Shetland Pony

Shetland ponies or Shetland ponies, as the little ponies are also often called, are small but sturdy ponies. They are extremely intelligent and much more than just children’s ponies: circus lessons or driving a carriage are also suitable activities for the clever dwarfs.
Closely related to the Shetland ponies is the Minishetty, which actually differs from its relatives only in its size: a Minishetty can be up to 87 cm tall.

Origin and History

The Shetland pony comes from a barren region: its home is the Shetland Islands in the north of Scotland. Small ponies lived there 5000 years ago. Since an icy wind often blows on the islands and food is scarce, the Shetland ponies are very frugal ponies.
Humans took advantage of the sturdy ponies by using them in the mines in the 19th century. Life in the pits was tough and the little ponies did heavy work as cargo ponies.


Shetland ponies are extremely smart and hardworking. They usually like to work and are bored when they are not busy. In principle, they are very good-natured, but a bored child’s pony can also get cheeky and develop their own ideas. It is not without reason that Shetland ponies are often seen in the circus: they generally learn tricks very quickly! Leaving the intelligent, funny ponies standing in the meadow as a kind of “lawnmower” does not do the little horses justice.


With its large head a broad forehead and small pony ears, the Shetland pony embodies a typical pony face. It usually looks friendly with its big dark eyes and has a funny, fluffy mane. The Shetland pony has a strong body, short legs, and a size of up to 107 cm. Classic ponies, whose breed is closely related to the Shetland ponies, are somewhat lighter and up to 112 cm tall.

Suitability / Use

A Shetland pony is frugal in keeping, but quite demanding in terms of occupation. It doesn’t just want to stand on the pasture, it wants to work: Equestrian sports with children or driving sports with adults are suitable hobbies for Shetland ponies. Many children love Shetland ponies because they are a manageable size. And if they have become too big for the ponies, then the young people or adults can train the pony to be a driving horse: A well-trained Shetland pony can pull up to one and a half times its own weight. But many Shetland ponies also enjoy riding therapy or circus lessons. Bored Shetland ponies become cheeky and sometimes escapees who seek entertainment and usually more food outside of their own pasture. Although small, they are real ponies and need attention and care.


Shetland ponies prefer to live with other Shetland ponies. Even if they can assert themselves with larger horses, they feel most comfortable with a couple of friends of the same size. An open stable is a good choice for the fun Shetland ponies. Appropriate fencing is essential: the fence that will hold back a warm-blooded animal is often simply too high for a Shetland pony and therefore more an invitation to take a walk than a boundary. Here they are very resourceful and develop their own escape strategies – if it doesn’t quite fit standing up, they roll under the fence. In addition, a Shetland pony with its thick mane can squeeze under the electric fence with almost no problems. A fence that is deep enough is therefore compulsory. In addition, the Shetland ponies are not allowed to eat as much rich food as they would like: Otherwise, there is a risk of life-threatening diseases.

Diseases Typical of the Breed

Being robust and frugal is a disadvantage for Shetland ponies on our rather rich pastures: Quite a few develop laminitis and have to be put on a diet for their entire life. The little ones often react with sweet itch, so that many Shetland ponies rub off their pretty mane and suffer from the black flies in the summer. In old age – as with other breeds – Cushing or other metabolic diseases may also appear. Shetland pony is actually really robust: If you pay attention in good time to a species-appropriate attitude with appropriate feeding, they get really old: Shetland ponies over 30 years are not uncommon, some live up to 40 years. Quite a few Shetland ponies have taught children to ride for generations!

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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