When asking what the word pony means the answer you will get will likely differ depending on who the question is directed at. Ask a young girl from the city and she’ll probably describe a juvenile horse, possibly a pink one with a long flowing mane. Ask a young girl from the country and she will likely describe a full-grown horse of a type that has not grown very tall.
Two different answers – both correct. Commonly the word pony is used to describe a foal or a young horse whereas if we look at the equine definition of a pony is not related to the age rather it relates to the size of the horse. Most horses that reach less than 14.2 hands(148 cm) are referred to as ponies, though there are some breeds that whilst never exceeding this height are always referred to as horses. Likely the term pony club was coined to describe young people is riding schools because the horses ridden were generally smaller in height a thus referred to as ponies
At the bottom of this article are links to ponies of the equine definition in that they are horses that do not grow more than 148 cm high.
In areas where conditions and feed are plentiful larger animals tend to dominate. Stallions that are larger and more powerful are more likely to be the Alpha horse in a herd enough they will pass on their large horse genes to their progeny. In mountainous hilly or otherwise marginal land, small horses have an advantage. They are better able to navigate uneven and rocky ground. Their feed requirements are smaller. The Alpha stallion of the herd living in such conditions is far more likely to be a tough stocky more nimble smaller horse than a plains bred stallion. Heavier stallions were likely to struggle to find enough feed to graze on and navigating the rough terrain certainly would have been more difficult for them.
It is likely the plains bred horses that moved into the mountains were very quickly involved in a speedy evolution from tall horse to small horse.
Though shorter in height than the ‘horse” breeds ponies tend to be shorter stockier and sturdier allowing them to be ridden by adults and used as beasts of burden. Certainly, your average mountain pony is going to be stronger than a horse of the same height.
The list below contains information about some of the more popular pony breeds seen today as well as information about some historical breeds that either were once popular or played an important role in the breeding of today’s ponies.