What Is The Difference Between A Horse And A Pony?

What is the Difference Between a Horse and a Pony?

There are many animal definitions, especially in the horse world, including differentiating between horses and ponies. If you ask a novice or probably some horse owners the difference between certain horses. So, what is the difference between a horse and a pony?

You may end up with an endless debate because most people view horses in the same aspect. Almost everything in them is similar, but height. A horse is an average of 14.2 hands tall or more! Therefore, defining a pony is anything less than the standard.

Do Horses and Ponies Share the Same Species?

Horses and ponies share the same species; it’s just that one is taller than the other. However, ponies mature faster. A horse can maintain its height till death. And if it grows, it’s probably six to seven years before the changes become noticeable. 

Can a Horse Give Birth to a Pony?

Horses don’t give birth to ponies but foals. There is a significant difference between them since the colt is childish and playful, while the pony is a mature short horse.

Most people misinterpret ponies as foals. However, you can easily define them with the following differences: 

  • Ponies are usually below 14.2 hands, no matter how old they get. Foals have no restricted height. They grow to horses since they will pass the average size when an adult.
  • Ponies can feed on grass, hay, and other necessary horse supplements. However, they can survive the foraged meal hence easy keepers. Foals are still kids, so they need breast milk nursing. Baby ponies need breastmilk nursing too. 
  • Ponies have small heads, thick necks, dense bones, broad chests, and short legs. Foals are kids; therefore, they have skinny and weak bodies and thin legs.
  • Ponies have thicker tails, manes and coats, and strong hooves. Though they are not increasing in height, their bodies still mature as they grow old. Foals are still weaklings, with tender hooves and thin manes, tails, and coats.
  • Ponies are used for companionship, riding, and pulling wagons. Foals are too young to do such heavy tasks.
  • Though ponies get stubborn at times, they are friendly and intelligent. Expect childish and playful behaviors from foals.

Differences Between Horses and Ponies

Besides height, many features make a horse and a pony outmatch the other. From lifespan to temperaments, which are detailed below:

1. Size

The central aspect that helps distinguish a pony from a horse is height. However, some horses are below 14.2 hands tall but are not horses. Breeds like the Icelandic Horse and Miniature Horse are below the horse average height but still get the horse’s name. 

Pony-sized horses rarely give birth to horses. For instance, Shetlands, which is also a pony, descended from Miniature Horse. Some ponies give birth to horses that grow above the average horse weight. In this case, they are still ponies since they are descendants of ponies. 

There are horses breeds, though not pony-sized, that may have pony-sized descendants. They include American Quarter Horse, Kentucky Mountain Horse, Morgan Horse, and the Paso Fino. 

2. Lifespan

As humans, death is inevitable in animals. That applies to horses and ponies. However, there is one that lives longer than the other. But both of their lifespans are shorter than humans.

The average lifespan of a horse is between two to four decades. The age gap depends on the care provided, genetics, breed, and size. A horse that checks these factors can still stand firm even in the late thirties. 

On the other hand, ponies have a higher lifespan than horses. Even at forty, they can still carry out heavy horse tasks. Contrary to the myth that pony horses are weak since they are refined and small. For instance, Arabian horses are below the average horse height but have a long lifespan.

Like horses, ponies that get good care live longer. In addition, companionship, turnout, exercise, and nutritious feed boosts life expectancy. 

3. Origin

Horses have varying origins depending on the horse breeds. However, the first horses came from the Eurasian steppe many centuries ago. Later they spread to the Caucasus and the Asian regions.

As for the ponies, they are common in the cold European climate. They can survive in a harsh environment, and it’s a belief that they are draft horse descendants common in Northern Europe.

4. Healing Abilities

Horses take longer to heal and with more complications than ponies. Ponies probably have a high healing power since they bred naturally in their wild origin. Contrarily, humans have always interfered with horse breeding which might tamper with the horse’s healing ability.

The reason ponies have a higher healing ability than horses is the functional leukocytes capacity. However, in case of injury, they both need clinical attention to manage the wound. 

5. Metabolic Requirements

Though horses and ponies have different diet requirements, they have the same digestion rates. They feed on the same meal; grain, hay, and grass. But since ponies are easy keepers, they can survive with little or no grain. It leads to slow metabolism rates compared to horses.

Ponies can overeat grass which may be rich in nutrients. Therefore, horse keepers need to put muzzle wear on them to strain them from consuming too many nutrients. 

