The Stables

The Hardy Highland Pony

A renown favourite with our Queen these tough, hardy and sturdy Highland ponies have been very adept in caring for our monarch over the decades, as well as carrying a shot stag down from the hills. These wonderful ponies come in a variety of sizes and colours and are suitable for a wide range of tasks, making them a great allrounder when it comes to owning one.

The Highland Pony is one of three native breeds from the Scottish Highlands and Islands with the others being the lovable Shetland and the lesser well known Eriskay pony. With the wild Scottish weather, the Highland Pony has adapted to the climate and conditions living in Scotland. They were initially bred to work on the small farms in the Scottish hills taking on the heavy work of hauling timber as well as ploughing.  These mini work horses have also been used as military ponies in past conflicts and also are popular in modern day sporting and showing activities. Due to their quiet nature and stamina, these tough little equines are also great for riding difficult terrain, carrying weight but also can jump well and can be used for driving too.

Their winter coat consists of a badger-like type hair over a soft dense undercoat. This double coat enables them to live easily in the harshest of winters. This sheds easily in the spring giving them a lovely smooth coat for the summer. Highland ponies should have natural flowing tails and manes. If showing or competing, it is against the breed standard to trim hair or dock their manes. Many will also have a dark coloured dorsal stripe together with their long tail, thick mane and feathering to the legs.

They thrive on rough grazing and like to be kept outside which makes them an excellent choice when looking for a pony that can live comfortably outdoors all year round. However they can have eyes bigger than their bellies and obesity is their biggest health issue. Care is needed when grazing and rich fertilised grass is a big concern for this breed with the risk of developing laminitis.  

The typical Highland Pony stands around a balanced 14.2hh with powerful quarters, a deep chest in a variety of colours. They are known to come in shades of dun, grey, brown, black and occasionally bay and liver chestnut. These strong and calm ponies are also easy to break and train. Crossing these characteristics can produce a pony with a wonderful temperament, stamina and hardiness. Being one of the biggest pony breeds, they also make a great choice for an adult to ride and own. Definitely try one and don’t condemn them for being too small!

Make sure the Highland pony is a breed to consider if you are looking to own a pony. Their life span is between twenty five to thirty years although some comfortably make it into their thirties. Most will also cope with barefoot riding too, so this fantastic breed will make all aspects of horse ownership a very enjoyable one.

by Samantha Hobden

Image credit: Paid licence Shutterstock