What Is the Difference Between a Horse And a Pony?

white horse is standing near white pony

Some people may confuse horses and ponies. But professional equine experts have to know the differences between these animals. Ponies and horses have some differences and similarities. For instance, the horses’ hair is more gentle while ponies have thick coats.

Pony is a childhood dream. It’s believed they are for kids only as ponies are smaller. Horses are graceful and powerful. The animal is used for shows, eventing, and farming. But these are the stereotypes. Let’s plunge into the major differences between horses and ponies and what they have in common.

Origin

Horses and ponies belong to the same species – Equus caballus. They are originated from the same branch of the family tree. A mare can give birth to both horse foals and pony foals. Once the equine is mature, it can be measured.

herd of horses on the meadow

Height

One of the distinguishing features is how tall the equine is. It’s the most obvious difference between horses and ponies. Ponies are 14.2 hands high or lower for English riders and no taller than 14 hands for Western riders.

The counties may have different heights set for ponies. The same goes for local equestrian events. As the bigger size of the equine could give some privileges. Besides, it’s not recommended for children to ride small ponies amid huge horses.

You may have heard of polo ponies as well. That’s a term used for horse-sized breeds that are used in the polo game. Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses are common representatives of polo ponies.

Pony-Size Breeds

Some equines are not considered ponies even when the species is 14.2 hands high or under. These are the Miniature Horse and the Icelandic Horse. They have a size of a pony but they are called horses.

miniature horses are standing on the embankment

Miniature Horse

A miniature horse called mini has a lovely appearance that is famous around the world. The equine is loved for its adorable tiny size and friendliness. These small horses are usually owned as companions. Kids are fond of miniature horses! Even though they are smaller than regular horses, they need solid care as well.

These “baby horses” resulted from breeding ponies and small horses. The life span of these equines is 35 years, which is decent. The average weight of the equine is 150 to 350 pounds. There are two categories according to the American Miniature Horse Association. A division includes miniature horses 8.5 hands high. A small horse 8.5 to 9.5 hands high goes to B division. There are also miniature horses registered as short as 34 inches.

Icelandic horses are grazing around

Icelandic Horse

The Icelandic Horse is another popular breed considered a horse. The animal is known for its sturdiness and prolonged longevity. They can live up to 40 and 50 years! The horse is extremely friendly and sociable. The hack also features two unique gaits apart from standard ones (walk, trot, canter). The rider feels comfortable with the gait when performing.

The average representative is 12 to 14 hands tall. These equines weigh from 700 to 840 pounds. The horse is commonly used for racing, eventing, and pleasure riding.

pinto horse on the sky background

Conformation

Conformation refers to the bone and muscle structure. There are crucial differences between horses and ponies regarding their body build.

Little but mighty – that’s a perfect description of ponies. They are impressively strong for their size. Ponies are capable of pulling heavyweights. And some of the pony breeds can pull as much as draft horses. Mind that draft breeds are bulky workhorses that feature great stamina and the ability to carry a heavy workload.

Another pony characteristics are relevant to the body structure. Ponies features a round barrel with a wide chest and rib cage. As their size is small, they are short-bodied. Horses have a leaner body with more elegant proportions.

As for the horse and pony heads, ponies have a short head with small ears and big eyes. On the contrary, horses have bigger heads with large ears and wide nostrils.

Horses have slim and long limbs with thin hooves. Ponies have short limbs but quite strong for their size with durable hooves.

There are many different aspects of the bone density of horses and ponies. Ponies tend to have denser and heavier bones than horses. Horses have leaner limbs but the equines prone to poorer bone density.

pony with white mane and tail

Hair

A horse and a pony have a different mane and tail thickness. As most pony breeds derived from cold climates, their coats are thicker. That’s due to withstand harsh weather conditions with that insulation. Ponies have longer and thicker tails and manes than horses.

Horses have relatively thinner coats. But in winter the hair starts growing densely to regulate the body temperature. Thanks to the firm layer, this gives solid protection to animals during cold seasons. Some horse breeds don’t produce enough coat density to keep them warm. Some people use a horse blanket in winter to slow down the hair growing process.

Horses, like ponies, originate from cold climates. However, some pony breeds tend to have thin coats (Anadolu Pony) like horse breeds.

white haltered horse amid the trees

Temperament

There’s a difference between horses and ponies character. Both of the equines are intelligent. But ponies are considered extremely smart animals.

As ponies are quick-witted, people find them easy to train and work with. Various pony breeds are used as a companion for a beginner rider or as an addition to the farm. However, ponies can be stubborn and prone to testing their owner. Mind this trait when training a pony.

The level of horse intelligence depends on a specific breed. Generally, horses are deemed as smart and friendly animals. Such warmblood breeds like the Arabian Horse and the Thoroughbred are both calm and willing to cooperate.

ponies are sunbathing

Maturity

Horses and ponies have a difference at what age they mature. Ponies mature faster than horses. A horse is deemed as an adult at seven years old. While ponies need six years to become a grown-up.

When the equine is fully grown, it’s time to measure its size. A baby horse may look like a baby pony and they can be confused.

Diet

The horse and pony nutrition are quite similar. Hay, grain, and grass represent most part of the diet.

Ponies need daily hay feeding that makes up 2% of their body weight. Horses need hay in the amount of 2-2.5% of the body weight.

Horses require more minerals and protein in their diet. Ponies can survive in low-forage conditions for a while with thick coats to ward off the cold.

three horses on the meadow

Popular Horse Breeds

1. Arabian Horse

The Arabian Horse or Arab is one of the oldest breeds that is spread all over the world nowadays. It is well-known for its great stamina, intelligence, beauty, and loyalty. That’s why these light horses were used to improve features like durability, endurance, and speed of other breeds. Due to its fascinating features, it is claimed as a great versatile breed for amateur and expert riding sessions, equestrian competitions, and selection.

More about Arabian Horses.

Horse Breed Overview

Arabian Horse

Pros

Cons

2. Thoroughbred Horse

The Thoroughbred breed is a favorite among equestrian lovers. It is known for its great mixture of gracefulness and fast speed. That’s why it is usually used for horse racing, jumping, and eventing. Being developed in England, this breed is greatly popular all over the world, particularly in the USA.

Horse Breed Overview

Thoroughbred Horse

Pros

Cons

herd of ponies are walking around

Popular Pony Breeds

1. Shetland Pony

The Shetland Pony is one of the popular pony breeds designed in Scotland. That will be a great option for your kids to take up equestrian sports. Looking cute is not an only feature, they are also very kind, intelligent and quite sturdy.

Horse Breed Overview

Shetland Pony

Pros

Cons

2. Connemara Pony

The Connemara Pony derived from Ireland. It’s a popular show pony that is loved for its athleticism and good temperament. The breed is versatile that’s used in dressage, eventing, show jumping, harness racing, and more.

Horse Breed Overview

Connemara Pony

Pros

Cons

horse is running with a pony

Pony vs Horse Compared

No matter whether you’re a horse or pony lover, both equines are adorable. But the pony and horse world is different. These species have various distinguishing features.

The equines taller than 14.2 hands are considered horses. Another type is claimed as a pony. Ponies have shorter bodies but they are rather sturdy. Horses have a longer neck and slim legs. Both horses and ponies are ridden under the saddle. There are dozens of events where you can take part with these breeds.

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David Garcia

David Garcia

David Garcia is a vivid writer and a big fan of equestrian sports. He founded Horse Riding Center – the blog where David shares his knowledge and experience about horses, tack, equestrian riding equipment, taking care of horses, and other useful guidelines.