Are horses and ponies the same thing?

Let’s take the children for a ride on a pony, or is it a horse? Do we go horseback riding, or is it a pony? Knowing what all the animals can be tricky. What is the difference between a horse and a pony? It’s something a lot of people don’t really understand.

Both horses and ponies are part of the Equus caballus species. Both are very similar, but there are actually a few very significant differences between the two. While you are able to ride or use both of them to pull carriages and such, they are not exactly the same. For instance, a pony is not a baby horse. That would be a foal.

Size is the main feature but not the only consideration

The primary distinguishing factor between a pony or a horse is its height. Horses are measured using hand-widths with each hand equal to about 4 inches. If the equine animal measures 14 hands, 2 inches at the ridge located between its shoulder blades, it will fall into the category of being a horse. Any that are shorter are called ponies.

To complicate matters, some full-grown horses are actually the size of a pony yet still classified as a horse. Or, the other way around also applies with some ponies actually measuring more like the height of a horse. A couple of examples of these confusing equines are the Arabian Horse or the Connemara Pony.

Confirmation plays a part in naming

Just when you started to think this all made sense, you need to know that there are also miniature horses which are measured in inches since they are too small to be measured using handwidths. The reason they are still considered to be a horse and not a pony is because the conformation of the breed also influences the classification. A miniature horse is like a shrunken down version of the larger horse by the same name without the “mini” in front of its name.

Tradition never changes

Another important factor in determining whether or not it is a horse or a pony is tradition. The Icelandic Horse is one great example of how tradition determines whether you call it a horse or a pony. This Nordic steed is typically 13 or 14 hands, but they have great strength and ability to carry a lot of weight. So, hundreds of years ago, Vikings called them horses, and it stuck. Likewise, polo mounts are always referred to as ponies regardless of their breed or height.