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A Rare Breed of Shetland Island Origin
The Shetland is the smallest of the British breeds, and unlike other pony breeds, does not increase in height when bred on more favourable land and in a milder climate.
The early 1800s saw a demand for this breed from outside the Shetland Islands where it developed (see » Shetlands on the Shetlands.) Initially this was mainly for circus animals and children’s ponies. However, with the abolition of child labour in the coal mines demand grew even further and large numbers of ponies were sent to England for the mines. Buyers from the USA had also become interested in the breed and large consignments were shipped across the Atlantic.
In 1822 it was estimated there were 10,000 ponies on the Shetland Islands but by the 1890s this figure was down to only 4000. Today on the Islands there are approximately a thousand.
With the increased demand and popularity, several studs were established to breed ponies for use in the pits and for export. Interest grew, and in 1890 the Shetland Pony Stud Book Society was formed.
Black is the foundation colour but any colour is acceptable. They have a relatively strong head with a broad forehead, large kindly eyes, large open nostrils and small neat ears. There should be a strong neck and muscular chest set on a thickset body, with a relatively short back, strong sloping shoulders, and strong muscular hindquarters. They should have good flat bones and muscular legs.
Shetland ponies have tremendous character and are not vicious and ill-tempered as people are sometimes led to believe. If a Shetland is treated sensibly, not teased or spoilt, it is a docile, wonderful pony for any child and it makes a tremendous driving pony for adults.
The breed was brought into New Zealand at least as early as 1858, but it was not until early in 1979 that the New Zealand Shetland Pony Breeders Society was formed for the promotion, registration and maintenance of the purity of the Purebred Shetland Pony in New Zealand.
Today the breed is well established in this country, proving popular both as a harness pony and as a children’s mount. In Hand showing classes are rapidly becoming a popular and well-supported feature at major shows as well.
Because of their small size, Shetland ponies are ideal for small holdings, and they bring hours of enjoyment to their owners, whether they be a child’s first pony or an adult’s show or harness animal.We are grateful to the » New Zealand Shetland Pony Breeders' Society (Inc.) for information used above.
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