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The Shetland Pony of Scotland (Equus caballus var)
Find out more about the Sheltland Pony's participation in the Grand National
- Shetland Grand National
Anticipation and excitement fill the air each year as ponies compete in the Shetland Pony Grand National.
The Shetland Pony (Equus caballus var) is a breed of pony which belongs to the horse family Equidae. The pony originated from the Shetland Isles (also the Orkney Islands), a group of islands in the north and part of Scotland. It is believed historically that the little pony probably came over from Iceland in Europe with the Vikings. The Shetland Pony is regarded as one of the strongest and robust Equid out of other breeds. The fact that the climate is harsh and severe in the Shetland Isles, makes this breed very tough because it has endured the harsh conditions for many years, and as far as back in the Bronze Age.
The Shetland Pony was domesticated around between 500-550BC. The ponies were first used for carrying items such as coal or peat for fuel for example. They were also used for plowing the fields and farms and pulling carts. They can even pull twice their own weight which other breeds cannot do. This is how the ponies developed into strong little horses from several years of breeding and are capable of carrying heavy items over 9 stones (126lbs). However, great care and attention must be taken when putting items on the pony's back, because excess weight can lead to back pains and other physical problems may occur in the pony.
Children also love this pony because the pony takes them for a ride. This is why countries, especially in the west, has taken a keen interest in the breed because they are mainly working animals as well as for entertainment purposes. In the late 19th century, thousands of Shetland ponies were exported across the Atlantic.
Feature and Behavior
As well as the Shetland Pony being tough and adaptable and having a brave character, it is also very gentle (although it gave me a little nudge whilst taking snapshots at close up), has a good temper and by nature, it is very wise and smart. Some of these breeds, despite having good tempers and manners, may have a reputation for being too irritable, this may be because of their intelligence. The pony will also make a good pet for many animal lovers. However, to breed one of these mammals, they require proper handling and the breeder must have good knowledge about them. Because they are small strong animals and rather, care must be taken on how to influence good behavior in these ponies, as well as maintaining discipline. It is not a good idea to spoil and pamper them. The good news is that the Shetland Pony is easy to train and handle as long as the correct procedure is followed. In some events such as carnivals and fairs, the ponies are used as riding ponies, so basic riding skills needs to be acquired before riding on one.
Shetland Ponies shouldn't be difficult to recognize. Because most pony breeds look the same, the Shetland Pony does have its own features. The pony's head is small but very tough and in good balance with body, and sometimes with a concave-shaped face. The eyes are wide, large and spaced and their ears are small. The pony's neck is short and muscular and almost has a plump body. The most distinct feature are the pony's legs, they are very short and strong. Their manes and tails are long and thick. The mane actually helps to protect their eyes, neck and head in freezing temperatures. In the winter, they can tolerate and handle the cold climate because they grow a double winter coat to protect them. In the summer, their appearance is sleek and shiny with the single summer coat. The long shaggy coat however, does change in color according to the season.
In general, Shetland Ponies are mainly black in appearance. The breed also appears as a mix of black and brown, grey, skewbald, piebald or even chestnut etc. The male is called a stallion and female is called a mare. They are herbivores and their diet consists of grass, hay and other plants. They weigh between 400-450 pounds. Their height is up to 42 inches, which is roughly 11 hands high and the lowest is 7 hands high. The pony's lifespan is between 25-30 years, and sometimes can live over 30 which is not abnormal. Their natural habitat can be in mountainous regions or farmlands. The ponies are also kept in zoos for visitors to see. Shetland Ponies are now distributed worldwide.