What’s the difference between a horse and a pony?

Written by gino

In summary:

More robustLess robust
Less enduringMore enduring
Less agileMore agile
Size: less than 1.42 m highSize: more than 1.42 m high
Lives longer (30 years)Lives shorter (20 years)
More stockyLess stocky
Thick hairFine hairs
Drue maneSmooth mane
Can tow twice its weightCan tow half its weight
More docile temperamentMore lively temperament
Credit youtube channel“Today, I found out”

When most of us hear the word “pony,” we think of a small horse. It is not uncommon to think that a pony is simply a young horse that has not yet reached maturity. Ponies and horses are not two stages of development of a single animal. Although there are very clear differences between a horse and a pony, it is easy to understand why people think a horse is just an adult pony. They are both part of the same species Equus ferus, but are in fact from the same branch of the family tree. Still, horses and ponies are very different, we’ll see in this article.

It’s not just the size that counts

The common man thinks that the main difference between a horse and a pony is the size, which is true… In part. Their size can sometimes be a distinctive physical feature, but this is not always the case. We cannot rely on this simple criterion of differentiation to determine whether it is a horse or a pony. On the other hand, there is a common rule that allows you to decide idly the identity of an equine.

The height is assessed between the ground and the withers (the area of the body at the junction of the neck and back) of the horse or pony with a unit of measurement in “hand”. A “hand” is the size of a hand in adulthood, i.e. 10 cm. A horse, to be identified as such, must measure at least 14.2 hands. Conversely, an equine that measures less than 14.2 hands is a pony. Among our Australian friends, the limit is 14 hands. After a quick calculation, consider the size in metres of an average horse: 14.2 hands – 10 cm – 1.42 m at the withers.

Size reference in “hands.” In general, if an equine is more than 14.2 hands tall, it is a horse. Credit

As I said in the previous paragraph, there are many exceptions that confirm the rule. To stop at this single criterion of differentiation would be a mistake. Breeds, for example, such as the Falabella horse, a miniature equine resulting from a cross between a horse and a pony, do not exceed 7.5 hands in height and yet it is considered a horse.

Miniature horses have long been used as pets. As early as the early 1700s, small horses were used to pull ore carts from coal mines in England and Northern Europe. The United States had made the same use of it at the end of the 19th century.

Body and resistance: horse, light weight!

Take a good look at the size of the pony and you will notice significant differences compared to the horse. The pony is usually stockier, with short legs, a larger head, a wider forehead, a shorter and thicker neckline. The neckline, with the head, serves as a balance for the equines and allows them to be steered. A thick, short neckline makes it more difficult to move a pony forward but allows it to be more efficient in towing goods.

Eric, a market gardener, cultivates his land the old-fashioned way with animal traction. Credit

His whole body is calibrated to withstand an intense effort. The pony has thicker bones, with a more developed musculature. He needs less food and less care than a horse. It is, by definition, more robust and suitable for agricultural work. It can, moreover, tow twice its weight while the horse can only tow “only” half its weight, which is more than enough for the transport of people (average weight of a horse: 500kg).

If you’ve ever fondled pony and horse, you may have noticed that their hair and hair are different to the touch. The horse has a smooth and fine hair while the pony has a thicker hair, and an equally full and drue mane,which allows it to better withstand the cold in winter.

Because of these physical characteristics to the advantage of the pony, the pony can reach the age of 30 where the horse has a life expectancy of 20 years.

Temperament: the pony as sweet as a lamb?

Even if temperament changes over time and is not, by itself, the only condition for the adequacy of an equine to a specific situation (which can be influenced by are hormonal condition, its history, its learning mechanism – I advise you to read this article on the temperament of the horse (in French),very interesting), there are certain constants that are found in a horse and in a pony that constitute a difference between the two animals.

The French expression that defines a “hot-blooded” or “cold-blooded” equine is not biological and has nothing to do with the animal’s body temperature. It is used in the equine domain to designate a temperament with a strong or calm tendency. The origin of these terms appeared as early as the end of the 18th century when the “purity” of animal blood was important and a classification of horses by tblood was common.

Arabian horse, typical example of “hot-blooded” horse. Credit Wikipedia

There are therefore “hot-blooded” and “cold-blooded” horses, defined by their race and personality, among others. “Hot bloods” are used as saddle and sport animals and known for their emotional exploding and liveliness. The “cold bloods” have a calm temperament, are patient and more robust than the “hot bloods”. As explained above, they are usually used for agricultural work, in order to tow a plow or heavy carts for example. There are also “hot-blooded” and “cold-blooded” ponies. In general, ponies are defined by their calmness and docility (characteristic of “cold bloods”) and horses by their agility, their liveliness and sometimes their obstinacy (specific to “hot blood”). With any rule its exception but these are traits stable in time encompassing all equine races and taking into account only the innate character of each animal.

The pony being more docile and accommodating than the horse, it becomes an ideal partner to walk children on them. Credit

The name of the breed can help you: small effective trick

Some equine breeds can tell you if you are in front of a pony or a horse. Example: the Landes pony is a pony even if its size is just over 14.2 hands. Quarter horses are horses even if, conversely, they can pass below the 14.2 hand mark.

  • Other examples of pony breeds: Australian pony, German saddle pony, French saddle pony…
The Landais Pony measuring between 1.18 m and 1.48 m in height. Credit
  • Other examples of horse breeds: paint horse, rocky moutain horse, florida cracker horse…
Quarter Horse of bay dress. Credit Wikipedia.

“Out-of-the-ordinary” equines

Here we are in the extraordinary, in extremes of longevity or size that are beyond comprehension. Here are 4 “out of the ordinary” winners who shine with their genetic prowess:

  • “Old Billy”, name given to this workhorse that now holds the world record for life expectancy. Born in 1760 in the North West of England, he died in 1822 at the age of 62!
“Old Billy”, the oldest horse in the world, lived until 62 years.
  • “Sugar Puff”, pony from a cross between Shetland and exmoor will not have a longevity as great as “Old Billy” but it died anyway in 2007 at the age of 56!
“Sugar Puff”, the oldest pony in the world, has died at the age of 56. Credit
  • “Mammoth”, a horse born in 1848, has not excelled by its advanced age but by its high size. He was 21.2 hands (2.12 m) tall at the withers at an adult age and weighed 1,497 kg!
  • When “Mammoth” hits the clouds,“Einstein”shaves the ground. Adult miniature horse born in 2010 in the United States (and still alive at the time I write these lines) measuring 35 cm high and weighing 2.7 kg!
“Einstein”, the world’s smallest horse, is 35 cm tall. Credit
Einstein. Credit youtube channel“Real Wild”


About the author


Je m’appelle Gino, jeune trentenaire et vieux blogueur ! Touche à tout du web, consultant SEO mais surtout passionné de Culture avec un grand "C" : tout ce qui m'entoure ne doit pas être ignoré, je suis un vrai boulimique culturel. S'il fallait me décrire en 2 mots et demi, je dirais "passeur de savoir"...en toute modestie ! Merci de me suivre sur le chemin de la connaissance, vous verrez, c'est un puits sans fond :)

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