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What’s the Difference Between a Pony and a Miniature Horse?

By Alex Verwest


Updated on

We all love horses here regardless of how large or small they may be. They are all special in their very own way and even though they’re all different from one breed to another, they still manage to bring about the same level of happiness whenever we see them trotting away gleefully.

But while we can all tell the difference between a massive Arabian stallion and a small pony, what many people don’t realize is that they may have actually confused the little pony for a miniature horse instead.

This is actually a lot more common than you may think, as while there are very clear differences between the two, they are often times overlooked by the common horse lover, and instead they are written off as one and the same most of the time.

In order to get to the bottom of this and actually answer the question on what are the differences between the two we have decided to bring you this article.

Besides the obvious set of answers that we have also brought about a few extra trivia fun facts about them that you are sure to love hearing about.

So, let’s not waste any more of your time and instead just hop right into a quick description of what a pony and a miniature horse are and more specifically on what separates the two to begin with:

What is a Pony?

What is a pony
Photo by Globe City Guide / unsplash.com

The saddest part about ponies is not the fact that they are very easily recognizable, but that there are well over 350 breeds of horses and ponies around the world, and only a handful of people actually know how to differentiate between every one of them.

To put it bluntly though, ponies are pretty much considered to be the small horse category that you can find in most beauty shows out there, as even the largest adult will not be any taller than 15 hands or 58 inches in total.

As far as the general breeds are concerned, you can find Shetlands, Exmoor, Hackneys and even Fell ponies most everywhere you look.

According to the actual Merriam-Webster dictionary, a pony is just a small horse that is particularly stocky and small while also being quite endurant and gentle with any living creature.

But what this description doesn’t mention is the fact that ponies are not always that stocky and more specifically they are not always the gentlest of creatures. Take the Galiceno pony for example, it is the complete opposite of what the dictionary would refer to as a pony thanks to its smooth and light coat and rather bad disposition.

Chincoteague pony
Chincoteague pony / Photo by dbking / wikipedia.org

Ponies have been around for a very long time though; they’ve been around the US since the 1600s in fact, and the main reason as to why they do have such thick coats is definitely the fact that they had to live in cold climates, that would have easily led to them freezing to death if they had not adapted.

It took humanity as much as 200 years to see the potential in their compact size, and before long they were domesticated and thrown in the mines, where they could easily fit and get around without causing too much of a ruckus.

Alternatively, they also became very useful around the farmhouse, although they were not considered to be far superior to a simple normal-sized horse ,which is why they weren’t necessarily all that popular there, especially since they were just as expensive to get if not more expensive than the average horse.

What is a Miniature Horse?

What is a miniature Horse
Photo by Mark Edwards / pixabay.com

Miniature horses are, as their name implies, just another subtype of horses except that they are incredibly small in stature.

No miniature horse will ever be taller than 34 inches, and as such they are way smaller than most any pony out there.

If you want to see a pretty good example of a miniature horse you can look up the Caspian horse from Mesopotamia.

While these were thought to have been extinct way back in the day, 1965 was their prime year, as this is where a team of breeders discovered a few remaining specimens, and they bred them with a wild miniature horse to get their numbers back up.

Another huge difference between a miniature horse and a pony can be observed in their DNA, as apparently miniature horses have still retained their horse phenotypes, which technically means that they have more in common with Arabian stallions than they do with any pony out there.

Ava The Miniature Horse
Ava The Miniature Horse / facebook.com

But because we can’t really see DNA strands, we look at ponies and miniature horses and we believe that they are one and the same.

This is actually very much so a mistake as horses such as the Icelandic and Fjord breeds are very different from any ponies out there in every way except for their size and their stockiness.

The more we look into miniature horses the more we realize just how fascinating they really are. For example, you can see that they first came about around the year 1650 at the hands of King Louis XIV of France.

He was known for his love for strange and unusual creatures, so it’s no wonder that he instantly fell in love with them, and added them to his own personal zoo.

Afterwards though they were also employed in mining jobs around the United States, due to their small size, and before long they became a staple of the community that we still love to this very day.

Now that we know what they are and some of the key differences between them, how about we offer you a brief rundown of every other difference that we have spotted between the two, namely:

The Differences Between Horses and Ponies

Miniature Horses Size
South East Wisconsin Miniature Equine Club / facebook.com

The Size

So, just to reiterate really quickly, their overall size is actually saying a lot about whether you are dealing with a pony or a miniature horse.

Although ponies are very small in size, miniature horses are way shorter, and as such you can easily tell them apart when you see them next to one another.

For the most part, ponies will not be any taller than 14.2 hands or 57 inches in total, while miniature horses will be as short as 34 inches at their peak.

The Body Composition

Shetland Ponies
Shetland Ponies / Photo by JackieLou DL / pixabay.com

Body wise even though they may seem similar from the outside you can actually easily tell the difference between the two by just checking out their builds.

Ponies are just small and stocky, while miniature horses are a lot more muscular, and overall they are a lot slimmer than ponies.

They also have longer necks and are known to be a lot finer looking, due to their coats being less rugged than the ponies’.

As such, you will see miniature horses a lot more often in beauty shows than you will ever see ponies, as they are a lot classier and cute while ponies are more rugged and wild looking.

The Lifespan

shetland pony with a foal
Photo By otsphoto / stock.adobe.com

In case you didn’t know by now, miniature horses actually live a lot longer than ponies, simply because they were used to living in extremely harsh conditions in the wild, and they’ve evolved to be able to take on the passage of time.

As such, miniature horses can live for as long as 30 years in total, while ponies struggle to get past the 23rd to 25th year of their lifespan.

The Uses

Pony and Miniature Horse Uses
Photo By Dziurek / stock.adobe.com

We know that they were both used at the same time for mining purposes, but what we didn’t mention is the fact that because of their toughness, ponies were used a lot more for mining than miniature horses.

Instead, miniature horses ended up being used to give rides to children and beginners, and because of how delicate they turned out to be, they ended up as the perfect pets for rich families in the 1900s and even to this day.

Ponies though were still used for mining jobs, although they also became useful when it came to labor, and more specifically ranches and farms.

Since they are broader than miniature horses and more resistant against harsh native climates it didn’t take them long before farmers started to get them to help around the farm.

If you are a beginner though and you want to get a small horse to get used to riding them, or if you want a small horse for your child, you may want to learn how to differentiate between the two, as miniature horses will definitely prove to be a better fit for you in that case.


Difference Between a Pony and a Miniature Horse
Photo by Janet Van Ommeren / pixabay.com

So, while there are definitely a lot of similarities between miniature horses and ponies, we can safely say that there are also a lot of differences that you can now spot right off the bat to be able to tell them apart.

Regardless of which you have or which one you end up getting, remember to give them lots of love and affection as they really deserve it, no matter what species they are to begin with.

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About Alex Verwest

Alex is an equestrian consultant who has co-founded several successful start-up companies and worked with various international equestrian businesses. Using his experience and connections in this field, he loves to introduce readers to many outstanding small equestrian brands, sharing stories about equestrian lifestyle and trends. Learn more about Seriously Equestrian's Editorial Process.