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The Highland Pony, natives of the Highlands of Scotland, bears a strong resemblance to the animals depicted 20,000 years ago on cave walls of Lascaux, in France. The strong Highland Pony was Scotland’s original all purpose horse and retains its versatility today.
There were ponies in northern Scotland and the Scottish islands following the Ice Age, and the modern Highland Pony has developed as a result of numerous outcrosses from this ancient origin.
Such outcrosses were recorded in the 1500’s with a gift of horses from Louis XII of France to James V of Scotland. These horses were a type of Percheron and were crossed with native stock
The old Highland breeders also introduced oriental horses in the 1500’s. Outcrosses to Spanish horses occurred in the 16 and 1700’s. The Highland Pony was also crossed with the Arabian Syrian in the late 1800’s to establish the famous Calgary strain.
The patriarch of the Highland Pony breed was Herd Laddie, foaled in 1881.
Highland Ponies featured prominently in the Jacobite rising of the 1700’s and in the Boer War in South Africa in the late 1880’s to early 1900’s, both the Lovat Scouts and the Marquis of Tullibardine’s Scottish Horse were mounted on Highland Ponies.
Highlands are a first rate riding pony and are sure footed even over terrible terrain. Hundreds are still used for the popular Scottish trekking. The pony also works in harness and forestry, carries game panniers and is strong enough and willing to carry deer carcasses weighing over 200 pounds. The Highland pony does not exceed 14.2 hands in height.
Highland Ponies are easy to keep, thriving on rough pasture and needing little extra. Extraordinarily sound, they are free from hereditary disease and a long lived breed. The Highland is also docile and affectionate without being dull.
A good Highland Pony head is wide in the forehead, short between the eyes and muzzle, with good, wide nostrils and a kind expression. The cannons are short with hard, flat bone with very strong forearms. The knees are large and flat with silky feathering on the legs, which ends in a tuft at the fetlock. The thigh and second thigh are particularly well developed. The tail is usually set high and like the mane and feather is find and silky. Good hooves reduce the incidence of foot disease, as long as the ponies are not exposed to over-rich pasture and overfeeding.
Few breeds in the world have as large a range of color as the Highland Pony. There are duns in gray, mouse, yellow, gold, cream and fox. There are grays, browns, blacks, sometimes bays and liver chestnuts with silver manes and tails. Most Highlands have the dorsal stripes and some have zebra markings on the legs denoting their ancient origins. The first recorded sire at the Athol Stud in 853 AD, was a piebald, but that color is no longer permitted.
The compact conformation of the Highland pony, as well as its great temperament, form and excellent base for crossing with the Thoroughbred. The first cross produces a sensible hunter, the second a potential competition horse.
In recent years, the ponies have become increasing popular for riding and show remarkable versatility, from being family ponies to driving to going across country sensibly and safely and are good jumpers. The Highland Pony is the largest and the strongest of the British Mountain and Moorland ponies.