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  Pony of the Americas is an apropos title for this popular and colorful breed of pony, whose unexpected beginnings originated in America’s heartland with the unlikely breeding of an Arabian/Appaloosa mare to a Shetland stallion. In the early 1950s, Les Boomhower, an attorney and Shetland Pony breeder in Mason City, Iowa, was offered an Arabian/Appaloosa mare from a neighbor. The mare had inadvertently bred with a Shetland stallion. Uncertain as to what he might be in for, Boomhower deferred his acceptance of the pair until the foal was born. To his surprise and delight, the result of the unlikely romance was a little white colt splattered with black areas including a dramatic hand-shaped pattern over his flank. Boomhower aptly named the little looker Black Hand. Impressed as well with the colt’s conformation and gentle disposition, he gathered breeder friends to his Memory Lane Ranch to discuss the possibility of developing a new breed of Appaloosa-colored ponies. Little Black Hand had an enthusiastic reception. In 1954 Boomhower and a group of associations founded the Pony of the America’s Club with the intent to breed a “calm, intelligent, versatile pony” with the definitive coloring of an Appaloosa. Boomhower’s initial vision was to develop a “using pony,” intended for young riders that were “too big for a small pony but not ready for a full-sized horse.” Black Hand received the first registration number and became the foundation stallion for the newly founded registry. The POAC was formed as a non-profit corporation with the motto, “Using Pony For Youth.” In its first fifteen years the breed registered 12,500 ponies.

In time, the POAC’s goals broadened with the desire to develop a medium-sized pony with a “little horse” look—one equally suitable for older children and young or petite adults. The Shetland blood was phased out of the POA breeding program as larger ponies like the Welsh and smaller horses like Arabians and wild mustangs were bred with Appaloosas, Quarter horses and Indian ponies. The original breed height requirement of 44 to 52 inches was amended in 1963 to a range of between 46 and 54 inches. Finally in 1985, the height range was raised to an upper limit of 54 inches, or 13.5 hands.  A variety of breed crosses have been allowed into the registry as long as the animals have met the breed’s physical requirements, which have remained steadfast.      

Today the POAC has over 50,000 registered ponies. It is one of the largest youth-oriented breed registries with 2,000 plus members and more than forty affiliated chapters, hosting a multitude of competitive events.

Breed Characteristics

A defining and cherished characteristic of the Pony of the Americas is their Appaloosa-like  coat colors which must be “loud,” meaning visible from forty feet. Two of the most recognizable and typical coat patterns are the blanket and leopard, though the coat may be snow-capped (a white-rumped variation of the blanket pattern) or roan. POA’s have mottled skin, evidenced by the variety of pigmented and unpigmented skin where the coat hair is thin or absent, often speckled on the muzzle and patchy in the genital area. Like Appaloosas, hooves have black and white vertical stripes.

The breed averages 11.2-14 hands and while the POA is called a “pony,” it actually has the phenotype or physical characteristics of a small horse, and “looks and moves like its larger counterparts.”

POA’s have refined heads that are often slightly dished. They must have white sclera in at least one eye, that is visible when the eye is open normally.

The ponies’ chests are deep, their shoulders well muscled and sloping. In general, this distinctive breed of pony combines the elegance of the Arabian, the coloration of the Appaloosa and the muscle strength and bone mass of a Quarter horse.

POA’s are rugged, athletic, intelligent and patient. Though mainly bred for Western riding, they are also often used by younger equestrians in English disciplines, driving and even dressage,  making this flashy little pony “a complete package for any horse lover!”

To learn more about the Pony of the Americas, visit: POAC.ORG

(Originally published in the November 2014 issue of Cowgirl Magazine).

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