Until quite recently, the Shetland pony was the only one bred in considerable numbers in the eastern states. The Shetland is the smallest of the pony breeds and has long attracted marked attention, because of his small-ness and not infrequently because of his peculiar and striking markings. Reared on the rugged Shetland Islands, north of Scotland, where a large animal would not serve the inhabitants so well as a small one, and in a climate so bleak that larger horses, even if introduced, would soon become dwarfed, they have not been crossed with larger breeds, except with the Iceland pony, which cross was not successful. These ponies are, in their native home, subjected to great hardships. They are usually allowed to roam in the open in the winter as well as in the summer. As the demand for them increased and the prices advanced, some pains have been taken to provide more abundant food and, not infrequently, rude shelter. However, the Shetland pony is so thickly coated, or double-coated, with fine, short, mossy hair and a long, coarser coat, that he seeks the shelter of a building only in extremely tempestuous weather. When removed to a milder climate and housed, it requires but a few generations to materially modify the hairy covering, and, in some cases, even the general form of the animal as well. The tendency is for them to grow taller, trimmer and of slightly less robust build if judiciously fed. The well-bred, home-reared pony is likely to fill the eye of the American boy better than the imported. There are several varieties of the Shetland ponies, due, in part, to the aspect of the locality in which they are bred; in part to the different tastes of the breeders; and probably, in part, to slight differences in the foundation stock of the several varieties, However, they are sufficiently uniform to be classed as a single breed.
Fig. 23. Exile of Pittsford (4520). Height, 43 1/2 inches. Owned by Mrs. Estelle F. Hawley, Pittsford, N. Y.
There is likely to be an increased demand for first-class Shetlands. As wealth increases the demand increases; but this demand, as might be expected, is for high-class animals. The second-class pony has few purchasers, for, if the income justifies the purchase of a pony at all, it justifies the acquiring of one that is both good and beautiful. As yet, in America, there is no large place for the Shetland pony except as a child's horse.
Fig. 24. Bressay of Pittsford (3151). Height, 38 inches. Owned by Mrs. Estelle F. Hawley, Pittsford. N. Y.
While there have been several valuable breeds of ponies imported and bred in the United States, the little Shetland pony is not likely to lose his well-earned popularity. The pony can be made very useful, under proper supervision, in educating children to be courageous, self-reliant, kind to and thoughtful of the brute creation. The American farm boy is usually an expert horseman, due, without doubt, to his early familiarity with colts and horses on the farm. The city lad may acquire much of the same expertness by handling ponies. This four-legged associate is often a safer companion, for a hot-headed youth, than a two-legged one. The question as to whether there is profit in raising ponies sinks into insignificance beside the larger one - Is there profit to the country in rearing self-reliant, strong, humanized citizens?
Other things being equal, the smaller ponies sell for higher prices than the larger ones, and the piebald or spotted ones often for more than those of solid colors. In any case, the Shetland is seldom more than thirteen hands high, fifty-two inches; the smaller ones but six to seven hands high. However, a large majority of these ponies range from thirty-five to forty-five inches in height. When placed under conditions similar to those of larger horses in America, the tendency is for them to increase in size and become somewhat phlegmatic and less-enduring. Then, too, they sometimes have a tendency to heaves or asthma. However, this tendency is largely or wholly due to idleness and overfeeding, especially of hay. The very fact that they are small and are pets results in their being fed too frequently and too liberally. In this country a hundred ponies are injured by overfeeding where one is injured by underfeeding. To keep ponies trim in form and lively, especially where they are used but little, the grain ration should be about one-half, and the hay ration one-fourth of that fed to the employed roadster.
It is sometimes said that a pony can be bred and raised about as cheaply as a sheep. The raising of good ponies is a highly specialized business; therefore their breeding should not be begun hastily or ignorantly. Anybody, can raise little horses at little expense, but they will have to be content with little prices. In pony breeding, something for a little or nothing is no more likely to be secured than in the production of other live stock. The same careful selection of foundation stock, the same judgment in mating and care as is taken in breeding the trotter or saddler, must be exercised, if the animals most in demand at remunerative prices are secured.