What Is The Difference Between A Horse & A Pony?

If you’re new to the world of horses, then you’re probably surprised by how much there is to learn! There are many different breeds of horses and types of horses, with various bloodlines that it can all get a bit confusing.

One of the many things that people get confused about is the difference between ponies and horses. Many people are under the impression that a pony is simply a small horse, or a horse is a fully grown pony, but this is not actually the case.

Although horses and ponies have many similarities, and are part of the same family called the Equus caballus, horses are much larger than ponies, and ponies will remain small for their whole lives. So, what is the difference?

Main Differences Between Horses & Ponies

The main difference between horses and ponies is that a horse is much larger than a pony. Horses are typically about 14.2 hh (hands), whereas ponies are much smaller than this.

In addition, ponies tend to be a lot rounder, stockier and can have thicker coats than horses, whereas horses tend to have a more slight, muscular build. 

That being said, there are some breeds of horse that are under the 14.2 hand mark such as the Miniature Horse or the Icelandic Horse. These horses are pony sized, but are regarded as horses. Just to add fuel to the fire, you also have the Welsh Pony, which is considered a horse, so you can see where the confusion comes from! 

Whilst size is one of the most distinguishable differences, there are actually many variations between a pony and a horse.

For example, the biggest differences between horses and ponies are their proportion and bone structure, but there are also some differences when it comes to temperament and the structure of their muscles. 


Ponies tend to have a longer lifespan than horses, and can work well into their twenties, and live well into their thirties. On average, horses live for about 25-30 years, but ponies can live up to ten years longer! 

Bone Structure/ Proportions

Horses have much longer legs, and are much leaner than ponies. In comparison, ponies tend to be a bit more stocky, and have thicker heads, broader foreheads and shorter necks than horses. Whilst horses are larger, and taller, ponies tend to look more compact. 


Ponies are easy keepers, as they can survive on little food, however, they will try to graze all day and can therefore be prone to being overweight, which can often lead to laminitis. On the contrary, horses can be hard keepers.


Ponies actually mature much more quickly than horses, and reach full maturity at about 6 years old. On the other hand, horses develop more slowly, maturing at around 7 years old. 


Ponies are very strong and sturdy for their size. Horses are also strong and powerful creatures. Whilst horses can be much larger than ponies, in general they are obviously stronger. However, in relation to their size, ponies are actually stronger than horses.


Ponies are generally considered to be much hardier than horses as they have thicker coats, and larger hooves than horses. 

Main And Tail

Ponies tend to have rougher hair, whereas a horse’s mane and tail is typically much softer and thicker than a pony’s. 


Horses and ponies have very different temperaments. Ponies are actually very intelligent, and can sometimes even be more intelligent than larger horses. Ponies are rather wily, and smart, and they will try their best to avoid work and the consequences of their actions. 

In comparison, horses can be a lot quieter, and much more docile. In addition, the larger a horse is, the more likely it is to be a gentle giant, and will be much more eager to please.

Ponies sometimes do not want to please, and will want to do their own thing! For the most part, ponies are stubborn, and horses are more easy going. 

Similarities Between Horses & Ponies

On the other hand, there are many similarities between ponies and horses, too. As mentioned above, ponies and horses are from the same family, the Equus caballus.

As a result, horses and ponies have a lot of characteristics that are similar. For instance, they look very much alike, and are both relatively easy to train.

Despite ponies being considered more stubborn than horses, they are still very gentle and willing, making them fairly easy to train, just like horses. They will take very well to being ridden and led. 

In addition to this, ponies and horses have the same digestive system, but ponies can be greedier than horses and are more prone to becoming overweight. Ponies and horses can also have the same diet, and eat the same things, so both can be prone to weight gain and even colic. 

Is A Pony A Baby Horse?

There are many people who believe that a pony is just a small horse, or a baby horse who is not fully grown. This is not actually true, or the case. This confusion may be down to the fact that some horses have the term ‘Pony’ in their name.

As mentioned before, you can have a Welsh Pony or Cob, which is actually a horse. 

In addition, there are ponies called the Polo Pony, despite being a horse. So, sometimes horses can be referred to as ponies, but ponies are always just ponies, and never horses! Still following us? It’s all a bit of a gray area! 

Can A Horse Mate With A Pony?

Due to the fact that they are part of the same genus and family, horses and ponies are able to mate. It is actually rather common for horses and ponies to mate successfully, as they have a range of similar characteristics.

However, you have to exercise caution when breeding ponies and horses as there are a few things you need to take into consideration.

For example, it is sometimes better to have the horse as the mare, and the stallion as the pony, as there is less of a risk for the mare.

If the mare is a pony, and the stallion is a horse, then the pony can struggle to bear horse-sized foals, and can suffer from some complications and health problems during the pregnancy. 

Ponies unfortunately have not evolved to be able to carry a horse sized foal, and this can cause many issues during the birthing process if the foal is too large for the pony.

This can also cause some problems for the foal, or their growth can be stunted, so it is always better to use a male pony and a female horse. This is to ensure that the foal is small enough for the female horse to carry to term and reduces the risk of birthing complications. 

Although breeding a pony with a horse has been done for centuries, it is vital that you consult a veterinarian before breeding them to ensure that it will be a good idea, and healthy for the animals involved.

What Does a Horse Crossed With A Pony Look Like?

There are actually already a few breeds such as the American Walking Pony and the Hackney Pony that are a result of crossing a pony breed with a horse breed. For instance, the American Walking Pony was created in Georgia by breeding Welsh Ponies with Tennessee Walking Ponies. 

In general, whether you use a pony sire and horse dam or vice versa, the foals will most likely have a few distinctive features that distinguish them from normal horse foals or pony foals.

They will usually have a horse-like temperament, and be slightly stockier than a normal horse, much like a pony. Of course, a cross between a pony and a horse will typically be smaller than a horse, but slightly larger than a pony. 

What Is The Difference Between A Miniature Horse & A Pony

To make things even more confusing, you can actually get Miniature Horses that resemble ponies. A miniature horse is normally much smaller than a normal horse, and is usually between the range of 8.5 hh (hands) and 14.2 hh. 

However, it is still considered a horse, rather than a pony because their proportions and bone structure is more closely related to a horse than a pony. In addition, miniature horses have a leaner build more similar to a horse rather than a pony, which will be much chunkier. 

Therefore, miniature horses are not as strong as regular ponies because they do not have that sturdy shape and structure that ponies have.

Miniature horses are better for more lightweight riders such as children under 70 lbs, whereas ponies can withstand weights between 80 and 160 lbs depending on the size of the pony. 

Are Ponies The Same As Donkeys?

Ponies and donkeys are similar in size and build, but they are more like cousins than siblings. Donkeys are actually part of the Equus family, but they are a separate species.

Horses and ponies are actually part of the Equus ferus caballus family, whereas donkeys are from the Equus Africanus Asinus part of the family tree. Therefore, donkeys are not the same as ponies, and are not the same as horses either. 

In addition, donkeys and horses are a different species altogether, and have different numbers of chromosomes. For instance, horses have 32 chromosomes, whereas donkeys only have 31 chromosomes. 

That being said, donkeys are also able to breed with ponies, creating hybrid equines called mini mules. These are often a result of a male donkey and a female pony. A horse can also breed with a donkey, resulting in a mule. These equines tend to have the head of a donkey and the longer body of a horse. 


To summarize, horses and ponies are often referred to as one another, and are considered one and the same. This is not strictly true, despite the fact that they are from the same family.

Whilst horses and ponies have a lot of the same defining characteristics, there are a lot of differences too in terms of size, temperament, strength, and lifespan.

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