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Highland Pony

Highland Pony

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Encyclopedia
The Highland Pony is a native Scottish
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 pony, and is one of the largest of the mountain and moorland pony breeds of the British Isles. Its pedigree
Pedigree chart
A pedigree chart is a diagram that shows the occurrence and appearance or phenotypes of a particular gene or organism and its ancestors from one generation to the next, most commonly humans, show dogs, and race horses....

 dates back to the 1880s. It was once a workhorse in the Scottish
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 mainland and islands, but today is used for driving
Driving (horse)
Driving, when applied to horses, ponies, mules, or donkeys, is a broad term for hitching equines to a wagon, carriage, cart, sleigh, or other horse-drawn vehicle by means of a harness and working them in this way...

, trekking and general riding.

Breed Characteristics


The Highland Pony is one of the three native breeds of the Scottish Highlands and Islands
Highlands and Islands
The Highlands and Islands of Scotland are broadly the Scottish Highlands plus Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides.The Highlands and Islands are sometimes defined as the area to which the Crofters' Act of 1886 applied...

, the others are the Shetland pony
Shetland pony
The Shetland pony is a breed of pony originating in the Shetland Isles. Shetlands range in size from a minimum height of approximately 28 inches to an official maximum height of 42 inches at the withers. Shetland ponies have heavy coats, short legs and are considered quite intelligent...

 and the Eriskay pony
Eriskay pony
The Eriskay Pony is a breed of pony from Scotland. It is generally grey in colour, and has a dense, waterproof coat that protects it in harsh weather. The breed developed in ancient times in the Hebrides islands in Scotland, and a small population remained pure and protected from crossbreeding by...

. Over many centuries the breed has adapted to the variable and often severe climatic and environmental conditions of Scotland. The winter coat consists of a layer of strong badger-like hair over a soft dense undercoat, which enables this breed of pony to live out in all types of weather. This coat is shed in the spring to reveal a smooth summer coat. This essential hardiness is combined with a kindly nature and even temperament.

The height of a Highland pony is between 13 hands to 14.2 hands. The head is well-carried and alert with a kindly eye, broad muzzle and deep jowl. Reasonable length of neck going from the withers
Withers
The withers is the ridge between the shoulder blades of a four-legged animal. In many species it is the tallest point of the body, and in horses and dogs it is the standard place to measure the animal's height .-Horses:The withers in horses are formed by the dorsal spinal processes of roughly the...

 with a good sloping shoulder and well-placed forearm is desired. Ponies are to have a well-balanced and compact body with deep chest, well-sprung ribs, powerful quarters with a well-developed thigh, strong gaskin and clean flat hocks. Desired traits also include: flat hard bone, broad knees, short cannon bones, oblique pasterns and well-shaped broad dark hooves.

Feather hair behind the fetlock
Fetlock
Fetlock is the common name for the metacarpophalangeal and metatarsophalangeal joints of horses, large animals, and sometimes dogs. It is formed by the junction of the third metacarpal or metatarsal bones proximad and the proximal phalanx distad...

s is soft and silky. When Highland ponies are shown, the mane and tail is kept natural, flowing and untrimmed.

Highland ponies are seen in a range of dun
Dun gene
The dun gene is a dilution gene that affects both red and black pigments in the coat color of a horse. The dun gene has the ability to affect the appearance of all black, bay, or chestnut -based horses to some degree by lightening the base body coat and suppressing the underlying base color to the...

 shades. The Highland Pony Society recognizes shade variations referred to as "mouse," (known in other breeds as grullo
Grullo
Grullo is a color of horses in the dun family, characterized by tan-gray or mouse-colored hairs on the body, often with shoulder and dorsal stripes and black barring on the lower legs. In this coloration each individual hair is mouse-colored, unlike a roan which is composed of a mixture of dark and...

) "yellow," (bay dun
Dun gene
The dun gene is a dilution gene that affects both red and black pigments in the coat color of a horse. The dun gene has the ability to affect the appearance of all black, bay, or chestnut -based horses to some degree by lightening the base body coat and suppressing the underlying base color to the...

) "grey," (dun with gray gene that lightens with age) and "cream" ( a dun apparently also possessing a dilution factor
Dilution gene
Dilution gene is a popular term for any one of a number of genes that act to create a lighter coat color in living creatures. There are many examples of such genes:-General:...

). Other, nonstandard, terms such as "fox dun", (describing a red dun
Dun gene
The dun gene is a dilution gene that affects both red and black pigments in the coat color of a horse. The dun gene has the ability to affect the appearance of all black, bay, or chestnut -based horses to some degree by lightening the base body coat and suppressing the underlying base color to the...

) "oatmeal dun" and "biscuit dun" are sometimes also used. They also may be grey
Gray (horse)
Gray or grey is a coat color of horses characterized by progressive silvering of the colored hairs of the coat. Most gray horses have black skin and dark eyes; unlike many depigmentation genes, gray does not affect skin or eye color Their adult hair coat is white, dappled, or white intermingled...

, seal brown
Seal brown (horse)
Seal brown is a hair coat color of horses characterized by a near-black body color; with black points, the mane, tail and legs; but also reddish or tan areas around the eyes, muzzle, behind the elbow and in front of the stifle...

