Horse Breeds Young Rider

British Native Ponies

Map of the British Isles - British Native Ponies
The nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland make up the country of the United Kingdom. Photo by Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock

There’s lots to love about ponies, and breeds that are considered British Native Ponies are among the most talented and beautiful in the world. These ponies have a long and fascinating history and are native to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Over time, they’ve found devoted fans all over the world who love their beauty, intelligence, and amazing pony power. Let’s travel the United Kingdom to see which breeds originated there.


Dales Ponies: These charming ponies are larger than many of the other British native ponies and stand 13.2 to 14.2 hands, making them a nice choice for riding or driving. Dales Ponies are known for their excellent legs and feet and they exhibit plenty of knee action at the trot. Another hallmark of the breed: their adorable ears with curved tips.

Dales Pony
Dales Pony. Photo by Allen MacMillan

Dartmoor Ponies: These hardy little ponies stand 11 to 12.2 hands and are most often bay or black, although chestnuts, roans, and grays are sometimes found. They’re attractive ponies, although not often seen in the United States.

Dartmoor Pony
Dartmoor Pony. Photo by Nicole Ciscato/Shutterstock
Exmoor Pony
Exmoor Pony. Photo by U.S. Eastern Light Photography/Shutterstock

Exmoor Ponies: The distinctive Exmoor Pony hails from the moors of England and is a hardy pony with a unique two-layered coat that provides special protection from the elements.

Exmoor ponies are easy to recognize—they’re nearly always brown or bay with an “oatmeal”-colored muzzle (this is often described as being “mealy-mouthed”).

Fell Pony
Fell Pony. Photo by Nicole Ciscato/Shutterstock

Fell Ponies: These substantial ponies resemble miniature Friesians, and rightly so, as the Friesian was one of the foundation breeds of the Fell Pony. Fell Ponies are usually black and possess plenty of feathering around their legs. The breed stands approximately 13 to 14 hands and is rare in the United States.

New Forest Pony
New Forest Pony. Photo by U.S. Eastern Light Photography/Shutterstock

New Forest Ponies: These ponies are named for the New Forest of England and are athletic ponies that range in size from 12 to 14 hands (but not over 14.2 hands). The first New Forest Pony to arrive in the United States was a stallion named Deeracres Sir Anthony, who was imported in 1957.


Welsh Pony
Welsh Pony. Photo by Zuzule/Shutterstock

Welsh Ponies and Cobs: Welsh Ponies and Cobs come from Wales, which is why they’re called Welsh Ponies. (Some people mistakenly refer to them as “Welch” Ponies.) Welsh Ponies and Cobs are noted for their beauty, quality, athleticism
and their endearing personalities. The Welsh breed is divided into four sections:
■ Section A, the Welsh Mountain Pony (up to 12.2 hands in the United States)
■ Section B, the Welsh Pony (up to 14.2 hands in the U.S.)
■ Section C, the Welsh Pony of Cob Type (up to 13.2 hands)
■ Section D, the Welsh Cob (over 13.2 hands)


Connemara Pony - British Native Ponies
Connemara Pony. Photo by Bildagentur Zoonar GMBH/Shutterstock

Connemara Ponies: Athletic and talented, the Connemara boasts substance and size (13 to 15 hands) as well as beauty. The breed had early influence from Arabians and Thoroughbreds, which likely contributed to the Connemara’s larger size.

Connemaras have excelled in sport horse disciplines, such as eventing.


Shetland Ponies
Shetland Pony. Photo by Zuzule/Shutterstock

Shetland Ponies: Shetland Ponies were used for work in British coal mines during the 1800s, and later became popular as children’s ponies. The type of Shetland Pony in America has evolved considerably from the native version. Today’s Shetland in the U.S. has four classifications: Foundation, Classic, Modern, and Modern Pleasure.

They can be any color, although ponies with Appaloosa-type spots aren’t eligible for purebred registration.

Highland Pony
Highland Pony. Photo by Dusty Perin

Highland Ponies: The Highland Pony comes from the Scottish Highlands, where it has been beloved for generations. The most famous breeder of Highland Ponies
is Queen Elizabeth II, who has raised them since 2007. Highland Ponies are often dun or gray, although other colors sometimes occur.

Eriskay Ponies: This extremely rare pony breed was nearly extinct in the 1970s, but the global population of Eriskay Ponies now numbers about 400. The breed is predominantly gray, but bay or black occasionally occurs, and these are said to be the only colors found in the Eriskay breed. The ponies stand 12 to 13.2 hands.

Eriskay Ponies - British Native Ponies
Eriskay Pony. Photo by Bob Langrish

U.S. Registries

American Connemara Pony Society
American Shetland Pony Club, Inc.
Dartmoor Pony Registry of America
Fell Pony Society of North America
New Forest Pony Society of North America
Scottish Highland Pony Society of North America
Shetland Pony Society of North America
Welsh Pony & Cob Society of America

Me and My New Forest Pony

Shelby McFalls, Age 14 & Wrefleksion

Shelby Falls and Leski - British Native Ponies
Shelby Falls and Leski. Photo Courtesy Shelby McFalls

Wrefleksion is a 14-hand, 9-year-old New Forest Pony mare. She was born and bred in Pennsylvania. Her barn name is Leksi. She loves animal cookies and
Herballs, and she loves to jump.

We participate in the 4-H program and had a lot of fun competing in hunter/jumper classes and qualifying for Districts. At our 4-H fun shows, we also got to do pole bending and barrel racing for the first time. To try something different, we also rode in some Intro Level dressage tests, scoring pretty well and beating quite a few of the bigger horses. That was a lot of fun! Leksi received the New Forest Pony Society of North America’s “Most Versatile Pony” award for competing in the most categories in 2018.

Since the New Forest Ponies are on the worldwide rare breed list, most people have never even heard of them and are quite surprised! It’s a lot of fun to talk to people about the breed, and it’s definitely an icebreaker. The New Forest Ponies are just so special and seem to really attune to their people.

This article on British Native Ponies originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of
Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Samantha Johnson

Samantha Johnson is a freelance writer and the author of several books, including The Field Guide to Horses, (Voyageur Press, 2009). She raises Welsh Mountain Ponies in northern Wisconsin and is a certified horse show judge. She loves Corgis and shares her home with her Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Peaches.

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