this breed are Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. The horses on these islands lived in the second millennium BC, since the islands were relatively isolated from the continent, it can be assumed that these horses were the direct ancestors of modern ponies. In Shetland ponies there were no bright representatives of the ancestors of the breed, its formation occurred gradually as a result of a long selection. This selection was largely determined not only by the directional selection of a person, but also by the natural living conditions of horses.

It should be said that the inhabitants of the Shetland Islands were not rich, therefore the high culture of agriculture was unknown to them. In the summer horses were kept on free grazing, the blessing, the damp climate of the islands promoted grass growth and there was no need to spend money on additional feed. But even in the winter, horses were often released during the day to graze in the pasture. The climate of the Shetland Islands is harsher than in Britain. In winter there is always snow and frost often, so the Shetland ponies have adapted to withstand any weather. They also differed unpretentiousness, health, longevity.

Shetland ponies are accustomed to the harsh winters of their homeland - the Shetland Islands.

Used them in a simple local economy - for the removal of peat from the swamps and coal from the mines, the transport of goods and riders, for ancillary works. Under such conditions, a universal breed was formed on the Shetland Islands, equally suitable for a saddle, a pack, and a team. Local horses - inconspicuous, but very strong - attracted the attention of British horse breeders and in 1890 the breeding book of this breed was created. Since then, Shetland ponies have spread throughout the world, the United States being the second center of breeding after Britain.

Shetland pony strong build and similar to the mini-heavy truck.

For a long time the Sheltie ponies were considered the smallest breed of horses, but then the Falabella breed was taken away from them. Nevertheless, Shetland ponies remain one of the smallest breeds (height at withers 75-107 cm). Despite their small stature, these horses have a strong constitution. They have a small head, often with a concave profile, small ears, and wide-set eyes. The neck is short and muscular. The chest and withers are well developed. The back is short and wide, the croup is rounded, and the abdomen is large and sagging. The limbs are short, bony, hoofs strong, rounded. In general, the horses of this breed do not look decorative at all (as is often the case with miniature breeds), but rather look like small heavy trucks. Shetland ponies of the American selection differ from classical European lines in higher legs and smaller massiveness. A distinctive feature of Shetland ponies - a long, coarse hair on the body, very long and thick mane and tail. Such wool protected Shetland ponies from the cold, now with stable maintenance of these horses they often shave. In the old days, the selection of Shetland ponies was made only for working qualities, regardless of the exterior, so now almost all suits are found in the breed. Most often there are black, gray, red, nightingale, piebald and black ponies.

Shetland pony Chubar suit, which is rare in other breeds of horses.

The movements of the Shetland ponies do not differ in plasticity and playfulness; short legs and a working past of the breed have an effect. The trot and canter of these horses look mincing, however they easily overcome low obstacles. Shetland ponies more than compensate for the lack of agility with enormous power. “Huge” should be understood literally, because in terms of its own body weight, the Shetland ponies are capable of carrying loads, 1.5-2 times heavier than other horses. Shetland ponies, like other "nezavodskie" breed, different mind and ingenuity. Their character does not match the miniature size. These are bold and independent horses, accustomed to taking care of themselves and living with their minds. Despite the kindness of the Shetland ponies, such independence and ingenuity when kept in a stable can result in whims and stubbornness. When raising a pony, you should remember this feature and not indulge them. Also, do not overfeed Shetland ponies, as they easily gain excess weight.

Currently Shetland ponies broke up with their working past and are sporting and walking horses. Despite the small size (which seems to limit the use of the breed), ponies are widely used in various industries. Primarily, these are indispensable horses for children's equestrian clubs, riding a pony reduces the risk of injury to a minimum, so children can learn to ride a pony from the age of 4 (you can ride a normal horse not earlier than 7-8 years old). In Western Europe and the USA, children's equestrian sport constitutes a full-fledged direction, here children participate in smooth races and races with obstacles, jumping, learning elements of dressage. Naturally, Shetland ponies are used in all these competitions. Adults can also use Shetland ponies, but already for competition carriages.

Obstacle racing for children is no different in complexity from competitions for adult riders. The Sheltie ponies taking part in the jump are trimmed so that the long hair remains only on the legs.

Ponies are often used in children's health riding courses - radiotherapy. Moreover, the compact size and mind of these horses prompted people to use Shetland ponies as ... guides for the blind. Of course, it’s inconvenient to keep a pony in a city apartment, but for residents of country cottages it is sometimes more convenient to deal with a mini-horse than a dog. For ponies there is a separate room in the house with access to the street, during walks they wear special diapers, they are not distracted by external stimuli (smells, cats, other dogs, etc.), they are easier to manage, and they live longer . In general, this breed is characterized by durability, the age of 30 years for Shetland ponies is not uncommon. In addition, this breed is often contained simply as exhibits in the children's corners of zoos.

Mona Ramoni is a blind Muslim from Michigan. Religious parents do not allow her to keep a dog at home, so she started a horse. Thanks to the services of a guide pony, she successfully studies at the University of Michigan.


