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What is the difference between a horse and a pony?

Exactly when is a horse considered a horse and not a pony – and vice versa? There are many people confused about the two, and rightly so.

Pat Comerford is an equine extension specialist at Penn State University and says in general, ponies are small-sized members of the horse family, but not every little horse is considered a pony. The technicalities and terms can be blurry, but ponies and horses are usually defined by height.

"Most people use the term pony to mean a member of the horse family that stands less than 58" in height," says Comerford. "Height is measured from the ground to the withers, and you generally measure at the highest point of the withers. As you may know, height in horses is measured in hands with one hand being equivalent to 4".

That would mean the cutoff point to be classified as a horse or pony is 14-point-two hands. But, the cut-off still isn't that definitive. Some animals can be more or less than that depending on the breed or type.

But miniatures are shorter than 14-hands, and called horses.

"You'll get a lot of debate on whether they're technically a horse, or technically a pony. By height classification of course they would be considered a pony," says Comerford. "But many people in the miniature horse world believe them to be a horse because they should look exactly like a horse, but in miniature."

Breeds such as the Shetland and Welsh ponies are taller than miniature horses, but considered ponies since they're less than 14-hands.

Some classify these animals on their physical structures. Ponies are smaller-framed, yet often stockier than horses. Ponies often have thicker coats, manes, and tails.

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