The Shetland pony - small person, big heart

The term "pony" is immediately associated with the Shetland pony: small, sweet, cheeky and greedy. Everyone knows it and everyone likes it. But the affectionately named Shetty is not only a children's favourite. This pony also impresses with its enormous performance. It is well worth taking a closer look at this popular breed!

You will be amazed at the charm and ambition of a Shetland pony.

The historical origin

You will probably think that Shetland comes from the Shetland Islands of the same name. In fact, this is not quite the case. The first traces of the little horses can be found way up in the north of Scotland. In Roman times, the little ones were widespread there. How they ultimately came to Shetland remains only a vague conjecture. Perhaps they migrated in prehistoric times across a land bridge that still existed at that time. It is also possible that the Picts brought them there by ship.

Thus, although the Shetland and Orkney Islands are not their country of origin, they are their home. Because these islands are rugged, rocky and of puny vegetation, the Shetland Pony remained small. They had to put up with these unreal living conditions (lots of wind & rain). Only the toughest had a chance.

The summers on the islands are short, the winters cold, foggy and wet. That's why nowadays a little winter feeding takes place during meagre winter months. Another reason for this addition: the migration that the free-roaming ponies make while looking for food is not without danger. In winter, they only had the opportunity to find food (kelp and seaweed) on the rugged coastline. Rock crevices became a source of danger.


Around 1870, Shetland breeding took off. The Marquis of Londonderry promoted the pure breeding of the little ones.

Unfortunately, there were also bad times for the pretty little ones. As pit ponies, they had to do hard work in the mines and often did not see daylight for the rest of their lives. Incredibly, 16,000 ponies were working underground in 1931.

In 1890, controlled breeding was introduced (Shetland Pony Studbook Society). Through Hans Bongard, the first miniature horses came to Germany 10 years later.

At first the little ones ended up in the zoo (Hagenbeck) and in the circus. But the dwarfs soon found lovers.

The "Travenort" stud imported three Shettys and achieved the best offspring by mating first-class stallions (Tambour, Kalif and Laurin). At that time, the stallion height leveled off at 1.10 metres. At times, oversizes were accepted, which were used in agriculture and driving.

Today, only a maximum size of 1.07 m is allowed for the stud book.

Interesting: The Mini Shetland Pony was bred as a breeding type among others in the royal breeding of Queen Victoria of England. They were/are even smaller. This child pony and driving horse may only measure a maximum of 87 cm. "King size" is not always huge!

Exterior and interior of Shetland pony

It scores with a broad body and strong rib curvature. His neck is relatively short, but well muscled. The head is expressive, has pony-typical large eyes and a broad forehead. The mouth is rather small with a large nostril. Small ears are hidden under her rich mane (double mane). The tail is equally dense.

A broad chest with sloping shoulders and a short back are desirable. Well muscled legs with strong joints give the Shetland Pony its clear movements. It runs light-footed and ground covering. The hooves are very firm and have a beautiful rounded shape.

According to new guidelines, all colours of coat are permitted. Only tiger patches are excluded from breeding. The same applies to the Mini Shetland Pony.

Shetlands have a good-natured character, are docile, courageous and easy to train. However, they can defend themselves if not handled properly. Leaving children alone with ponies is taboo!

Husbandry and use

Of course, the Shetty is an absolutely popular pony for children. However, it should not be forgotten that even such a small riding pony needs proper upbringing and training. It is small, but it is just as much a 100% horse as its larger counterparts. Nevertheless, its use in riding school lessons as a patient riding pony for the smallest beginners is undisputed.

Whether dressage lessons, small jumps, circuit riding or cross-country - the Shetty is a fantastically powerful children's pony. Its use in driving should be emphasised. The Shetland and the Mini Shetland Pony are the strongest horses in the world in relation to their size. With almost 43% pulling power to their own weight, that's really something! Pulling sulkies, marathon carts or sledges is easy for these miniature horse breeds. In addition, they are very reliable and persevering in a team.

If you want to keep Shettys, you should be aware that these cuddly little fellows are not cheap lawnmowers. They want to be challenged and encouraged. In addition, their needs in terms of feeding, care and exercise must be met. Keeping them in open stalls is ideal. Supplementary feeding is usually hardly necessary. A Shetland pony is more than happy with rationed hay and a portioned meadow/pasture.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for these ponies to struggle with laminitis. As you have already learned from their origin story, they are frugal and too much grass/food can harm them considerably. It's not just laminitis that the little ones could be at risk of. EMS or Cushing's disease are also an issue. That is why a breed portrait is profitable. You learn more about your favourite animal and can inform yourself about important things in advance. A Shetty can easily live for 30 - 40 years.

A friend for life with a heart in the right place.

Animalons brush recommendation for the Shetland pony:

For a thorough care of the dense long hair, we would like to recommend our Care Flex Root Brush to all Shetty owners. The strong natural bristles remove coarse dirt and grime effortlessly.

To do styling justice to the sweeping mane of the little Shettys, we recommend the Mane- & Tail brush which differs through a stable grip and agile combing.