The Shetland archipelago divides the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. This is the northernmost land of the British Isles. The archipelago has 117 reefs and islands, only 24 of them are inhabited. Deserted, without trees, fells, harsh climate, poor vegetation, wetlands, dampness, constant winds - this is how one can describe the place of “birth” of the breed called “Shetland pony.”

Absolutely accurate information about the origin of the breed is not. They were first discovered in 500 BC. According to scientists, these are possible descendants of the “tundra” ponies. They could come to Scotland from Scandinavia ten thousand years ago.

According to another version, in the 1st-4th centuries ponts were brought to the islands by the Picts (the oldest inhabitants of Scotland). At that time, the territory was covered with forests, they completely disappeared in the IX-X centuries due to climate change. Under such conditions, few animals survived: sheep, field mice, hedgehogs, and Shetland ponies. Growth, endurance, strength of the constitution - on such grounds was a centuries-old natural selection. Insulation contributed to the natural breeding of the breed "in itself." Attempts to bring ordinary horses to the archipelago were unsuccessful.

The Sheltie pony (described below) has a recognizable appearance, reminiscent of heavy horses in miniature. A thoroughbred representative should have the following features:

  • height at withers - 65-110 cm
  • weight - up to 200 kg
  • strong constitution
  • the head is small, proportional,
  • forehead wide
  • straight profile, sometimes concave or hooky (both options are undesirable),
  • eyes are large, widely spaced ("sortie eye" is undesirable, may be of different colors),
  • small mouth
  • nostrils are wide,
  • ears set correctly, small,
  • neck muscular, with a high yield,
  • body wide,
  • chest well developed, wide, deep,
  • sagging belly, volumetric,
  • back is wide, short, muscular,
  • croup straight,
  • legs are bony, strong, short:

- front: without interceptions, correctly set, with a developed carpal joint,

- back: correctly set (“O” - and “X” -shaped set is undesirable), well-defined hock, developed plus, dry,

  • hoofs are round, with a hard hoof horn (as a rule, animals do not forge),
  • coat - thick undercoat, long hair,
  • tail and mane - fluffy,
  • the suit is the most diverse, often pinto (purebred mostly black),
  • life expectancy is 30-40 years, a recorded record is 54 years.

Breeding is no different from ordinary horses. Due to the small size of mares, the presence of a veterinary specialist at birth is desirable. One or two foals are born. The selection of animals is subject to the rules of breeding farm animals. The Sheltie pony is a very strong horse, in terms of live weight, they are able to carry cargo twice as large as their tall counterparts.

Special features

Animals of this breed have their own characteristics:

  • high life expectancy
  • the character is bold and very independent,
  • have a sharp mind and ingenuity
  • easy to train (bad habits also seize on the fly),
  • can be stubborn
  • very hardy
  • prone to obesity,
  • often there are blue-eyed individuals (formerly called belozor),
  • do not differ in big playfulness and elegance of movements,
  • they have a rough coat, long tails and a mane,
  • selection for working qualities, without taking into account other signs, provided a variety of stripes in the breed.

While the foal is small and looks more like a plush toy, inexperienced owners make a serious mistake by spoiling their pets. An adult uncontrollable three-year-old pony weighing 200 kg and a height when lifting up to 2 meters will become a problem. The severity of education must be present necessarily. It is necessary to demand full and unconditional obedience for any actions by a person (cleaning the horse or cleaning the stall).

Another nuance - a ride under the saddle. A small horse with round sides so nimble that it is almost impossible to hold onto it. Experienced horse breeders first visit the youngsters in the cart. Having accustomed to obey the occasion and the voice commands of the pony (approximately in a month), they calmly stop by.


Despite the immense popularity and demand for small horses, the issue of animal cleanliness has not been in the interests of horse breeders for many years. Nobody was involved in the Shetland pony breed. Breeding with the correct breeding selection began only in 1870. A great lover of horses, Lord Londonderry on the island of Bressay (Shetland archipelago) laid a stud farm for breeding ponies. Specialists carried out the most severe selection to consolidate the characteristic features and the exterior type of horses.

The established Shetland pony breeding society contributed to the first breeding book of the Londonderry manufacturers. Although the company closed in 1899 due to the decline in demand for ponies, many modern champions of the breed still have famous factory manufacturers in their pedigree.

Up until the nineteenth century, breeding was carried out "clean" without the influx of foreign blood. The desire to use ponies as riding horses set for horse breeders the task of increasing the growth of animals. The result of the work was the appearance of several intrabreed types, or offspring:

  • Semberg. In the middle of the century, on the Somberg peninsula and the southern coast of the island of Meinland, Shetland ponies were covered with mare fjord stallions. The height at the withers of the offspring reached 130 cm.
  • Fitlar The application of the method of reproductive crossing with a brood Arabian stallion (he was a descendant of the legendary Bolivar). Hybrids grew to 120 cm.
  • American Shetland. Obtained as a result of first crossing the Shetland mares with stallions of the hakne breed, then adding blood of Arabian and purebred riding breeds. Height at withers to 130 cm.

