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Shetlands on the Shetlands
Photos of Shetland Island Ponies
The Shetland Pony is famous for its small stature combined with great strength and hardiness. Shetlands have roamed the hills of the Shetland Islands off Northern Scotland for centuries and have lived in the open, regardless of weather conditions. Winters frequently consist of gale-driven rains, sleet and temperatures little above freezing.
In the Islands, the great majority of ponies belonged to the Crofters and ran on the 90% of Shetland land that was common grazing. The Crofters used them for riding – a pony could trot briskly along easily carrying the weight of a man or a man and woman for miles at a time.
The Crofters also used them as pack horses for carrying peat for the fire or goods around the Island when water transport was not available. The ponies were never sheltered or fed out, and were left to fend for themselves. Consequently, their diet often consisted of seaweed which they browsed on at low tide.
The Shetlands’ ability to eat seaweed, salty grasses, and drink salt water are characteristics that have evolved over the centuries. They also possess larger nasal cavities than other breeds, which warm the freezing air before it reaches the lungs.
These harsh weather conditions are the cause of the Shetland ponies’ double coat in winter. This has a thick woolly underlayer and a long haired outer layer, and is almost completely waterproof. Their long thick manes, tails and forelocks also provide weather protection for these hardy little ponies. In contrast, the summer coat is short and should carry a beautiful silky sheen.The photographs on this page have been supplied by June Brown, who breeds Shetland Ponies on the Sheltand Islands. June would be delighted to hear from breeders from other countries. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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