It doesn’t take long to notice how many drastically different-sized horses are referred to as ponies. Exactly how tall is a pony, and how much does a pony weigh? For most organizations, this is a clear-cut answer of 147 cm or smaller (under 14.2 hands) with no indication of weight standards. But contrary to popular belief, the term “pony” doesn’t always refer to size! In fact, certain breeds are specified as “pony breeds”, while other full-size horse breeds can be considered a pony based on height.
What is a Pony?
A pony can also be called a small horse because both are the species Equus ferus. Although ponies primarily differ from horses based on wither height, ponies and pony breeds frequently carry some stereotypes. Many differences are subjective, or a matter of confirmation preference. And owners agree, ponies tend to have “big” attitudes! They are known for their slightly heftier frames versus finer-boned full-size horses and have a reputation as easy-keepers. Despite the smaller height, ponies do tend to carry slightly more weight.
However, some ponies look identical to their full-size counterparts. Hackney Ponies, for example, are almost indistinguishable unless there is something to capture size reference.
How Much Does A Pony Weigh? Standard Weights
The weight of a standard horse varies between 840 and 2,200 pounds! Most Quarter Horses, for example, are between 950 and 1,200 lbs. However, this does not include the Quarter Pony. Because of the diverse height profile for ponies (and no minimum), weight greatly varies. Pony weights are typically somewhere in the range of 200 pounds, upwards of 1,400 pounds for heftier pony breeds like a Haflinger. Some ponies have thicker bone structure and carry more weight in their crests. Ponies are typically at a higher risk for founder.
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Many breed organizations have a breed standard of 14 hands+ for their horses, and these technical “ponies” are registered as and compete as horses in their breed. The weight differences will be minimal and likely directly linked to size in horse breeds. However, some breeds are considered “pony breeds”, and individual height can even be 15 hands! Common pony breeds around the world include the American Shetland, Connemara, Dales, and Pony of the Americas. However, less common ponies low in numbers or even critically endangered include the Karakachan, Garrano, and the Eriskay breeds. You can find a great index of pony breeds on this artist’s site.
So how is a pony-size determined for competition? Although it varies between organizations, we will use FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) as an example since it oversees the majority of groups. Measuring for a competition is serious. Some ponies will apply for their “Pony Card”, much like a height card for human athletes. Temporary cards are issued annually until a pony is eligible for a lifetime card at 8 years or older.
Two veterinarians use a calibrated FEI measuring stick or a HeightLight laser device. FEI changed its 150-centimeter height regulation in late 2019. For 2020, the maximum reduced competition height is 148 centimeters unshod (without shoes). There are no weight requirements for the pony carding process.
While competing may complicate height disputes and “ideal” weights, ponies are simply small horses! Great things come in small packages. What size are your horses?
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