What are the differences between a horse and a pony?


Is the pony a miniature horse? Yes, in theory the only difference between a pony and a horse is size. But is it all still so clear? We take stock for you.

The different categories of pony

The International Equestrian Federation establishes the classification of equines. This is necessary to organize participation in the various competitions: breeding competitions that stimulate genetic improvement, competitions of the French Equestrian Society (SHF), the French Equestrian Federation (FFE) and club competitions.

A horse of less than 1.48 m not shod at the withers is a pony. If the animal is shod, the size limit is increased by 1 cm. Above, it’s a horse.

Ponies are divided into 4 categories based on their size, also measured at the withers and unshod animal:

  • in category A, the ponies are less than 1.07 m tall,
  • in category B, their size is between 1.08 m and 1.30 m,
  • in category C, their size is between 1.31 m and 1.40 m,
  • in category D, their height is between 1.41 and 1.48 m.

One difficulty encountered by riders is that animals do not always grow in a predictable way. And some ponies around 4 or 5 years old, with late growth, change category during the year and struggle to perform well on larger obstacles.

A difference in life expectancy

Ponies often live longer than horses, with a life expectancy of up to 30-35 years. This is explained by a longer development, maturity being later. They can be mounted for over 20 years.

Large horses can only expect to live 20 to 30 years with a difference between cold blooded horses (16 to 18 years old), half-bred breeds (20 years old on average) and thoroughbreds (around 25 years old). ). The use of the animal plays a lot on its longevity: used as a professional competition horse, it will tend to die sooner, because of the stress to which it is subjected. Wild horses can be over 35 years old.

But recorded world records reverse this trend: the oldest horse in the world identified died in 1822 at the age of 62 while the oldest pony died in 2007, at the age of only 56.

Ponies can be horses

Some small breed horses are not considered ponies, except in the context of competition.

This is the case of Camargue horse. It is a breed of small rustic saddle horses with a gray coat, originating in the eponymous French region. They traditionally live in freedom in the marshes of the Rhône delta. They measure between 1.35 m and 1.50 m at the withers, with an average of around 1.40 m, and rarely exceed 1.45 m. In France, he is considered to be a horse.

This is also the case with Merens horse, sometimes called Ariège pony. It is a breed of small, rustic saddle and draft horses with black coats. It measures between 1.45 m and 1.55 m at the withers, with an average of around 1.42 m. He can be considered a pony for some competitions.

This is still the case with the fine-looking Arabian thoroughbred. He is a horse whose height is generally between 1.45 m and 1.56 m at the withers, which sometimes allows him to participate in competitions as a pony.

The przewalski’s horse is one of the oldest species of horse, measuring an average of 1.30 m at the withers which, by its large head and strong neck, is more reminiscent of the pony than the horse.

Tricky appellations

In the general public, we hear about “Double Pony”. This is a way of speaking of ponies a little larger than the others, that is to say ponies of categories C or D. As this expression does not correspond to any classification, it is not used by professionals. .

The polo pony is, most of the time, a horse because it measures from 1.55 m to 1.59 m at the withers. It is the result of the cross between a Criollo and a thoroughbred. He is a fine but muscular animal who inherited endurance and sturdiness from the Criollo, and from the thoroughbred, speed and agility.

Does the pony have a different character than the horse?

The pony finds its origins in populations of wild horses where food was scarce and the climate more severe. It seems logical to deduce from this that their small size results from their adaptation to a hostile environment and that this adaptation has more influence on the character of the animal.

Although reputed to have a particularly strong character, generalizing about the character of the pony does not make sense because each breed has a specific temperament. Thus, the Fjord is calm and placid, while the Shetland is more prone to disobey. But even within the categories of race, it is possible to find individuals who do not conform to generalities.

What size of equine for which rider?

Ponies are not just for children and can be ridden by adults.

In practice, it is ultimately the size of the animal that counts. This varies depending on the frame: a small, sturdy horse can accommodate a rather heavy rider than a slender horse with fine frame.

A person of 1.70 m can climb an animal of 1.55 m. If a pony is broad-shouldered, with a full and deep rib cage and giving off power, it will be able to withstand a heavy rider.

The main criterion is that the rider is comfortable in his seated. And this comfort does not lie only in the height of the animal. The back of the animal must first be able to receive the saddle which corresponds to the morphology of the rider. A long-legged rider can have legs that protrude under the belly, even on a thoroughbred if it is too thin, and on the other hand, a rider with short legs, will struggle to surround the body with a a workhorse. A rider with a long bust will be uncomfortable with a horse with a short neck.

In the context of competitions, it may be advantageous to play with categories. Indeed, in show jumping competitions, these are proportional to the category. It is therefore interesting to have a large Category B pony rather than a small Category C pony.

Also, the market takes these considerations into account, and even if you don’t want to compete, ponies that are in the lower end of their class are cheaper than others. Notice to amateurs!

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