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Shetland horse: origins, characteristics and attitudes

Shetland horse: origins, characteristics and attitudes


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The Shetland horse is called a horse but is actually often referred to as a pony, a pony certainly robust and powerful but also short, at least among the lowest for now classified, since it competes with the Falabellas, very small, so small that they can only be mounted by children. For the Shetland, however, there are no such restrictions and everyone can experience the thrill of riding one, without underestimating its temper, not at all simple but certainly never bad. Let's get to know it better, to begin to become familiar with this animal and discover its origins even if from the name the geographical ones I would say are already quite clear.

Shetland horse: origins

The Shetland Islands, the Orkney Islands and northern Scotland are the three very limited areas in which our Shetland horse has always lived even if today we can find it bred elsewhere as well. Today it is not a particularly widespread breed, especially outside its areas of origin, but in the past this was not the case. Its physical structure, which we will describe shortly, made it very useful and comfortable.

Small but really powerful, strong and resistant, this Pony was perfect for transporting the excavated material in the mine tunnels that were not lacking in the northern part of Scotland and the neighboring islands. There he had no rivals because all the other horses, perhaps even as strong as he, had no chance to pass through the tiny tunnels that connected the various areas of the mines and mines with the sunlight.

Of course once the mining activity they fell strongly, the horse suffered a lot and few were the specimens that could survive thanks to the passion and determination of some local breeders and the "conversion" of this animal to horse for children. Why not? His versatile character saved him and today we can meet him in riding schools or equestrian tourism initiatives.

Characteristics of the Shetland Horse: height and weight

As you have well understood, we are dealing with a very pony, that is, very small pony. The standard indicates a height at the withers that can vary between i 90 - 105 cm for an average weight including consideration between 150 - 180 kg. But what does this mini horse look like?

It is a mesomorphic animal whose head is very well proportioned with the rest of the body, with a broad forehead and small, very mobile ears that give it a very nice air. The neck is strong and wide, the trunk is sturdy as that of horses that effortlessly carry heavy weights. The limbs are not far behind and are also equipped with small hard feet, very suitable when it is required to walk on rough terrain, just like those of the mines we mentioned earlier.

As for mane and tail, this pony stands out for how much it has folds and also its fur can certainly be defined very soft and fluffy, especially in summer, when it is hot, while when temperatures drop it becomes more thick and bristly. The standard colors of the coat are piebald, bay, chestnut, black, the sorcino is rather difficult to meet and then there are specimens of all colors, none excluded, although those not mentioned are always very few.

Shetland horse: character

With what it has gone through in the past centuries, the Shetland horse he has certainly learned to adapt and precisely this gift has allowed him to relocate and find his place in the world once the mines in which he was precious have closed or have "modernized".

We can describe this little horse as an animal of particular courage and at the same time very docile so it is not very difficult to train it. And also physically adaptable because his body has developed to be able to tackle difficult terrain so being outdoors on the trails is child's play for him. If you have had anything to do with the Shetland, you may have noticed that at times it is a bit stubborn and listless, it still has a strong character, but when the "moon" passes it returns to being playful and fun.

Shetland horse: attitudes

As we have extensively told, we are faced with a classic case of "relocation". If Shetland was once perfect for transport of material to the mine, then it has skillfully become a very popular animal to teach riding to children even if it can also be ridden by adults because it has no load problems on its back. Today we find it therefore also used in tourist walks.

Shetland horse: history

It is worth investigating in greater depth the history of this breed which seems to have very ancient origins. In the Shetland islands, right where it all begins, archaeological remains have been found concerning him dating back to the Bronze Age. You can therefore well imagine that this horse has inhabited the area for some time. Today, in the 21st century we can distinguish the Shetland in two different types, the first that lives in the tundra, called Cob, and the second that populates the mountains of southern Europe, called Pony.

Both arrived on the island during the glaciations period and then over the years have been crossed with others horses brought by the Celts undergoing changes but not yet reaching the standard we know today. The island's economy had its needs and horses have evolved to adapt to them, giving rise to different genealogies, one with a large head and massive limbs and one with a small head and long, tapered limbs.

Life in the mines for this animal came in 1847 when children were banned from entering coal mines. At this point their physique and stamina become vital to mining, Thousands of specimens are selected to take care of transport to the mine. In parallel some ponies were also used to pull carriages, also that of Queen Victory, until the Shetland pony company was founded in England in 1890, where the studbook of the breed in which the most important stallions are written is kept.

Shetland horses: breeding

Very often Shetland horses are raised in the semi-wild state, letting them feed on the grasses, mosses and lichens they find in the environment in which they grow. If they are kept in captivity, they can eat pasture grass with hay with possible feed additions. There are few Shetland farms around the world, there are many in the areas of origin but it is always useful to know that they can be reproduced throughout the year with a higher concentration between February and July. After 11 months of pregnancy foals are born to suckle for at least six months before weaning them

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