Horses require higher grain and hay quantities for higher levels of minerals and proteins. The horses need to be healthier since they work more, have unique metabolism, and their age. 

On the other hand, ponies consume more than what they work on, leading to obesity. An obese pony is prone to insulin resistance, laminitis, and metabolic syndrome.

However, the harsh environment origins have contributed to the pony’s ability to survive on low feed forage. 2% of a Pony’spony’shorse’s weight equals the amount of forage they consume. 

6. Temperament

Horses and ponies differ in temperament. A horse is usually an easy animal since it is quiet, docile, and willing to work. As for ponies, they are stubborn and more clever than horses. Sometimes only an experienced rider can handle them.

Ponies are more intelligent than a horse, a fair trait to horse keepers. Thus, ponies can be good rides for beginners if they are well trained. Additionally, they do well on farms. But if they don’t feel safe, they can be the terrifying kind. 

Ponies are too bright than horses. Unlike horses which are slow reasoners, they get stubborn to test their keepers. 

Breeds vary in temperaments depending on the daily tasks, feed, care, type, handling, the weight of loads, training, age, and breeding. Cold-blooded horses are friendly and calm, while hot-bloods are friendly and calm.

7. Purpose

Ponies are easy mounts for children and beginners. They are so tiny that you get minor injuries if an accident occurs and you fall off. It’s also easier for short riders to get riding aids.

Ponies, like the Shetland, also participate in competitions. You will notice that some competitors separate ponies and horses, which prevents the tall horses from manipulating the ponies. 

8. Body Proportions

Ponies and horses have common contrasts in body proportions. Let’s look at the general ones:

  • Body – ponies have broad ribs resulting in a barrel chest. They also have short bodies. Horses, no matter how thick it is, displays a graceful and lean build. 
  • Head – you will notice the tiny heads in ponies since they don’t match their body size. The ears are also small but have large eyes. Horses’ heads are directly proportional to the body size, with large ears and wide muzzles.
  • Legs – through short, ponies’ legs are powerful. Legs in horses are usually lean and tall.
  • Neck – horses have thinner necks than ponies.
  • Bones – horses have lighter bones than ponies. A study showed that a pony hard more dense bones than a Thoroughbred. Besides dense bones, they are also thicker regardless of body size.

9. Body Conformation

Ponies and horses differ in muscle and bony structure. Conformation entails bone joint angles and how thick, long they can be. Conformation varies in both horse and porn breeds. For instance, some pony breeds are capable of pulling heavy wagons, and much like horses. 

10. Coat, Tail, and Mane Hair

Ponies have a remarkable thicker coat compared to horses. Ponies originated from harsh environments; therefore, the thick skin is to help them sustain from the cold climate. The mane and tail hairs are also coarse and long to boost insulation and warmth.

Contrastingly, mane and tail hairs in horses are less coarse but more refined. The coats are relatively thin. However, the coats, tail, and mane hair vary in various horse breeds. Some horses grow thick hair during winters for protection against the harsh weather. 

Horse breeds from arid regions like the Akhil Teke and Arabian have thin coats, while areas with a cold climate like the Shire and Clydesdale have thick hairs and skins.

11. Hoove Quality

It is almost impossible to note the difference between pony and horse hooves without generally commenting on the size. Ponies are wild evolvers, so their hooves are hardy and robust. Unlike horses, they can live without shoes. 

Horses have tender hooves, while others are pretty hardy. Hoof issues like seedy toe, thin soles, sore-footed, navicular prone, crumbling, and cracking, among others, are common in horses than ponies. 

Common Misconceptions in Differences Between a Horse And a Pony

Misconceptions between horses and ponies continue to rise, especially if it involves a foal. Here are the three most common ones:

  • A Pony Is A Baby Horse

It is common for people to misinterpret ponies as fowls due to their size. It can be inaccurate to determine if a pony is filly, colt, or foal unless it reaches maturity. 

  • Short Horses Are Ponies

The height of the horse doesn’t determine if it is a pony or not. Fillies, colts, and foals are short too but eventually grow to horses. 

  • Ponies Are Different Animals from Horses

Most people believe that ponies are another kind of animal. However, ponies come from the same species as horses.


With the facts displayed above, it is now easier to differentiate a pony from a horse. However, they have the same species, physical appearance, strength, and almost the same.

Most of all, ponies and horses are both hard-working and serve various purposes.