Such human intervention led to the division of the breed into two classes:

  • "A", or the basic type (basic), animals include up to 107 cm,
  • "B", or refined type, - animals from 107 to 120 cm at the withers.

The end of the 19th - the beginning of the 20th centuries were marked by the massive export of ponies to all countries of the world. Livestock outside the UK at times exceeds the number of horses in the historic homeland.


Lack of damp, drafts, dry bedding, high-quality food, clean water, daily exercise - such are the requirements for keeping Shetland pony horses. Care does not require special conditions. On the contrary, horses are unpretentious, hardy, they can be on pastures as long as possible. Thick coat in stable conditions is sheared. The friendly nature of the animals allows you to keep two animals in one stall (3 m by 4 m).

Preferably, the basis of the diet was hay or grazing grass, oats sometimes cause an allergic reaction. Cleaned as contaminated, with stable maintenance - daily. Usually ponies do not need to forge Veterinary treatment is the same as for ordinary horses.


Shetland pony is widely used in equestrian sports, and not only in children. In 1960, Little Model performed at the Olympics in Rome, and in 1968 in Mexico City, Stroller took the silver in jumping. The growth of both horses was within 145 cm.

Ponies are frequent participants of circus performances, they are used in riding schools, rentals. Many animal lovers give birth to them as pets. The brilliant mind and the great reaction of the little ones allow them to work as guides for the blind. In Holland, they still have not abandoned small workers and cultivated vegetable plantations with them.

Breed history

They appeared on the distant islands of the Shetland archipelago, where the North Sea borders the Atlantic Ocean. Little horses were known to the Scots in the 1-4 centuries. ne They are called "sheltie" by their place of origin. Up to now, we heard that these horses are very hardy and have a life span of about 30 or even more. According to one traveler in 1700, a farmer and his wife could ride eight miles on a pony's back, despite the fact that this horse could be a strong person.

Only in the 19th century did ponies become of interest outside the islands. The largest of them became the subject of export, which quite objectively led to the grinding of the rock. It took a systematic selection. The first attempts led to the appearance of populations that were significantly different from the original. For example, the experience of crossing with Norwegian fjord stallions led to the appearance of a Somberg spawn (the largest up to 130 cm at the withers), and with Arab stallions at the fitlar spawn (about 120 cm at the withers).

The law, which was issued in 1847, prohibits the use of female and child labor in mines. And since then, the demand for Shetland ponies has risen sharply. A new workforce in the form of thousands of ponies, with extraordinary endurance, came to the mines. Each of them had to walk 4,500 kilometers during the year and remove almost 3,000 tons of rock. These horses worked in the English mines for several decades, were born underground and died here. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Shetland ponies appeared in America. Now there are tens of thousands of them. They have long been known throughout the world. Not a zoo or a circus can do without them, in the parks they roll the children, and in children's pony clubs the elements of riding are taught to future horsemen. They are indispensable in farms. And this is not a complete list of places where these dwarf horses work.

Breed description

In accordance with the requirements of the standard breed Shetland pony - short (three-year-old should not exceed the height at the withers 102 centimeters), with a small proportional head, broad forehead and small ears, with a short back and wide chest, with hooves of the correct form and hair short, but in winter - so long that it allows not to be afraid of cold winds and severe frosts and does not even let moisture through. Adult pony weighs up to 200 kilograms. И вообще, эти маленькие лошадки не выглядят декоративными, скорей, как миниатюрные тяжеловозы.

Советы по питанию

Рацион лошадке требуется разнообразить. В любых количествах сено или травка, не злоупотреблять овсом и немного концентрированных кормов (их доля не должна превышать 20%). И зимой обязательно лакомства: яблочки или корнеплоды.

The light adaptability of Shetland ponies to the most different climatic conditions was appreciated by the whole world. Stud farms and farms in many countries of the world are engaged in their breeding, contribute to the breeding books. But their very name will always remind them of their homeland, the Shetland Islands, where the breeds of the cleanest blood can be found today.

American Shetland

This type was created by crossing Scottish mares with hakne stallions, and then adding Arabic and purebred riding breeds to them. In progeny bred in this way, the height at the withers reached 130 cm.

As a result of such Two new breed classes appeared in the breeding experiments:

  • A, or base type. Its representatives are animals with a height at the withers of not more than 107 cm,
  • "B", or refined type. This includes individuals between 170 and 120 cm tall.

The active distribution of the breed across continents began in the period from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. And today there is a situation that in other countries the population of this breed exceeds its number in the historic homeland.


Shetland ponies unfairly ignore livestock breeders, although they have enough qualities to be in demand just like traditional breeds. Although they lose in growth to ordinary horses, today there are quite a few special types within the Shetland pony that can be considered as an alternative to them. In any case, before breeding these horses, it is necessary to study their features. Then this breed will not only not disappoint, but also bring considerable benefits from their content.