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The Sport Pony can be one of many breeds the world over, yet still be classified as a Sport Pony. In this way it is somewhat difficult to define what such a pony is. The most immediate definition that comes to mind is to distinguish between ponies that are native breeds, or, as in the case of the English Exmoor, regarded as a primitive subspecies, and breeds which were created by Man, which have their origin in willful mixing of breeds and strains and subsequent selection towards a perceived goal, to meet certain demands.
Many pony breeds were first started as work animals, for light draft purposes or as pack animals, and were later transformed into riding ponies.
Sport pony breeds are often based on a variety of breeds but often carry some Arabian and/or Thoroughbred blood.
The word pony itself means different things to different people. While to the British, any horse measuring 14.2 hh or less is a pony, regardless of conformation type, from a hippological view there is a certain conformation type associated with the term ‘pony’, and so there are large ponies and small horses. A Norwegian Fjord is a large pony as far as its conformation type is concerned, while an Arabian is a small horse, even though it may measure less than 14.2 hh.
A Sport Pony breed is usually a breed created as mounts for children, to give them something that feels and moves like a horse of the larger breeds, but which is more in proportion to the children’s smaller size, something they can handle better, and that moves better than a typical pony with its shorter stride, big belly, round withers, often less than ideal neck for dressage-type riding.
A Sport Pony is a highly-bred horse on a smaller scale and they offer kids everything a ‘real’ horse has to offer in a package more easily handled by a child or small adult.
The conformation type found in a Sport Pony is usually that of a small horse, even though they may be just 13 hh or less. The Caspian horse is the prototype of a sport pony; it is often called a pony, but is actually a small horse
A Sport Pony world wide, most generally excels in dressage or dressage-based events.
There is a term for the Sport Pony in Germany that actually means ‘small horse’, and it is differentiated between ponies and ‘small horses’. The German ‘small horse breeds’ encompass horses that are bred especially for sporting events and although they may have been based on Exmoors, Duelmeners, Welsh Ponies, Shetland Ponies, and all kinds of other breeds, they are bred as a Sport Pony and were not only selected for ‘horse conformation’, but helped along to that goal by a shot of oriental blood.
It does not do justice to the situation even to speak of ‘small horse breeds’ there, as the various studbooks pretty much pursue the same breeding goal, and the small horses managed by the different studbooks are pretty similar in type and can be regarded as one breed, much like the various Warmblood studbooks/breeds.
In the USA, there were no indigenous pony breeds to built on, but only horses and horse breeds brought into the country from the Old World. So a Sport Pony in the US is either based on mustangs or on native breeds, that is breeds created in the Americas.
The most numerous horse breed in the world is that of the American Quarter Horse, a breed entirely based on an artificial mix of a variety of Old World horses and ponies, and an offshoot of it is the Quarter Pony, Quarter Horses that did not reach the 14 hh that the American Quarter Horse Association defined as their minimum size. Of such Quarter Horse stock with a tendency to stay small, the Quarter Pony breed was created as a Sport Pony of America.
Another such breed is that of the POA, which is an abbreviation of ‘Pony of the Americas’. This breed has fairly strong ties to another American breed, the Appaloosa horse, and is often associated with the Appaloosa’s color. The POA is perceived by many as a riding pony of leopard or blanket color; however, the fact of the matter is that it actually comes in all horse colors. As was the case with the American Quarter Pony, the Pony of the Americas was developed as a riding pony and it must therefore be classified as a Sport Pony.
IN UNITED KINGDOM
Native pony breeds in Great Britain which fall into the Sport Pony category are, for instance, the Welsh Pony, which is bred in four sections (size categories), the New Forest Pony, the Dartmoor, and the Connemara. While among Dartmoors and Connemaras there is often a predominance of pony characteristics, they still show enough oriental blood to make them suitable for sports purposes.
Among Connemaras one can find many which are small horses in conformation and even show an Iberian influence. The British have crossed some of their native pony breeds, among them and also with small Thoroughbreds, and arrived at various types of the Sport Pony similar to the ‘small horse breeds’ of Germany.