Ponies of the Americas (POA) are a hardy breed which has diverse utility. It a kind hearted and intelligent pony with a very recent history tailored exclusively for young beginner equestrians.
The Pony of the Americas is a relatively new breed. It is said to have originated in Mason City, Iowa by a man named Leslie Boomhower. Boomhower came to own an Appaloosa Arab mare which had accidently been bred with a Shetland pony. The resulting colt was a peculiar colored, smaller sized horse. It is this pony which Boomhower named Black Hand Number One, to which all descendants are traced.
Boomhower initiated a registry for this newly acquired breed, The Ponies of The Americas Club. Boomhower desired strict breeding standards in the development of this new bloodline.
The POA quickly proliferated. There were stringent regulations within the POA registry that had to be followed. Any pony for consideration had to be 44-52 inches high. Appaloosa characteristics need to be distinctively present which include coat pattern, mottled skin, white sclera, and striped hooves. These Appaloosa features have to be visible from at least forty feet. These qualifiers are also in line with muscle development specifications and head features.
The registry also required the ponies only be saddled and ridden by youth. The first maximum age limit in 1954 was 16 years of age. Today that restriction has been increased to 19 years old. There are exceptions for adult participation in competition with these ponies such as cart pulling or showing of the pony at halter. These horses also have inherent characteristics which make them very compatible with their youthful riders in many equestrian activities.
The POA is a kind, easy going and intelligent breed. These characteristics combined make these horses almost effortlessly trainable. The Ponies of The Americas Club’s maxim of today is, “Try hard, win humbly, lose gracefully, and if you must…protest with dignity.” The shows are specifically designed for the young equestrian community in an effort to instill poise in participation, sportsmanship, and accountability.
By 1996 there were over 40,000 registered ponies. The ponies were being bred specifically for youth. Over time, the breed specifications were evolving and moving away from the original Appaloosa, Arab, and Shetland pony mix in an attempt to find the perfect pony. Shetland ponies were phased out of the breeding combination entirely so that the horse was less of a pony in structure.
New combinations arose including the breeding of ponies with the Welsh and Indian ponies, as well as slighter horses like the Mustang and Arabs. There were efforts to breed smaller Quarter Horses and Appaloosas in an endeavor to achieve the perfect pony; physically appealing and easily trained with a temperament to match their youthful riders.
Throughout this evolution the desired ponies became slightly larger and in 1985 the height limit was increased from 52 inches to 56 inches. Many evolutionary breeding specifications over a relatively short time period have produced a very desirable sports pony.
One of the most significant characteristics of the POA is the Appaloosa trait requirement that must be present in all registered and competing ponies. There are a variety of acceptable patterns and colorings: white with dark hips and markings, snowcapped, and leopard. It should be noted that ponies with Paint, Pinto or Albino parentage can’t be included in the registry.
The standard POA height requirement of today is 44-56 inches. The ponies must have a slightly dished face, with large eye and finely shaped ears, calling to mind its Arab roots. Its body more closely resembles a stock horse.
The body should be slender and athletic, symmetrical and proportionate. The barrel will be profound and muscled and the shoulders slightly sloping. The withers will be noticeable with well-formed legs and round medium hooves. Though a hardy breed in general, these horses are at a high risk of laminitis (severe foot swelling which can result in lameness). The back should be short and in line with well-developed hips and wide loins. They can become overweight easily so maintaining an appropriate diet is very important.
The pony has an easy two-beat gait. The POA has a graceful action and physique. Though small, these ponies are quite versatile. They are used today in hunting, ranch work, gymkhana, dressage, halter, pleasure and trail riding, driving and endurance riding. This pony is athletic and intelligent and does very well for what it was bred for- a kind, trainable pony for the beginning youth equestrian.