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The Pony Of the Americas breed started out as a conglomerate of all kinds of breeds and strains, but breeders made an effort to forge all these into a true breed through strict selection. The POA of today is an American sports pony breed with many admirers and dedicated breeders not only in the U.S., but even world-wide
The Pony Of the Americas Club was formed In 1954 as a new breed registry. The birth of a foal out of an Arab/Appaloosa mare and by a Shetland pony stallion sparked an idea in the mind of a lawyer and hobby Shetland Pony breeder in Iowa, who had bought the mare in foal. After discussing the topic with other Shetland breeder friends, the new registry was formed.
Pony of the Americas, the breed, was first promoted under the abbreviation of POA, as a pony well-suited for children and young adolescents for all kinds of equestrian activities. Strict guidelines were formulated and followed.
In the beginning, to be registered, a pony had to measure between a 44 inches and a maximum of 52 inches. The head had to show Appaloosa characteristics, but with a dished face like an Arab. The body had to be muscled like a Quarter Horse’s, and Appaloosa coloring was a must, and unmistakenly so at a distance of 40 feet. The Pony of the Americas should be shown under saddle only by children . Adults could only show the ponies at halter or hitched to a cart. Naturally, the animals had to be gentle and easy to train, and had to be of riding horse conformation.
The registry started with Black Hand, POA #1, the original Appaloosa/Arab/Shetland, and had over 40,000 head registered by 1963, around which time the Shetland pony disappeared from the breeding program. Larger ponies like the Welsh were used, and small horses like mustangs, Arabs, Indian ponies, small Quarter Horses and Appaloosas to create the desired Pony Of the Americas type, the “little horse” look breeders tried to achieve.
The membership voted in 1985 to raise the height limit to 56 inches. The age limit for a youngster to show a POA went from 16 years in 1954 to 18 in 1973, and in 1987, 19-and-over riding classes were added.
The gentle little horses were designed to help a boy or a girl to achieve confidence in the saddle in all kinds of equestrian events.
The coat patterns of the Pony of the Americas vary rather widely. One of the most common color patterns is the blanket pattern, characterized by a white ‘blanket’ over the loin and hips with dark spots. Others may sport the blanket without dark spots, which is called ‘snow-capped’. Some animals in the Pony Of the Americas registry carry the spotting over their entire body, which is a pattern known as ‘leopard’. In general, the coloration of POAs are those of the Appaloosa horse, including the mottled skin, striped hooves, and the white sclera in the eyes.
Like in the Appaloosa breed, white markings associated with Paint or Pinto are prohibited in the POA registry. This rule poses a problem, of course, because with the exception of excessive tobiano markings, those markings will usually remain undetected, and an overo inheritance is known to be able to skip generations. So in order to effectively avoid such outcrops, the Pony Of the Americas registry would have to discriminate against all white markings with solid underlying pink skin.
The POA is bred to show style and substance, beauty, symmetry, and balance, regardless of its small size. It should be of correct conformation, and possess clean, free movements.
The head should be clean-cut and slightly dished, with a wide forehead, and show mottled skin about the nostrils and lips. The neck shows quality with a clean-cut throat latch. The chest should be deep, blending into well-muscled, sloping shoulders. A prominent set of withers is desired, the forearm should be well-muscled, the knee broad. Cannons of the Pony Of the Americas are short and flat, pasterns medium long and sloping.
Round and open hooves are the goal, wide at the heels. A short and straight back is desired, as are a short and wide loin and long, sloping and muscular hips. The underline is long with a deep flank. Long, muscular and deep thighs, blending into well-rounded quarters, long and wide, muscular gaskins, and clean, clearly defined, wide, straight hocks are selected for. The ankles should be clean of excess hair.
The gaits of a POA are the regular walk, which should be a long, easy stride, true and flat-footed. The Pony Of the Americas does a western jog, soft, relaxed, and quiet, with a definite two-beat cadence. It must never resemble a running walk, nor should it be rough or stilted. The speed and stride should be compatible with the pony’s size. The English trot should be a free-moving, ground-covering stride, executed in a long, low frame. Excessive knee or hock action is undesirable. Quick, short strides are discriminated against. The lope or canter should be rolling and comfortable to sit, with strong emphasis on a natural three-beat, soft lope.
While many POAs are able to carry, and are ridden by, light adults, the Pony Of the Americas excels in its role as a kids’ companion and mount. An attractive and able sports pony, it is bred rather as a small horse, with movements and a temperament suitable for most disciplines, and is flashy to boot.
POAs are perfect for trail riding, endurance riding, for ranch work and hunting. Their gentle disposition, durability and intelligence ensures the breed’s popularity.