Tag Archives: Shetland ponies

SHETLANDS! A hearty breed of love buckets and mini-hooligans…


After posting the Mine That Bird 2009 Kentucky Derby race yesterday, I had to post this Shetland Race Video.  Please watch it.

(I had to replace this video because the wonderful one I had three years ago is gone… Boo Hoo!  But this one is fun as well!)

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Do you have a Shetland Pony?  The old style kind?  Fat and Fuzzy?  Lovable and lumpy?  I do!  I have two!


I think every one should have at least two…  Shetlands are easy to care for, hearty as heck, don’t take up much space and are a riot/party in a woolly coat!  Thank goodness that they turned out to be so tiny because if their BIG personalities were in large horses bodies… well, it wouldn’t be such a riot/party, if you know what I mean.  But, luckily, these powerhouses of cheekiness come in tiny packages, loaded with love and belligerence — in a good way.

A typical old style Shetland pony in winter


Perhaps one of the reasons these little ones are so belligerent is because they definitely got the short end of the stick when drawing for homelands…  They come from the hills of Shetland Ilses (North Scotland up by the Pole…).  Yikes.   Up in the Shetland Isles, when the howling wind isn’t driving hailstones into the poor ponies, they get to forage for just about no food that hardly grows there.  And, when there is absolutely nothing to eat, they much on seaweed.  Ptooey.  I’m sure seaweed has lots of vitamins and minerals but ugh, to have to eat it raw?  I’d rather have mine in pill form, thank you very much.

See the Shetland in the boat on right?

From what scholars think, small horses have been on the Shetland Isles since the Bronze Age.   People who lived on the islands probably later crossed the native stock with ponies imported by Norse settlers.  This is why Shetlands and Icelandic Horses are similar.  In fact, both Shetlands and Icelandics come in all colors EXCEPT spotted like an appaloosa.  Anyway,  Shetland ponies also were probably influenced by the Celtic Pony, brought to the islands by the Celts between 2000 and 1000 BCE.   The harsh climate and scarce food developed the ponies into “extremely hardy animals”.

In my opinion, “extremely hardy animals” is an understatement.  These guys are like little tanks!

Little tanks


You’ve probably heard that Shetlands were used as coal mine ponies.  Many of them were imported onto the mainland Britain and the Eastern US to work in the mines pulling carts containing peat, coal or supplies in and out of the mines.  Some of the ponies did this all of their short lives, even living underground most of the time (yeesh, living underground…).

I found it interesting that the last Shetland mine in the United States closed in 1971.  That wasn’t that long ago.

Nowaays for work, the Shetland ponies haul kids around and teach them the pony way…  <smile>  Truly, even though the books say that these ponies are “generally gentle, good-tempered, and very intelligent by nature. They make good children’s ponies”, I kinda disagree from what I know of the two that I have.  Sure, they are really sweet around kids and are good boys, but I wouldn’t trust them to be as good if I wasn’t looking…


Another book, whose author obviously loves Shetlands, said this about Shetlands and kids:

“(Shetland ponies) are sometimes noted for having a “brave” character, but can be very opinionated or “cheeky”, and, if not handled properly, can be impatient, snappy, and sometimes become uncooperative, traits often lumped under the label “stubborn” by those who fail to understand that pony behavior is influenced by the quality of human handling. Due in part to their intelligence and size, they are easily spoiled and can be very headstrong if not well-trained.”

Uh huh.  Those are the Shetlands that I know…

On the job…


There are many shapes and sizes of Shetlands. I have the “old” style which is more popular in Europe.  These are the short, squatty and fuzzy kind you picture in your mind when you think of Shetland Pony.

A herd of Shetlands!

Here are the published characteristics:

Shetland Ponies are hardy and strong, in part because the breed developed in the harsh conditions of the Shetland Isles. In appearance, Shetlands have a small head, sometimes with a dished face, widely-spaced eyes and small and alert ears. The original breed has a short, muscular neck, compact, stocky bodies, and short, strong legs and a shorter than normal cannon bone in relation to their size. A short broad back and deep girth are universal characteristics as is a springy stride. Shetlands have long thick manes and tails and a dense double winter coat to withstand harsh weather. Different breed registries have different height standards, but the outside ranges are between a minimum of 7 hands and 11.2 hands (28 to 46 inches (71 to 117 cm)).

