What’s The Difference Between A Horse and Pony

horse vs pony

Horse VS Pony

Horses and ponies have more similarities than differences. Actually, most people mistake one for the other. A common difference between the two is size. Some people mistake ponies for baby horses because of their small size.

The two are of the same family tree and species. Ponies are said to mature faster than horses but maintain a small stature. It might be difficult to differentiate a parent from a young adult because the maturity level of ponies remains the same even in old age. Actually, most people cannot differentiate ponies from horses. Horses, on the other hand, will take more time to mature; typically, they attain maturity size after seven years.

Size Difference

This is the most distinctive feature between the two. Whether you like English or Western rides, there is always a difference between the two. Different locations in the world also influence features of a horse and pony. The truth is Ponies and Horses have linking features; some horses have more of Pony characteristics and some Ponies have numerous horse characteristics, which makes it confusing. A mature horse can be easily identified by size but this is not possible with Ponies. At times, mixing ponies and horses is not safe. Actually, letting children play with horses like ponies can risk their lives while underestimating the small size of ponies.

Pony Characteristics

Some of the variations separating ponies and horses may not be obvious especially to amateurs. You may not spot them instantly if you depend on their size. This is because there are other underlying factors that define them. For example, they have varying temperaments. While ponies are stoic and more intelligent than larger horses, it may not be easy to spot them out until you spend time with them. This should not be taken for docility too as they are advantageous in some sense. For example, instead of finding a challenging pony for your kid, it is safer to find a quiet less active horse, which is less demanding or attention seeking. Ponies can be quiet wily and not appropriate for the safety of a child. They are also likely to avoid work and withstand the consequences or punishment. These beasts are challenging to use and may take long to train.

Ponies are not as quiet, obedient, and docile as horses. However, their overall outcome largely depends of the training and what they were raised up for. Since they are strong and resilient, ponies are better poised for work than horses. They are capable of pulling heavy loads with more vitality than horses considering their size. If you have large amounts of workloads and tasks, you would rather have a pony because they possess the vitality and strength. They hardy creatures can also withstand extreme weather. They are able to survive in a wide range of temperature as their coats grow thinker during cold winters. These layers of protective layers of coat can sustain the pony all the way into summer. During the hottest summers, the ponies finally shed off their excessive coats. This is often for a short period before they then grow back their thick coats as soon as the days begin to shorten.

You will also notice their thick manes and tails. To make them even more resilient, their hooves are tough and sustain them in unforgiving terrain and weather. In comparison to horses, the ponies are heavier thanks to the developed bones and short legs to sustain their weight and proportion.

Ponies are therefore, better survivors in many parts of the world than horses. Although they are more difficult to handle and control, they have bodies that are adaptable and ready to fight extreme conditions. These qualities make the ponies better at most duties and tasks. They require less care and maintenance in comparison to horses.

Digestion in Ponies

Ponies are designed to survive in poor conditions too. For example, they have the ability to retrieve nutrition from a pasture in which a horse would be starving. They can eat a wide variety of options and although this is important for their survival, it also poses a threat to their health. Ponies are more prone to diseases such as founder and laminitis than horses. This is because ponies can easily overeat and consume a wide variety of foods regularly. It follows that pony keepers should be keen on the diet and amount of food they give to their pets. They are not hard keepers in their diet as is the case with horses. Feeding them, therefore, requires optimum care.

Horses may not be demanding as ponies when it comes to their diet. They do not require as much food to gain weight and build muscle. Ponies with this ability to feed on little amounts of food are rare. In most cases, poor feeders are sickly and need medical attention

Ponies that are Horses

All breeds that fall below the 14.2/14 hand mark are considered horses. This includes the Miniature as well as the Icelandic horse. They may be the size of ponies but are referred to as hoses. Although they would be considered ponies because of their size, these two breeds retain their title as horses. Miniature horses have small ponies (like the Shetlands with pedigrees). It is not easy to find authentic natural breeds among them. Although some breeds such as the Welsh pony have some of their own, whose height exceeds their standards, they are still regarded as pony. This means the breed does not restrict the height of the horses or ponies consequently causing a violation of the height definition. For example, some of the common horse breeds also have individuals among them who are the size of pony. However, they are still considered horses. They include the Morgan Horse, Kentucky Mountain Horse, and the American Quarter Horse.

