You Won't Believe THESE Differences Between Ponies and Horses

When I tell people that I own 11 ponies (yes, you read that number correctly), the response I get the most is, "That's so cute! When do they become horses?"

Well, here's the thing: Ponies are ponies their entire life, just like horses are horses their entire lives.

Horse and pony standing next to each other

(Photo credit: Piper Klemm)

But this gets confusing because both ponies and horses neigh, eat, poop and have lots of hair. They are technically both Equus caballus, which is their scientific name. They compete in all styles of horseback riding, including jumping, eventing, dressage, driving and more. What makes them so different anyway?

Ponies and horses are different heights at their withers, or shoulder. Horses and ponies are measured in hands—one hand is four inches tall. So a 16-hand horse is 64 inches tall, or a little over five feet. How many hands tall are you?

Ponies stand at 14.2 hands high (58 inches) or lower, and horses are anything taller than that. Fun fact: The tallest horse in the world is currently a little over 20 hands, which is 6'10—wow!

Horse jumping over hay with young girl riding it

(Photo credit: Piper Klemm)

Because of their size difference, horses and ponies often compete in different classes when horse showing. For instance, in jumping classes, there are pony hunters and horse hunters. These different classes are separated because ponies can't jump the big jumps that horses can jump.

Like all youths who take up riding, I started out on ponies. Children compete with other children their own age riding ponies. Now, I compete on horses over bigger jumps, competing against other adults.

Girl standing next to her white pony

(Photo credit: Piper Klemm)

There are general body type differences between horses and ponies as well. Ponies usually have thicker manes and tails, they look proportionally stockier and heftier and they have much smaller hooves. So next time you're in the car looking out at a field of horses, see if you can spot any ponies in the mix!

I still ask for a pony every year for my birthday and Christmas—but you might be ready for a horse on your list instead!


If you love horses as much as we do, then you'll want to check out THIS list of items every horse-lover needs in their possession ASAP!