What to Know About the Welsh Pony

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on January 09, 2023
5 min read

The Welsh pony is an equine breed native to Wales in the United Kingdom. A horse that’s been around for thousands of years, this breed has a long history filled with tough moments. Even so, this scrappy pony was able to succeed and survive. Learn more about the Welsh pony’s origin, characteristics, and how to take care of this unique and hardy horse.

The Welsh pony dates back at least two thousand years and is believed to be a descendant of the prehistoric Celtic pony. When Celtic ponies made their way west across Europe, some found their way to the northern hills of Wales. Here, they remained in isolation for hundreds of years, evolving into a new breed adapted for the weather and the terrain: the Welsh pony.

This isolation in rugged terrain with harsh weather forced the Welsh pony to quickly adapt to its new environment. In its native habitat, there was little shelter or vegetation, so herds would roam through mountains and ravines in search of food and a place to rest. While tough, this environment helped the Welsh pony to develop a compact body, endurance and intelligence.

Since this is an ancient horse, the Welsh pony has been in contact with many peoples throughout the centuries, each finding different uses for the breed. The breed was endangered in the Middle Ages when King Henry VIII declared that all horses shorter than 15 hands tall should be destroyed. Welsh ponies survived in the native yet treacherous environment of the Welsh hills where hunters were unwilling to go. Here, the ponies continued to live and reproduce and become the horse we know today.

Within the breed, there are four different sections:

  • Welsh Mountain Pony
  • Welsh Pony of Riding Type
  • Welsh Pony of Cob Type
  • Welsh Cob

These designations apply for showing purposes, as well as the different uses these horses have. If you’re considering owning one, here are some Welsh pony facts that you should know.

Welsh pony size and appearance. This breed is small and compact, standing at just 12 hands tall (48 inches or 122 centimeters) and weighing around 500 pounds (225 kilograms). Their small, sturdy bodies make them natural jumpers with strong quarters, straight forelegs, and a short back. The limestone hills where the Welsh pony lived for centuries helped the breed develop strong bones and dense hooves. This allowed the horses to become fast and sure-footed, skills that were needed to survive the wild elements.

This horse has a small, lifted head with big eyes. Purebred Welsh ponies have fine hair and high tails and can be any of these colors:

  • Bay
  • Gray
  • Black
  • Roan
  • Chestnut
  • Cream

Welsh pony temperament and personality. Even though Welsh ponies adapted to a harsh environment, this breed has a good disposition and temperament. Like many other pony breeds, the Welsh are very active horses that are willing to do what is asked of them. They are typically very intelligent, which means they are quite easy to train. Overall, the Welsh pony is very kind and makes for a great addition to any family of horse lovers.

In the mid-1800s, the Welsh pony was in danger again due to things like pony hunting, starvation, and carelessness when it came to breeding. When it became apparent that Welsh ponies were in danger, a new enthusiasm for protecting and improving the breed came about. In 1901, the Welsh Pony and Cob Society was established, which set clear regulations for breeding and rules for exportation. Many breeders worked hard to preserve the Welsh pony to retain the horse’s original physical characteristics and personality traits.

Riding and working. For many years, Welsh ponies were used as pit ponies, carrying heavy loads in the coal mines. Many lived in underground stables, working up to eight hours a day. Most of these ponies had the same miner as a companion for their whole lives. Welsh ponies are very hardworking and strong, so they were a valuable asset in the 1800s and 1900s.

Welsh ponies were also very useful to farmers, helping to carry loads and carry people over the wild mountains. Today, they are still a top choice for riding as they are hardy, sure-footed, and good-natured. The Welsh pony is especially good for children and young riders due to its small size.

Welsh ponies that are used as workers should be left out on open hills where they can graze and wander in herds. In their natural habitat in Wales, they help to keep the uplands in good condition with their grazing. As they have adapted to all kinds of weather, Welsh ponies don’t mind being outside in the cold, harsh weather. Currently, there are less than 1,000 breeding mares left in Wales, so the Welsh pony is considered to be a rare breed.

Competitions and shows. Welsh ponies are very active in the show ring. They compete in a variety of different disciplines, including:

  • Dressage
  • Driving
  • Combined driving
  • Heavy harness
  • English and Western pleasure
  • Hunters

With the right care, the Welsh pony lifespan is the same as many other breeds of horses, around 30 years. Owning a horse is an expensive lifetime commitment, but can be very enriching and rewarding. As an owner, you should make sure that your horse has routine veterinary care for its age and activity level so that your horse stays in top health. Adult horses under 20 should have at least one check-up a year, while horses over 20 should have at least two.

Your vet should provide preventative care, like deworming, dental care, and vaccinations. As an owner, inspect your horse once a day, ideally while grooming. Grooming keeps your horse looking great and gives you the chance to check for lesions or injuries. Hoof care is important, so make sure to pick them daily to remove debris and have them trimmed every six weeks or so.

Your Welsh pony should have between 3 and 7 kilograms of food each day, either hay, roughage, or access to a pasture. Very active ponies may need supplemental grains or feed to keep their energy up. Small horses need daily access to water and may drink up to 45 liters a day in warm weather. When your horse isn’t eating, it should have access to shelter, like a shed, stable or trees, where it can relax.