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Pony of the Americas: Color, Height, and Other Breed Facts

Last updated: January 12, 2024

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Did You Know the Pony of the Americas Can Be Identified from 40 Feet Away?

As an avid equestrian with years of experience, I’ve always been fascinated by the unique traits of different horse breeds. Among them, the Pony of the Americas (POA) stands out with its distinctive Appaloosa coloring, a feature so prominent it’s visible from 40 feet away.

This article takes you through the journey of the POA, a breed that emerged in the 1950s in the United States, blending the grace of an Arabian with the sturdiness of a Shetland pony. Join me as we explore the captivating world of the POA, delving into its history, physical characteristics, and the qualities that make it a beloved choice for riders of all ages.

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.

Picture of a pony of the americas,
Pony of the America’s

Pony of the America’s can’t be taller than 56 inches.

Height requirements

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.

Colors requirements

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.

Close-up picture of the mottled skin of an appaloosa horse.

Ponys of the America’s have Appaloosa traits

Mottled Skin

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 a white sclera encircling one or both eyes to qualify for registration.

White Sclera

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.

Striped Hooves

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 pony in the modern-day Pony of the America horses. Most POAs have the body conformation you’d expect from a Quarter horse and Arabian cross.

Their small head is dished like an Arabain, and their bodies are strong and muscled like a Quarter horse. 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 animal. Ponies of the Americas were bred to be ridden by children; these diminutive horses love people and are full of 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.

Picture of a Shetland pony in a pasture.
Shetland Pony

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 who 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 in 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 America’s horses are bred for versatility and are used for western, English, driving, 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.

YouTube video


In our exploration of the Pony of the Americas, we’ve journeyed through the breed’s remarkable history, its striking physical attributes, and the endearing qualities that make it a cherished companion for riders, especially the youth. The POA’s journey from a crossbreed in the Midwestern United States to a beloved icon in the equestrian world is a testament to the breed’s versatility, adaptability, and enduring appeal.

As someone deeply immersed in the equestrian world, I’ve witnessed firsthand the joy and enrichment these magnificent animals bring to their riders. The POA, with its unique blend of beauty, agility, and gentle temperament, continues to captivate and inspire equestrians of all ages.

Discover More About the World of Horses

Are you intrigued by the diverse and fascinating world of horse breeds? There’s so much more to explore and learn! Whether you’re a seasoned equestrian or just beginning your journey, delving deeper into the various breeds enriches your understanding and appreciation of these majestic animals.

👉 Continue Your Equestrian Adventure and uncover the rich tapestry of horse breeds that roam our world. From their historical significance to their modern-day roles, each breed has a unique story waiting to be discovered.

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