What to Know About the Pony of the Americas

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on January 20, 2023
5 min read

Ponies are suitable for kids who’re just learning to ride horses and don’t have the strength or skill to handle a full-sized horse. Most pony breeds are smaller and have a stockier body shape than horse breeds. But, the Pony of the Americas — or the POA — is a little different.

The POA is a newer and larger pony breed compared with other pony breeds. It has a small horse-like appearance, with an attractive spotted coloring characteristic of Appaloosa horses.

POAs are popular among kids who aren’t ready for a full-sized horse but want to ride a pony with a horse-like appearance. They have also been bred to be gentle and trainable, making them excellent partners for kids learning about riding and horse care.

The first POA was foaled in 1954. Les Boomhower, a Shetland pony breeder, bought an Arabian/Appaloosa mare who had been bred to a Shetland pony stallion. This resulted in a foal that was a colt with a distinctive black pattern on his hindquarters. Boomhower named the colt Black Hand and bred ponies of similar bloodlines. 

The original breed standard for the POA was a small size and child-friendliness. Boomhower wanted to create a docile pony with the best characteristics of several popular American horse breeds — including the muscled physique of the Quarter Horse, the coloring of the Appaloosa horse, and the appearance of the Arabian horse — all with the size of larger pony breeds.

To be registered as a POA, a pony must have:

  • A height of 11.2 to 13.2 hands (46 to 54 inches) at the withers
  • Spotted coloring typical of Appaloosa horses
  • Mottled skin around the muzzle
  • A white sclera or white ring around the colored part of the eye

POA colors include brown, chestnut, bay, black, or gray, provided the coloring includes spots. The pattern must be visible when standing 40 feet from the pony.

POAs can have a variety of coat patterns, including: 

  • Blanket pattern — A solid color over most of the pony’s body with a “blanket” of white fur marked with colored spots over their hindquarters
  • Frost pattern — White hair mixed with darker colors to give the pony a frosted look across the back and hindquarters
  • Snowflake pattern — Multiple small, white spots distributed throughout the pony's coat
  • Snowcap pattern — Similar to a blanket pattern, but the patch of white fur doesn't have spots
  • Leopard pattern — Spots all over the body
  • Dark spots — A brown, bay, or chestnut coat with darker spots all over the body
  • Varnished roan pattern — Roan coloring (white fur distributed among colored fur) with varnish marks or patches of darker coloring

The POA personality is described as easygoing and pleasant. Because POAs are bred as children's mounts, they are typically easy to handle and train. They’re strong and agile, without being hot-headed.

So, POAs can be ridden either English-style or Western-style.

POAs were developed only for recreational use — specifically for children who were learning the sport of riding but not yet ready for a full-sized horse. They’ve never been used as working horses in agriculture or industry.

They are suitable for trail riding, driving, English and Western competition, jumping, dressage, and gymkhana events.

The Pony of the Americas Club — or the POAC — was formed to oversee the breed registry and POA competitive events. Today, there are more than 40 chapters of the POAC, and these ponies can be found all over the United States and Canada.  

Before 1987, only children could take part in riding competitions. The rules changed to allow adults aged 19 years or older to ride ponies aged 2 to 4 years and still in training.

POAs shows include a variety of equestrian events. Competitors take part in Western and English riding disciplines, including jumping, barrel racing, and showmanship. In addition, participants can show their ponies in halter classes or buggy driving classes.

Here are some interesting facts about POAs:

  • From a single pony in 1954, the breed registry grew to 40,000 registered POAs by 1996. 
  • The original height limit for POAs was 11 to 13 hands (44 to 52 inches). The height limits were changed to 11 hands 2 inches to 13 hands 2 inches (46 to 54 inches) in 1963 and then the upper limit was increased to 14 hands (46 to 56 inches) in 1986.
  • The earliest POA bloodline included Shetland ponies. By the mid-1960s, Shetland breeding stock was replaced by Welsh and Native American ponies. This was done to breed ponies with bodies like small horses, rather than ponies with the stocky look of Shetland ponies.

Caring for a Pony of the Americas

Ponies of the Americas aren’t known to have common breed-specific health issues, so people caring for them should follow standard horse care practices. Like all horses, POAs prefer to be in a herd of other horses, and they need adequate pasture space for turnout. If you house a POA in a stall, make sure it’s large enough for the horse to comfortably lie down for sleep and get back up again safely.

Talk to a vet about the proper diet for your POA. They can have daily servings of grain in addition to hay and grazing. Horses prefer to eat all day so they should have constant access to hay or pasture grass. They also need constant access to fresh water.

Your POA should see a farrier regularly for hoof care. Horse hooves grow continually like fingernails or toenails and need to be trimmed every few weeks. If your horse wears shoes, the shoes should be replaced every four to eight weeks.

Your vet can tell you what routine vaccinations and parasite prevention your POA will need. Vaccine requirements vary by region because some illnesses are more prevalent in certain locations.