The Quarter Horse

This breed is as old as the United States of America with its roots stretching back to the 17th century colonial America. The Brits bred select horses from Turkey, Arabia, and the Barb in an attempt to find the perfect breed for the new world. Soon the perfect outcome was settled as a heavily muscled, compact horse fit for farm use and spot emerged. The Colonial craving and quest for short-distance horse races, which is mostly limited to a mile would be satisfied by this breed. The horses were shipped alongside the people relocating to America from England and Ireland. It was however, until later in the 19th century that this horse gained serious attention. After it was moved into America, this horse proved it had the ability to outmaneuver cattle and serve as the perfect ranch beast. It quickly became the popular option for both a companion (thanks to its calmness) and sport (thanks to its speed on the track). It quickly gained world fame and became the world’s most popular breed of the 20th century.

1. The American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse (AQHA) has quickly unstoppable worldwide respect thanks to its reputation on the race course. Their ability to sprint in the a quarter mile race faster than their rivals gives them the honor and respect. This is not there is to tell about this beautiful horse, though. They are known to be loyal and classic making them the best choice for the ranch, home use, or saddling way in a harness. They are good for a wide variety of purposes ranging from the trail to the show ring. This breed is, therefore, the perfect all-round horse to own.

2. Colors

There are 13 known colors but the most prominent one is the reddish brown with a shade of white on the head and below the knees. Other recognized colors include; bay, black, grullo, palomino, red roan and blue roan, brown, buckskin, chestnut, dun, red dun, and gray (most people choose to call this ‘white’). The white patches may appear on the head and under the knees. They also have a variety of shapes such as stockings, strips, stars, and blazes too.

3. Physique

The American quarter is easily identifiable by its short compact body and head. You will most likely mistake it for a pony. You will however, notice the heavy muscles that define its overall structure. It has powerful looking shoulders and hindquarters with strong-looking legs. The flat profile and wide forehead gives the quarter its appearance

Miniature Horse

This is an old horse with over 300 years of ancestry in Europe. This is small horse with a great reputation. They do not grow to be taller than 38 inches and come in the widest range of colors and patterns with patches of every kind.

1. Size

They are closely related to Shetland ponies and were inbred for their size. They were known to surviving harsh natural climates and limited food choices. With limited knowledge of genetics then, they were specifically bred for their size. The result became better than expected because they came with more advantages to their size. The little horse became well suited for a variety of usefulness. They are great pets, show animals, and companions for therapy especially to the disabled and blind who need guides.

Perhaps what makes the miniature loved most is the fact that they are easy to train. Thanks to their gentle nature and sturdiness, they can pull a great amount of weight exceeding four times their weight.

2. Care

Minis are demanding and require excess care. They may not require much space but sure need a proper diet and enough food to keep them nourished and stable. You will need to learn their unique needs and special requirements as you take care of the breed. Luckily, you do not need much experience to handle a mini as they are easy to educate and train. In fact, they are loved because they can train themselves thoroughly.

3. Dwarfism

Just like every other breed that emerges from cross-breeding, the specific desired characteristic may be achieved but so does downsides occur to accompany the beast. In Miniatures, dwarfism is the unfortunate occurrence that is persistent in the breed. Even in cases when both parents have normal heights and statue without a clue of the genes, the offspring is highly likely to be dwarfed. Mini dwarfs are not just smaller than the rest; the range in sizes widely differs based on the varying degrees and combinations of undesirable conformational faults.

Other deformities include; stunted limb, spine, jaw growth. Most dwarf minis are only affected by one of these negative traits. These occur in mild levels allowing the animals to lead normal lives. However, those with severe defects are prone to suffering from chronic pain or disability. Although these challenges may not appear at birth, they become obvious as the mini advances in age. For these reasons, it is important to take good care of your miniature and involve your vet to ensure they lead a normal life.

4. Health

Miniatures are susceptible to certain health issues. This means you may not treat them as you would do with a full-sized horse. They require special attention, proper feeding and care provision. For example, they are prone to obesity. Since they require special care and feeding, they are likely to be overfed and grow overweight. Maintaining their overall body condition is important to help you avoid complications such as obesity. In fact, most medical challenges can be avoided by keeping a good diet with the help of a vet.


Ponies are known to live longer than horses because they are built for survival. They can withstand extreme weather conditions and thrive in harsh conditions as long as there is enough food to keep them going. Most ponies live beyond 30 years meaning that the oldest equines to live are ponies. They are ones with the record for longest-lived equines. Most importantly, they can still work and ride even when in their late 20s.


I have owned over 50 horses and currently own a small horse farm with 8 horses. I have competed on and off for over 25 years while doing mostly trail riding and cow sorting these days. I write these articles to help anyone out there if you love this article pin it to your Pinterest or Share on other social media platform. Thanks for visiting.

Recent Posts