, black
Black (horse)
Black is a hair coat color of horses in which the entire hair coat is black. Black is a relatively uncommon coat color, and novices frequently mistake dark chestnuts or bays for black. However, some breeds of horses, such as the Friesian horse, Murgese and Ariegeois are almost exclusively black...

, and occasionally bay or a shade of liver chestnut
Chestnut (coat)
Chestnut is a hair coat color of horses consisting of a reddish-to-brown coat with a mane and tail the same or lighter in color than the coat. Genetically and visually, chestnut is characterized by the absolute absence of true black hairs...

 with a flaxen mane and tail.

Dun-coloured ponies have primitive markings
Primitive markings
Primitive markings among domestic horses are a group of hair coat markings and qualities associated with primitive breeds, and the dun coat color family in particular. All dun horses possess at least the dorsal stripe but the presence of the other primitive markings varies...

 which include a dorsal stripe and some show zebra markings on legs. A transverse shoulder stripe is also often present. Foal coat often changes and many ponies change colour gradually as they grow older. Others show a slight seasonal change in colour between winter and summer coats. "Broken" colours such as pinto
Pinto horse
A pinto horse has a coat color that consists of large patches of white and any other color. The distinction between "pinto" and "solid" can be tenuous, as so-called "solid" horses frequently have areas of white hair. Various cultures throughout history appear to have selectively bred for pinto...

 are not allowed.

The Highland Pony Society actively discourages white markings
Horse markings
Markings on horses usually are distinctive white areas on an otherwise dark base coat color. Most horses have some markings, and they help to identify the horse as a unique individual. Markings are present at birth and do not change over the course of the horse's life...

 of any description other than a small white star. Stallions with white markings other than a small star are not eligible for licensing by the Highland Pony Society. No white markings (other than a small star) nor white legs or white hooves are acceptable in the show ring.

History


Tracing the history of the breed presents difficulties. In the earliest period of development of the domesticated breed
Domestication of the horse
There are a number of hypotheses on many of the key issues regarding the domestication of the horse. Although horses appeared in Paleolithic cave art as early as 30,000 BCE, these were truly wild horses and were probably hunted for meat. How and when horses became domesticated is disputed...

, there were two types: the small and light pony of the Western Isles, and the larger and heavier mainland-bred type. The larger animals were commonly called garron
Garron
A garron or garran is a type of horse. The term occurs in Scotland and in Ireland, and generally refers to an undersized and much-despised beast....

s, though the term is considered incorrect. Both types have integrated now, and thus there is generally less distinction between the types within the Highland pony breed. However the phenotype of the smaller type survives in the rare Eriskay pony
Eriskay pony
The Eriskay Pony is a breed of pony from Scotland. It is generally grey in colour, and has a dense, waterproof coat that protects it in harsh weather. The breed developed in ancient times in the Hebrides islands in Scotland, and a small population remained pure and protected from crossbreeding by...

.

In the 16th century, French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 horses, including the Percheron
Percheron
The Percheron is a breed of draft horse that originated in the Perche valley in northern France. Percherons are usually gray or black in color. They are well-muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work. Although their exact origins are unknown, the ancestors of the breed were...

, were taken to the Scottish highlands. In the 19th century, a Hackney type and the Fell Pony
Fell pony
The Fell Pony is a versatile, working breed of mountain and moorland pony originating in the north of England in Cumberland and Westmorland and Northumberland. It was originally bred on the fell farms of northwest England, and is used as a riding and driving pony...

 and Dales Pony
Dales Pony
-External links:****...

 were added.

The breed was originally bred to work on the small farms of Scotland, hauling timber and game as well as ploughing. They are still used for such work, but are usually enjoyed as all-round ponies, good for jumping and trekking, due to their quietness, stamina, and ability to carry weight.

There are an estimated 5,500 Highlands in the world today, with most in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. Although some are still bred for their substance and stamina, the trend is to breed for a pony more suited for riding and driving. The breed is also commonly crossed with Thoroughbred
Thoroughbred
The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed...

s to produce good eventing
Eventing
Eventing is an equestrian event comprising dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. This event has its roots in a comprehensive cavalry test requiring mastery of several types of riding...

 horses. Despite increasing popularity, the breed is still categorised as Category 4, "At Risk" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust
Rare Breeds Survival Trust
The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is a conservation charity, whose purpose is to secure the continued existence and viability of the United Kingdom’s native farm animal genetic resources...

.

Working Highland Ponies

  • Deer Ponies: Highland Ponies are still used to extract deer carcases from the hill using saddles especially designed for the purpose. Several Breeders still supply Highland Ponies to carry deer.
  • Horse Riding and Pony Trekking: The popular outdoor sport of Pony Trekking was credited with being started in Badenoch at nearby Newtonmore in 1952 by Ewan Ormiston, it is still possible to ride in Newtonmore with his grandson Ruaridh at the Newtonmore Riding Centre. Ormiston Highlands
  • Croft Work: Highlands were used extensively on these small Highland agricultural units but are seldom used today.
  • Logging: There is limited use of Highland Ponies for timber extraction.

External links