Champion Old Style Shetland

Shetlands can be almost every colour, including skewbald and piebald (called pinto in the United States), but are mainly black, chestnut, bay, brown, gray, palomino, dun, roan, cremello, and silver dapple. Registered shetlands are not leopard spotted (Appaloosa), nor do they carry the champagne gene, though these colors are sometimes seen in Shetland-sized crossbreds.

Many ponies are long-lived, it is not unusual for a Shetland pony to live more than 30 years. Conversely, their small size also predisposes some individuals to a greater probability of heart problems than in larger animals, on occasion leading to early death.



I don’t know much about American Shetlands except that to me, they look like bigger minis.  They are streamlined and look more like horses than ponies.  The “good ones”  look a lot like the best minis, only larger.

To me, this new American Shetland kinda ruins the image.  Now, I’m not saying anything against the American Shetland, just that I prefer the old style.  After all, it is much easier to laugh with a tiny, plump, snaky-necked, shaggy little rabble-rouser who is acting out — than a sleek one.

But, that’s just me.

Champion American Shetland… big difference.


Shetlands are the strongest horse on the planet.  They can pull twice their weight whereas the strongest draft horse can only pull half of his weight.  Ah ha!  Take that!

Pony rides!


Shetland ponies, like many hardy small horse and pony breeds, can easily develop laminitisif on a diet high in non-structural carbohydrates. Therefore owners must pay careful attention to nutrition being careful to regulate feed quantity and type.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.


If anyone has a Shetland, they need to consider nutrition very, very carefully.  Since Shetlands are cheeky and they do think that they are invincible, these little hellions will get into many “situations” that could be difficult for both you and them.

For example, they think nothing of escaping their shelter and breaking into the feed room.  They think nothing of picking their gate lock and running to greener pastures to gorge themselves.  They think nothing of stealing any other horse’s food, whenever possible.

So, watch them closely!

Watch these guys closely…


To be honest, there isn’t much said about Shetlands.  Sad, really.  They are so wonderful but their diminutive size must make them often overlooked…  Here are three stories that I found.

1)     I wanted to bring to you the story of Sampson, the kissing Shetland.  Here is the link to the story.  He works helping people in Retirement homes feel loved again… He is a kissing fool!

click to watch the video of Sampson the Kissing Shetland!

2)     Rory, the eight week old Shetland who thinks he is a dog.  He was born in a Sanctuary in Essex where his mother rejected him.  While receiving special care in the office, the owner’s dogs caught his attention.  From that day forward, Rory has drunk out of dog bowls, runs after and picks up sticks and sleeps with the dogs!

Rory with a stick

Drink up!

3)     In 2001, a Shetland mare in the UK, who was obtained from a Wildlife Park, gave birth to a Zetland (zebra/Shetland)!   The new owners had no idea that the mare was pregnant, let alone to a Zebra!  Both Mommy and baby are fine.

Zetland! (I love the cows in the background!)


OK, I’ve posted this before.  But, I’m posting it again because I love everything about this video – especially the Shetland barrel pony!

Greatest Shetland Video EVER! Click here!


I’m sure you’ve heard me wax lyrically about my two wonderful Shetlands.  Both Slick and Dodger were rescues.  Slick was a teasing stud at a Thoroughbred farm and Dodger was a rejected pony from a pony circle ride.

These two steal my heart and make me crazy every single day.  Like today, for example…  It was been raining and storming so heavily that I now have a creek and a small lake on my property that was never there before.  Mother Nature has been very weepy.

Suffice it to say that all my horses have retained relative dryness because they are all using, mostly, their shelters – except the Shetlands.

Me:  Go inside your shelter!

Slick:  “Why?”

Me:  Because the wrath of the Heavens is bestowing upon Grass Valley and I’m afraid you will get a chill or at least be blown away!

Slick:  “For heaven’s sake, Human, we are from the Shetland Isles!  Do you know what it is like up there?  Heck, we can do this puny storm with one hoof tied behind our backs.”

Me:  You were born here in American, not the Shetland Isles.

Dodger:  You don’t know that… we are both rescues, na nanny nah nah (sticking his tongue out).

Me:  Fine.  Be that way.  But it makes me crazy to see you so drenched.

Them:  (swaying and bumping to the music in their little shaggy heads) “That’s the way, uh huh uh huh, we like it, uh huh uh huh….”

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