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At first the Esperia Pony of Italy was neglected because of its small size, but earned recognition due to its resistance in both hot and cold weather and because the ponies were strong, versatile and easy keepers. The Esperia Pony has an alert, vivacious but docile disposition and makes a great mount for anyone riding 13 to 14 hands.
The Esperia Pony, of the several Italian breeds that live under more or less semi wild conditions, is named after its home region in Italy. This pony breed evolved over the last nearly two centuries. It owes much to the efforts of the Baron Ambrogio Roselli di Esperia, who tried to improve the local population of semi-feral ponies.
The first attempt the Barom made, was by introducing Salernitano stallions in 1840, another Italian breed, but that attempt was unsuccessful because the Salernitano horses could not adapt sufficiently to the wooded and rocky areas of the Aurunci Mountains.
In 1882, the Baron purchased four mares and one stallion from a Turkish merchant. These oriental horses managed to integrate well in the Esperia pony population and to adapt to the local environment.
During World War II the pony of Esperia came close to extinction, because it was used by the locals as a source of food and because it was also used to set off mines in minefields, to make areas safe again to travel through.
In 1962, the breed was officially recognized, and a breed standard for the Esperia pony was formulated in 1993. As recent as 2002, a breed association was founded
These ponies are being bred in the provinces of Frosinone, Latina and Rome, in the communities of Carpineto Romano, Collepardo, Supino, Colle San Magno, Marcellina, Rocca d’Arce, Lenola, Pastena, Pico and Ripi. The horses live in herds kept in a semi-feral state on the mountains of the Aurunci, Ausoni, Lepini and Monte Cairo ranges, in areas difficult to access, at altitudes between 500 and 1,500 metres, with the exception of a few horses that are stabled, because they are shown in equestrian competitions.
The breed of the Esperia pony numbers currently about 800 head, 30 of which are stallions, 600 are mares and the rest is made up of young stock between 18 and 30 months.
It is desired that the Esteria Pony be of black color and without white markings. White markings on the legs or head are only tolerated in mares. They have a short, pretty head with a straight profile. The neck is well proportioned and not excessively muscular.
The shoulder is strong and well tied in; the withers pronounced, the chest is powerful and muscular. The hip is sloping nicely. The barrel is not very wide. The Esperia pony has robust, but fine and straight legs, with dark hooves and only little fetlock hair. Mane and tail hair is abundant, though.
The breed has an alert, vivacious but docile disposition. Originally often used as a pack horse, it shows talent for jumping and most other equestrian activities, including dressage, and makes a great mount for children, adolescents and light adults. In height it ranges between 13 and 4 hands, with 13,2 hands for the average stallion and 13 hands for the average mare.