The Highland Pony is everything that Scotland is – exceptionally tough, hardy, and able to weather through most seasons (even all four in a day)! And although I do love Icelandic ponies, I have to admit my heart is taken by the Highlands. My favorite pony for many years was a gorgeous grey highland gelding who sadly passed away this year.
These fab ponies range massively in all kinds of shapes and sizes, with chunkier draught looking types to narrow almost hunter pony types. The breed society states that they shouldn’t be above 14.2hh but it's not uncommon for them to break that limit. They usually don’t get smaller than 13 hands, but their short stature is made up from being chunky and wide, so they are easily able to take much larger riders.
They come in the three base coats – black, bay and red, usually with dun, like the bay dun in the picture. Many Highlands are grey so will be born their color (whether that be bay, red dun or whatever) then grey out as they age until their entirely white. But being in Scotland, where rain and mud are all too common, grey seems like the worst color to be! There’s also silver in the breed, so the stunning silver dapple with its black coat and bright mane and tail are a sight to see!
The Highland pony was originally bred as a pack and riding horse, helping keep numbers down in annual deer culls, which they still do even to this day. It’s amazing to see a short stocky pony carrying a stag down a mountain that's nearly as large as the pony itself. It just goes to show these ponies remarkable strength and sturdiness, especially when they still use the ancient trails their ancestors would have walked that are barely wider than themselves.
Nowadays, though, they're used mostly for trekking and trails through Scotland, and it’s tremendous to see them scales the hillsides and Highlands where they were born. They have such gentle natures that make them excellent riding school ponies, or for people who just like a wander, or even for riding for the disabled ponies.
Sadly, these stunning ponies, much like other British breeds—the Suffolk Punch and the Cleveland Bay—are endangered. But thankfully for the Highlands, they are a favorite of the Queen, who breeds them and keeps the historic breed alive and well.
At the moment, I’d like to think that I would consider getting a Highland in the future, not just for my love of them, but for the good times I have seen and felt from their backs, as well as the confidence they lend a rather nervous rider like myself.
But either way, I can’t get enough of these beautiful Scottish ponies.