Shetland Pony

| Updated: January 19, 2023
Wild Shetland Ponys

Origin and History:

The Shetland Pony is a breed of small horse native to the Shetland Isles, located in Scotland. Although they were originally bred as working horses, they are now a popular breed for use in pony shows, riding, and as a children’s pet.

The origin of the Shetland Pony dates back to the Bronze Age. It is believed that ponies were introduced to the Shetland Isles by the Vikings in the 8th century. Over time, these ponies adapted to the harsh environment of the Isles and became smaller in size due to centuries of selective breeding. By the 19th century, these small and hardy ponies were used as working horses on farms, hauling carts, and working agricultural land.

In the late 19th century, Shetland Ponies began to be used in riding competitions and pony shows. They were recognized as a distinct breed by the British government in 1890. Since then, Shetland Ponies have become increasingly popular as pets

Shetland Ponys with lighthouse in background
Credit: Ashley Cooper/Gettyimages

Physical Characteristics:

The Shetland Pony is an endearing, gentle, and intelligent breed that is sure to win your heart. Not to be outdone by their larger equine counterparts, the Shetland Pony is a compact and hardy little horse that is full of character. On average, Shetland Ponies are between 8 and 10 hands high, making them the perfect size for children and adults alike.

As far as colors go, Shetland Ponies come in a wide range of colors, including black, bay, chestnut, and silver. Some are even born with a unique color called ‘mealy’, which is a mix of white and brown.

Shetland Ponies are renowned for their longevity and can easily live up to 25 years when given proper care and nutrition. This makes them an ideal choice for those looking for a long-term commitment.

Unique Characteristics:

The Shetland Pony is an incredibly unique breed of pony! Not only are they incredibly cute, but they are also hardy, strong, and intelligent. Their small size makes them great for children and small adults to ride, and their thick coats make them resistant to harsh weather. They also have a gentle and docile nature, making them great companions. They are surprisingly sure-footed, and they are known for their agility and speed, making them a great choice for showing, driving, or recreational riding. But that’s not all! Shetland Ponies are also great jumpers, and they have impressive natural jumping abilities that can be honed with practice. With all these amazing qualities, it’s no wonder the Shetland Pony is so beloved!

Interesting Facts:

Shetland ponies are some of the cutest and most cuddly little creatures around, and they have some pretty interesting facts that you may not know! 

Firstly, they are the smallest of the horse breeds, and they can be as small as just 8 hands tall. That’s right, they’re tiny!

Secondly, they’re surprisingly strong for their size, and were often used in coal mines in the past to pull carts of coal.

Thirdly, they have an incredibly long life span and can live up to 40 years. That’s a lot of pony hugs!

Fourthly, Shetland ponies are incredibly intelligent and can easily be trained to do tricks. They’re also very friendly and make great family pets.

Lastly, their thick fur helps them survive the cold temperatures of the Shetland Islands, where they first originated from.

Sports and Competitions:

The Shetland Pony is a breed of horse that stands at a mere 8 hands high (that’s approximately 32 inches). Despite their small stature, these ponies have a big heart and an even bigger drive. Shetland ponies are incredibly capable and versatile animals, proving to be incredibly successful in a variety of competitive sports. In fact, they are one of the only breeds of horse to compete in just about every equestrian discipline. Whether it’s show jumping, dressage, driving, or eventing, these pint-sized powerhouses are sure to exceed expectations and make the audience gasp with awe. So the next time you’re looking for a star athlete to add to your team, don’t forget about the Shetland Pony!

Shetland Pony Mare and Foal
Credit: David Briard/Gettyimages

Diet and Nutrition:

The Shetland Pony is a magnificent and hardy breed of horse that has been around since the Bronze Age. They are known for their intelligence and docile nature, making them a great choice for riding, driving, and showing. While they may be small, their diet and nutrition needs are just as important as any other horse.

