Horses Vs. Ponies: The Key Differences & Similarities

October 22, 2020

Horses Vs. Ponies: The Key Differences & Similarities

As a child, were you guilty of asking for a pony every single Christmas? The thought of owning a cutesy, miniature horse was probably the most exciting idea because you thought ponies were just young horses. Maybe you thought they'd be more suitable as a pet than a fully grown mammal, which is why they would make an ideal Christmas present.  

However, ponies and horses are not at two different stages of development. They are members of the same species, Equus caballus. This is why they share a lot of similarities. You can ride both ponies and horses, and you can also keep them both as pets. Both species have similar features, with the horse just growing to a substantially larger size than a pony. 

However, there are still many things that make these two animals different. If you were one of those kids that so desperately wanted a pony for Christmas, we're here to tell you the truth about what makes ponies and horses unique. Here's what you need to know about horses versus ponies; the key similarities and differences. 

What Are The Differences Between Horses and Ponies?

So, we know that ponies aren't baby horses, that they're from the same species, and that they come from the same family tree. However, there is a huge difference between horses and ponies. 

Here's what you need to know:

Ponies Stay Their Size

Unlike horses, ponies stay small their whole life. They do age and mature faster than horses, which is why it is more common to see horses still riding and working for longer than a pony. 

Both pony and horse babies are called foals. Pony foals are born incredibly small but mature but grow rapidly quicker to their ultimate size than horses do. 

In contrast, horse foals grow at a much slower pace, sometimes not evening reaching their full mature size until they are at least six or seven years old.

There's a Big Height Difference

Another main difference between the two animals is their height. 

Horses are measured in something called hands, with one hand equaling 4 inches. If a species measures 14 hands or above and 2 inches at the ridge between their shoulder blades (called the withers), it is a horse. If the animal doesn't meet this height threshold, then they are considered ponies. 

This isn't black and white, though, as you can find horses that are smaller than 14 hands, and vise versa. Examples are Icelandic and Miniature Horses. 


These two animals have other characteristics that set them apart from each other, like different conformations. This refers to differences in bone structures, muscles, and body proportions. 

When looking at a pony, you will notice that they tend to be stockier than horses, which often makes them stronger. 

Distinct Characteristics

Ponies also are lucky to have thicker coats than horses. As a result, they have strong endurance and are fit to survive throughout the winter. Because ponies cope with cold weather well and have good endurance, they tend to be great workers.

Ponies have shorter legs and wider chests, heavier bones, shorter heads, and thicker necks.

It is widely known that ponies are intelligent creatures, too, which means they can often be quite stubborn. Despite the pony's reputation as a good worker, people often opt to work with horses because of their lesser intelligence and willingness to co-operate.

Ponies Tend To Live Longer

Even though ponies mature and grow quicker than horses, they actually tend to live longer. Ponies can live beyond thirty years and still being able to work, ride, and drive well into their late twenties — that's if they behave themselves!

This makes them the longest living Equus caballus of the two species, with horses usually living between twenty-five and thirty years.

How Similar Are Horses And Ponies?

Apart from hailing from the same species, sharing ancestors and a family tree, what are the main similarities between the two animals?

Both Have Admirable Strength 

Both animals boast extreme strength. They can pull and carry heavy loads. However, ponies can endure heavier loads for longer periods of time due to their anatomy.

They Digest Food Similarly

Both ponies and horses have the same digestive system, meaning that they can eat the same things. They can also suffer from the same conditions, such as colic. This refers to gastrointestinal issues that many horses deal with, leading to intense abdominal pain. Although this illness is mainly associated with horses, ponies are not safe from these conditions and owners should take the proper precautions to prevent colic in ponies. 

Even though both the pony and the horse have the same digestive system, there are still some differences in the actual feeding process. Ponies can take nutrition from pastures that horses would starve on. Ponies are also very easy to overfeed, making them more prone to laminitis and founder, which are conditions that horses can't get as easily.

With this being said, it would be easier for a pony to put on weight over a horse. 

They Work Hard

Both ponies and horses are often used to work and have been for years. They have shaped our society with their contributions to agricultural and industrial advancements and have been important animals during battles and wars. 

They're Beautiful

These two animals might look different in size and shape, but they're both extraordinary creatures that bring awe to millions of people. Whether as a pet, farm staple, film star, or race champion, both animals have established themselves as internationally renowned animals because of their elegance and beauty. 


So, do you feel like you know the main differences between horses and ponies? From the obvious differences in size and height to the life expectations and personality characteristics, ponies and horses are magnificent and much-loved creatures with their own unique traits. We hope we've helped you learn more about what these amazing creatures offer, as well as their distinct features and behaviors. 

Do you still have questions about horses versus ponies? Join our mailing list today to find out more about these lovable mammals.

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