Horse Breeds

Temperament of Shetland Ponies



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A look at the temperament of Shetland pony.

I have chose this topic as two instances come to mind of my association with Shetland ponies. It was along time ago, in fact fifty four years ago, when I was ten years old. We were very lucky as a family that our father gave up his city job in an office in an executive position and drove us off to the country one day in a Chevrolet Bel Air and pulled up on top of a mountain at a property of fifty acres. So it was farm life from an early age and we had a succession of horses in the ten or so years that I was there. One of these was a little black and white piebald Shetland pony called Whiskey. He was very aptly named for he had fire in his belly and a temper. We never judged him for this, just learnt to treat him with respect and be aware that if you fed him some grass he might try and nip you and we always stayed away from his back legs. My friend John and I were allowed to ride him, but my parents would not buy a saddle until we had learned to ride bareback with a halter rather like you see the Red Indians in the western films. This was good fun and we certainly had out share of spills and Whiskey was just the horse to try your 'staying on skills' on as he would give you the ride of your life. We we game and carefree, so would encourage him to buck us off by teasing him and his temperament would react as I am sure he knew what we were up to. Yes, he had a temperament for sure, but I think it was born out of his rugged character. These ponies have their origins in the Shetland Islands and like the Scots themselves are good natured till you cross them.

So on many a weekday after school and at weekends we would ride Whiskey and enjoy his spritley trotting and quick gallop. Oh yes, he was enjoying this as his spirit was being employed and used as if he were galloping around those rugged windy isles in the blustery wind off the Scottish coast. So his temperament was as his passion for this sort of exercise. Sometimes these ponies can be misjudged as this sort of attitude is not taken toward them and people expect them to be docile. Look, if you want a wild spirited ride, get on the back of a Shetland Pony bareback and stay on, it's fun. I certainly was not afraid of horses and many years later came off a polo pony at full gallop and ended up breaking my leg and pelvis.

The other incident regarding Shetland ponies was when my parents decided to send me to a riding school and the residential nature of the place meant you stayed for a week and rode a different horse every morning and afternoon for that time. Well there was one little Shetland pony with one blue eye and one brown eye and he did have a temper and if you looked in the allocation book for the horses that you would be riding and found your name with this little fella everyone would say, "Oh no how you going to handle him?" Well one morning I had him and all was well until the instructor pulled their horse in front of him and before we had even started he had kicked both back legs into the chest of the big horse behind him! Well that was his only tantrum that morning and the rest of the ride was alright.

I would rather see the temperament of the Shetland Pony as just their character, rather than think of it as a negative in assessing this sort of horse for your child. I certainly know I had some exciting rides on Whiskey. Perhaps it's just the Scottish ancestry in me speaking and my association with one of the great brands of whiskey. My great grandfather started Bell's Scotch Whiskey and the story goes that when he first started selling it he would pull a barrel of whiskey round using a horse. No doubt it was a Shetland and he might have just given it the odd drink or two, on a long journey!

More about this author: Jishi Santos

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