Shetland Ponies should be fed a diet of hay and a small amount of grain to meet their protein and carbohydrate needs. They also need plenty of fresh water and access to minerals and salt blocks to help them maintain optimal health. It is important that their diet is well balanced to ensure that they are getting the right nutrients for their size and activity level.

In addition to their diet, Shetland Ponies need plenty of exercise and turnout. Regular exercise helps to keep them healthy, fit, and alert. They should also have access to a clean, dry shelter to protect them from the elements.

Common Health Issues:

Shetland ponies are small but mighty! They’re known for their big personalities, but they’re also prone to certain health problems. It’s important to look out for signs of these health issues to keep your Shetland Pony in good health. Some common health problems to watch out for include eye problems, respiratory issues, and laminitis. Eye problems can include conjunctivitis, cataracts, and glaucoma, so make sure to have regular eye exams done. Respiratory issues can include heaves, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and asthma, so it’s important to watch for any signs of difficulty breathing. Finally, laminitis is a common issue among Shetland Ponies due to their tendency to be overweight, so make sure to watch your Shetland Pony’s diet and exercise routine. With regular checkups and a healthy lifestyle, your Shetland Pony can


Grooming your Shetland pony is an important part of their care and maintenance. With the right tools and techniques, you can keep your pony looking and feeling their best. Start by brushing the coat with a soft brush. This will remove any dirt and debris, as well as stimulating the natural oils in the coat. After brushing, use a damp cloth to wipe down the coat and then use a hoof pick to remove any dirt from the hooves. Finally, use a mane and tail comb to detangle the mane and tail. With these simple steps, your Shetland pony will look and feel their best!

Famous Examples:

The Shetland Pony is one of the oldest and most beloved breeds of horses. It has a long history of being featured in media, art, and literature. This charismatic pony has been depicted in TV shows, movies, books, and even video games. The most famous example of a Shetland Pony in the media is probably Thelwell’s cartoon character, “Fatty”. This endearing character was featured in books, television, and even collected figurines. In addition to this, Shetland Ponies have also been featured in popular films such as War Horse and The Princess Diaries. In recent years, the Shetland Pony has also been featured in historical works, such as the television series, Outlander. All in all, the Shetland Pony has captured the hearts of many with its unique look and charming personality, making it a beloved part of media and history.

Where to Adopt or Buy:

If you’re looking to add a Shetland pony to your family, you have two main options – adopting or buying. Adopting a Shetland pony is usually the best choice, as there are a number of rescue organizations that specialize in taking in these ponies and finding them a loving home. Plus, you’ll be helping to give a neglected animal a second chance at life. If you decide to buy a Shetland pony, you should make sure you do your research and find a reputable breeder. Look for breeders who are knowledgeable and will provide you with all the necessary paperwork and health records. Either way, you are sure to be rewarded with many years of love and companionship from your new four-legged friend.

Shetland Pony in snow
Credit: Anita Kot/Gettyimages


The Shetland Pony is a unique and remarkable breed that has been a part of human history for centuries. They are small but mighty, with a strong work ethic and an even stronger spirit. Their calm and gentle nature makes them perfect for children and inexperienced riders, yet their strength and intelligence make them suitable for more advanced riders. With their long and colorful history, these ponies are sure to continue providing a lifetime of joy and companionship. So, if you’re looking for a beloved friend to join your family, look no further than the amazing Shetland Pony.


Are you considering bringing a Shetland Pony into your life, but have some questions? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here are some frequently asked questions about Shetland Ponies to help you decide if this is the right fit for you.

What size is a Shetland Pony?

A Shetland Pony is a small breed of horse that stands at an average height of 10 hands or 40 inches tall. Some ponies may be smaller or larger than this average size.

Do Shetland Ponies need a lot of care?

Yes, Shetland Ponies need regular care like any other horse. They require daily grooming, hoof care, and exercise. Additionally, they need proper nutrition and shelter to stay healthy.

What kind of personality do Shetland Ponies have?

Shetland Ponies are known for their intelligence and docile nature. They are generally friendly and easy to handle, making them fantastic equine companions.

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