A guide to Shetland ponies by our regular contributor Karen Boyce of Beastly Thoughts Professional Dog Services (BTPDS).
Across the world, there are quite a few hundred different breeds of ponies and horses, and the UK is home to a diverse bunch, from the miniature and sturdy Shetland to the gentle giant Shire! Today we will look at the beautiful Shetland pony.
Small, Strong and Sturdy
Miniature ponies have existed in the Shetland Isles for over 2,000 years. They have hardly evolved in that time owing to the location of the islands. They are renowned for their small stature, strength, sturdiness and longevity.
And after the banning of children from coal pits in 1847, it was these attributes that the coal industry identified. They decided to start using Shetland pony males in considerable numbers to work in the pits.
Of course, as they became essential, people became interested in improving the ponies for the pit trade. Several studs started to breed a particular type, generally the heavier black ponies that were very popular in the show ring when Shetland ponies were first shown.
But back on the Shetlands, there has always been a range of gorgeous colours. And of course, there are the smaller Shetland ponies that we call miniature Shetlands.
Shetland ponies now exist all across the world, in all sizes and all colours. They can be ridden by children and lightweight adults, driven and shown in hand.
I owned my first Shetland pony in my teens, and now, 40 years later, I still have the same small stud. But there are none of the black ponies in my stud as I love the broken coloured and the golden duns (ponies that have a strip of a different colour down their backs – just like a donkey).
Docile and Social
So, are they naughty? Even nasty? This is what people often say. Well, the answer is no. They should be docile and social. But very often people don’t train them properly simply because they are small. Treat them like a proper equine, and they will be just fine.
They can be cheeky, however. Over the years in my fields, the electric guys have renewed the poles, and the local farmer has needed access to do some work. It’s hard not to smile as these poor people run the risk of losing their tools, having their bottoms nipped or finding some teeth marks as the ponies test the strength of their vehicles.
Over the years, having had the odd pony in the garden to cut the grass, I am also aware that most Shetland ponies will take the opportunity to pop in the house if they can. My very first pony, Nicky, used to like to get in and raid the ashtrays for the cigarette butts!
Shetlands ponies are famous for all the right reasons. They are beautiful, fun and versatile.
Karen Boyce owns and runs Beastly Thoughts Professional Dog Services offering classes in the local area for puppy and older dogs. Karen also owns the Elson Fron Shetland pony stud, which has won at many local, county and breed shows over the years.
Karen, 57, is originally from Shrewsbury, but now lives in Froncysyllte. She has been helping families and their pets for 20 years as the owner of BTPDS.
BTPDS is the largest pet dog training establishment in Wales. They specialise in puppy training and reactive dogs, but offer a whole host of obedience training classes, lectures, webinars and online training hubs and groups. Karen was named Animal Star Awards Dog Trainer/Behaviourist of the Year in 2019.
We hope you enjoyed reading about Shetland ponies. If you’d like to read more of our articles about animals, click here.