Native ponies: what were they bred for?

  • Knowing what your native pony was bred for will enable you to show them off correctly in the show ring. From a fast but smooth walk perfect for ploughing fields or carrying large loads over great distances, to ground-covering trots ideal for shepherding sheep and hunting wolves, this is what native breeds were used for in bygone years:


    Small but hardy, Shetland ponies were commonly used to transport peat from the bogs and seaweed to fertilise fields. Some also became pit ponies, or were used as pack animals.


    Highlands were bred to work on farms in their native Scotland. From carrying deer and game off the hills, to transporting timber and ploughing fields — these sturdy ponies are capable of hard, heavy work.


    Native to the North of England, Fell ponies were used by the Vikings to plough and pull sledges, as well as for riding and pack work. Their fast but comfortable walk made them ideal for carrying anything from material and food to local metal ores. Fells were also used for shepherding and hunting wolves to protect the flock.

    Modern Fell ponies are renowned for their ground-covering trot, and have been used for trotting races in the past.


    Native to Devon and recorded as living on Dartmoor since the Middle Ages, this breed’s metabolism enables them to survive in tough conditions, ideal for working in the mines, carrying large loads as a pack animal and shepherding sheep. Their temperament made the ponies a popular ride, as they are today.


    This breed dates back to when the Celts settled in Britain. The ponies were tamed and broken to pull chariots, as well as being ridden, used as pack animals and ploughing the land.

    Welsh ponies

    Section A: The smallest of the Welsh mountain ponies were useful for shepherding sheep, mining and riding, as well as being pack animals.

    Section B: These ponies were also intended for pulling carts and carriages.

    Sections C and D: All of the above, plus useful for farm work. Welsh mountain ponies could also be seen driving cattle.


    Known for strength, hardiness, courage and stamina, the Dales pony has strong mining links. Evolved from the Scotch Galloway pack animal, the breed was used to transport lead, coal and ore from the mines of North Yorkshire, Teesside and Tyneside to the ports on the coast.

    Dales ponies are capable of carrying heavy loads over long distances, and were also driven, ridden and used for farm work.

    Continued below…

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    This compact, surefooted and intelligent breed stands on short legs but covers a lot of ground. Still popular for riding with adults and children alike, the attributes of a Connemara has made them ideal for farm work and driving for years.

    New Forest

    Having roamed the New Forest, Hampshire, since the end of the last Ice Age, these fast and sure-footed ponies have been a popular riding choice for centuries. History shows them being used to carry large weights over long distances, plus hunting and farm work.

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