Why The UK Shetland
The UK Shetland, Personal Ponies’ Breed of ChoicePersonal Ponies founder Marianne Alexander was a world class breeder of Connemara’s and Irish Sport Horses. She was no stranger to high standards and quality breeding. When she began the program she was determined to find a breed that would be solid, stable and hearty. There would be no use placing a high spirited, high maintenance pony with a child with special needs. The ponies in our program needed to be kind, docile, intelligent, sensitive and capable of doing hard work. And that is where the UK Shetland came into the picture. For ten years prior to the formal beginnings of our program, Marianne researched many breeds before determining the UK Shetland was right for our work. During this time it took careful consideration on her part plus traveling to the UK to see ponies in their homeland to determine that this was the breed most suited for our special program.
The true United Kingdom Shetland is an ancient breed that due to its sturdy, calm and affable temperament was suited for work in the coal mines and as a family pony on the Shetland Islands. A pony that would and could do anything that was asked with an unflappable attitude made this breed a farm pony, a kid’s pony and unfortunately, a mines pony.
The UK Shetland can be small, midi or standard size ranging from about 30 inches to about 40 inches. Importing, which Personal Ponies has done over the years, is incredibly expensive (about $20,000 a pony) and not so easily accomplished. The ponies that were imported and sought out by our program were the true Londonderry type Shetland that Lord Londonderry specifically developed for work in the coalmines. He worked on developing the breed for sixty years. This particular Shetland is no longer coveted as a specific type simply because they are not needed for the coal mines any more. The more common UK Shetland being bred at this time is that of a riding pony rather than the draft-type Shetland that is our preference and goal in our breeding program. We would like to believe that our program has offered a more humane life of service for this type of Shetland than the drudgery of the coal mines and that our program makes restitution for those difficult times.
The UK Shetlands have amazing temperaments. They are steady of mind, great of heart, hard workers, and very patient and quiet. The UK Shetland we use in our program is not to be confused with their sleek, slim-legged, spirited show ponies many people think of when they think of Shetlands. The true Shetland is a draft–type pony: very handsome and stout, sturdy, not pretty. These ponies are hefty and hardy- “wide and low to the ground” with tree trunk legs, definitely a pony that is built to last!
The true Shetland is superior to any other pony breed for the work we do. Our goal is to breed foals that mature about 36 inches (a perfect size pony for a child sitting in a wheel chair) and with all the wonderful time honored qualities that have given the United Kingdom Shetland its unique appeal for centuries. Our goal is a very sturdy and healthy pony who can pull an adult and child in a cart and a pony that can easily carry a fifty pound child under saddle if they wish as well as a pony with the bone and substance, attitude and the overall heft of an equine suited to the service required of them in our unique program.
The ancient lineage and history of this diminutive pony breed deserves the respect and admiration of all. Most of all they are loved for their ability to give friendship to the children who love them.
A wonderful article about our ponies in Today’s Horse Trader Magazine, December 2010