Last updated: August 5, 2022
The Pony of the Americas (POA) is a pony breed developed in the Midwestern United States during the mid-1950s. Its origins are the result of a unique cross of an Arabian/Appaloosa mare with a Shetland stallion.
Pony of the Americas is a small equine breed with specific physical and coloring characteristics. They must be between 11.5 and 14 hands tall and have Appaloosa coloring visible from 40 feet.
If you are looking for that special animal, a Pony of the Americas may be the right breed for you. Their adaptability and skillfulness are two of the many characteristics that make them an excellent choice for any level rider.
Pony of America’s foundation sire is a shetland pony
The foundation sire for Pony of the Americas was the result of a cross between an Arabian/Appaloosa mare and a Shetland pony. The foal was named “Black Hand” because of the distinct black marking shaped like a hand on his flank.
The owner of “Black Hand” liked his small horse so much that he decided to create a new breed. When he formalized the breed standards, the emphasis was on height and color over the animal’s bloodline.
Pony of the America’s can’t be taller than 56 inches.
In the inaugural 1954 Pony of Americas breed registry, equines had to reach a minimum height of 44 inches and could not be over 52 inches to qualify for registration.
In 1963 the Pony of the Americas adjusted their height regulations by two inches, from a minimum height of 44 inches to 46 inches, and the maximum height went to 54 inches.
The Pony of the Americas club members agreed to raise the maximum again in 1985, to 56 inches. The modern height standard for the Pony of the Americas breed is a minimum height of 46 inches and no taller than 56 inches.
Pony of the America’s color pattern is visible from 40 ft.
The foal that became the foundation sire for the Pony of America’s breed, “Black Hand,” was born white with black interspersed over his body. The black portion is described as resembling paint smears with the image of a black hand on his flank.
The coloring of “Black Hand” gave him a unique look, that was important to include in the new breed standards. Color is a vital characteristic of all registered Pony of America’s, and the color pattern must be visible from 40 feet.
POA coat patterns vary widely, but the most common coat color is a blanket pattern, which is white over the loin and hips with dark, round, g-shaped spots.
The spots vary in size from specks to areas larger than four inches in diameter. Other horses show white over their rear with no dark spots. This color pattern is referred to as snow-capped.
Some POA horses are spotted over their whole body, which is called a leopard pattern. Blanket and leopard patterns may have spots that are darker in the middle with a lighter ring around the area. This phenomenon is rare and called a halo.
Ponies with white hairs interspersed with the base coat color are considered roan. Paint or pinto coat patterns, are expressly prohibited in the POA registry.
Ponys of the America’s have Appaloosa traits
Mottled skin is a speckling of the animal’s skin with both dark and light pigment, and typically can be found on the skin around a horse’s muzzle, eyes, and genitals.
Marginal, gray, or roan ponies must have mottled skin in at least two places — muzzle, eyes, or genital area — and white sclera encircling one or both eyes, to qualify for registration.
White sclera on a POA is easily noticeable. It’s the white part encircling the colored iris of your eye is called the sclera. Horses also have sclera, but most horse breeds have a dark sclera that surrounds their iris. But a POA like an Appaloosas has a white sclera just like humans.
A horse’s hoof is made of “keratin,” the same material that comprises our fingernails and toenails. POAs have “striped hooves,” which is a bold up-and-down striping of light and dark on the hoof.
A horse can be registered as a POA with no hoof striping but must exhibit the other characteristics of mottled skin, color coat pattern, and white sclera.
The foundation sire, “Black Hand,” had 50 % Shetland pony in his pedigree; however, there is little resemblance to a Shetland ponies in the modern-day Pony of the America horses.
POAs have the expressive eyes and the delicate ears of an Arabian and the broad chest, powerful hindquarters, and sloping shoulders of a Quarter horse. The blend of the various breeds has created a short version of a western sport horse.
POAs are excellent horses for youth riders and have the athletic ability to compete in many equine disciplines.
Generally, the temperament of a horse breed is the behavior or personality you can expect in the animals. Ponies of the Americas were bred to be ridden by children; these diminutive horses love people and are full patience and kindness.
They are willing workers and have a calm demeanor. You don’t have to worry about Pony of the Americas spooking on a trail riding or when riding around other animals.
POA breeders have placed a premium on developing a safe, dependable, and laid back mount. These horses are uncommonly smart and easily trained in various equine disciplines.
History of the Breed
Can you imagine a little Shetland pony stud breeding a big Appaloosa mare? Well that is what occurred to create the Pony of the Americas breed.
In Mason City, Iowa, there lived a Shetland pony breeder that also happened to be a lawyer named Les Boomhower. His neighbor offered to sell him an Arabian/Appaloosa mare that was carrying a foal sired by a Shetland stallion.
Les waited until the foal was born then bought the mare and foal. The colt had a white coat with black markings and a spot on its flank that resembled a black hand.
Les put his legal knowledge to use and formed the Pony of the Americas Club with “Black Hand,” as its foundation. Les and the people working with him on this project set strict guidelines for registering animals as a POA.
The objective was to develop a small athletic horse breed with the temperament children could ride and show. So the animals had to be gentle and trainable.
POA clubs snowballed, state and regional organizations formed, and Pony of the Americas competitions sprung up across the country. The registry started with one half-bred Shetland pony 1954 had more than 12,500 members in its first 15 years and now has well over 50,000 registered horses.
Similar to horse registration, the competitions have strict regulations as well. Initially, only children 16 years old or younger could show a POA. However, in 1973 the age limit was raised to 18 years old, and in 1987 a 19 and older riding class was added.
Through the years, the horses have developed, and the organization has grown. The first national Pony of the Americas convention was held in 1988. Today the Pony of Americas Club is one of the most active youth-oriented horse breed registries in the United States.
Pony of the America’s horses are bred for versatility and are used for western, English, drivings, and many other equine activities. This diminutive equine breed is the perfect companion for young riders, and they are gentle, forgiving, and intelligent.
Below is a YouTube video of the Pony of Americas National Congress competition.
- 12 Horse Coat Colors: Patterns, Genetics, and Pictures
- 10 Differences Between Ponies and Horses: Size, Breeds …
- Gypsy Vanner or Irish Cob: Colors and Characteristics
Meet Miles Henry
An avid equestrian and seasoned racehorse owner, Miles Henry brings his extensive experience to the equine world, proudly associating with the AQHA, The Jockey Club, and various other equine organizations. Beyond the racetrack, Miles is an accomplished author, having published various books about horses, and is a recognized authority in the field, with his work cited in multiple publications.
🔗 Connect with Miles: