The similarities and differences between horses and ponies


Hadley Leftin

Graphic comparing horses and ponies.

Horses and ponies have more similarities than differences. People mistake ponies for baby horses, foals, because of their size. Foals and ponies are not the same and have unique purposes in the equine world. Some students at Highlands High School ride both ponies and horses and own horses or ponies.

Horses and Ponies are the same species (Equus Caballus) and are from the exact family tree. Ponies mature more quickly than horses but they stay small while horses grow taller. Pony foals mature fast and grow to the same size as their parents fast. Horses grow slow and usually aren’t fully grown until they are six or seven years old. 

Size is one of the big differences between horses and ponies. A pony’s height is 14.2 hands and under and a horse is 14.3 hands and up. Horses and ponies have different behaviors but some horses and ponies have the behavior as each other. The size of the ponies and horses helps prevent ponies and small horses from showing against larger horses in an event, whose size might give them a bigger advantage in events. In shows, it also isn’t very safe to have small children on small ponies in the same ring with larger horses.

Some breeds of horses are smaller than 14.2 hands but are still considered horses. Some of the breeds that are considered horses are Miniature Horses and Icelandic Horses. Most Miniature Horses have some type of pony in their heritage. Some Welsh ponies are taller than 14.2 hands and are still considered ponies. Some horse breeds have horses that are the same size height as ponies including Morgan Horse, American Quarter Horse, Paso Fino, and Kentucky Mountain Horse. 

Some differences between horses and ponies are not always easy to find like the size. Horses and ponies have very different characteristics, temperaments, and personalities. Ponies are more self-controlled and intelligent than horses. Ponies can be quite tricky which is why it is usually easier to find a calm horse than a reliable pony. Ponies are very good at knowing how to get out of work and the consequence. Horses can be quieter, usually, the larger the breed, the more easy-going they are. Tus also depends on what the horse breed was bred for.

Ponies are very strong for their size. They can carry or pull heavy loads with more strength than horses, approximate to their size. They are capable of withstanding higher ranges of temperature than horses. Pony’s coats grow thicker in the winter than horses and usually don’t shed out until the hottest day of the summer. Ponies will start to grow their thick coats back as daylight shortens. Pony’s hooves are usually tougher, they are heavier secured, and short-legged compared to their bodies.

Since most ponies are more intelligent than horses they can find more ways to survive than a horse can. When out in a poorly grown pasture ponies can find food but a horse would most likely starve on the pasture. It is very easy to overfeed a pony which makes them more likely to the founder or get laminitis than a horse. 

Ponies tend to live longer than horses. It is typically not unusual for a pony to live past thirty years old, and many world record holders of the oldest equines are ponies. Many ponies are still used for work into their late 20s.