The Shetland pony is a small, sturdy breed that hails from the Shetland Isles, off Scotland’s northeast coast. Shetland has been the home to small horses for over 2,000 years. It’s likely that horses crossed onto the Shetlands from the ice fields and were later cross-bred with stock that came from Norse settlers.
Even today the ponies still roam free on the Shetland Isles, feeding on rough moorland called common grazing. They are very popular all over now for children to ride or as pets and companions. This is because they are generally good natured and fairly inexpensive to keep.
Here in the United States, some miniature Shetlands are even being enlisted to be guide horses for the blind.
With their growing desirability as pets, many people out there are wondering just what do you have to do to properly care for a Shetland pony that is your pet?
Proper Diet and Nutrition For Shetland pony
One thing you won’t have to worry about with your Shetland pony is underfeeding them. In fact, chances are much more likely that you may wind up overfeeding them instead.
Because of the harsh environment of their land of origin Shetland ponies had to search hard for their sustenance, and as a result, they can survive quite nicely on very little food.
They seldom require grains or concentrates, and too much of these can cause them to become obese. Hay is perfect for them.
Health and Behavior Problems For Shetland Ponies
Surviving in the brutal climate where they were born, where food was difficult to find, the terrain could be extremely rough, and the cold almost unbearable, Shetland ponies grew hardy and strong.
They are a durable bred with few health issues. However, their small size can make them vulnerable to heart problems, and also laminitis.
This is a condition that must always be treated as an emergency. What happens is that the hoof becomes swollen and severely painful. Laminitis has many causes including overeating grain and grass.
Like all animals, Shetland ponies have their own individual personality, but in general they are good-tempered and intelligent. It is said that sometimes they can be more intelligent than their owners, which can make them a bit of a challenge to own. Life with one of these ponies is never boring.
What Are Common Characteristics Of A Shetland pony?
Sheltland ponies live a long time, easily reaching 30 years of age. They have a dense body, broad head, thick neck, and short legs. Their mane and tail are full and beautiful.
They come in nearly every horse color, but the usual coat colors are black, gray, chestnut, bay, brown, roan, palomino, dun, cream, buckskin, and various pinto combinations.
One of the most unique things about the Shetland pony is their amazing strength. They carry a lot of power in their relatively small bodies. Even-tempered and gentle, they make good pets for those who merely wish to enjoy them, and excellent horses for riders of any level of experience.
Here in the United States, breeders have refined these magnificent ponies so that they have longer legs. These Shetlands are more limber and have a greater stride than their Shetland ancestors.
How To Groom a Shetland Pony – Top Grooming Tips
Shetland ponies develop very thick, soft winter coats. Frequently, if kept with other horses, they will be the first to grow a winter coat and the last to shed it in the spring. While the outer hair is coarse, the hair beneath is satiny soft.
They require basic horse grooming consisting of frequent washing, brushing, and combing. Furthermore, they need vaccinations, de-worming, and other necessary veterinary care. Also, their hooves should be checked every day for debris, dirt, and any injuries.
You need to pay extra attention to your pony’s feet. They require more care than those of a regular horse because the hooves of miniature horses tend to be a little more delicate.
This means the necessity of daily care. If you are contemplating getting your own Shetland pony, remember that along with the pleasures of pet ownership comes taking diligent care of them.
Pay Close Attention To Your Shetland Pony’s Hooves
Picking out your your pony’s hooves is essential. For an especially active pony you may even have to do this several times a day. The hooves of your pony should be checked before you ride them every single time. It is important to determine that there is no debris lodged in their hooves.
Not examining your pony’s hooves can lead to serious injury for them. The discomfort the tiniest pebble can cause can easily lead to infection and injury. Just because your pony isn’t limping or showing any sign of distress doesn’t mean that everything is okay and you don’t have to carefully look their hooves over every day.
Sometimes a serious problem isn’t readily obvious unless you take an up close look and search it out. It’s always best to nip a potential problem in the bud than to wait until it has developed into something quite painful for your pet.
In order to take proper care of your Shetland pony’s feet you will have to purchase a hoof pick. It’s a curved tool sharpened and designed for this particular job. You will also need a hoof brush. One last item you will need is hoof oil. This is to keep your pony’s hooves from cracking. You should apply it on both the outside and inside of the hoof.
The first thing you will need to do when checking your pony’s hoof after riding is to determine if it is hot or cool. If it’s cool to the touch, then rest assured that all is well. If it feels hot, then there is a problem and you need to call the vet. Do not continue to groom your pony under these circumstances. Wait until the vet has taken a look at the hoof.
Keep in mind that the more care you show your Shetland pony, the greater they will love you in return. Also, the more years they will live so that you can love and enjoy them.
These ponies make great outdoor pets, and can be good for children because they are loyal, like companionship, and have gentle dispositions. Basically, they will make great outside pets, if as with most domesticated animals, you take proper care of them and make sure that their needs are met.