Why are there so many Shetland ponies in the Netherlands?
June 7, 2012 12:57 PM   Subscribe


Whenever I venture out to the countryside, to areas where there are fields and livestock and whatnot, I feel like I see an inordinate amount of Shetland ponies. I've Googled, I've interrogated my Dutch friends, I even had a conversation in very broken Dutch with a sheep farmer near Muiden, but I don't have an answer.

So: why are there so many Shetland ponies in the Netherlands? A follow up might be what's the use of Shetland ponies, beyond biting children?
posted by nerdfish to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
It is a complete guess, but my idea is that most Shetland ponies are held by 'city-people' who moved to the countryside, want to pretend they are farmers now and a small pony is easier/cheaper to have than a full size horse, and do not need the same amount of space?
posted by PaulZ at 1:06 PM on June 7, 2012

And in spite of being the devil's spawn, they are very cute. Remember: pony is a four-letter word.
posted by Dolley at 1:33 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Annecdotal evidence - I saw a lot of them in Denmark when I was there. I assumed because they are tough (and stubborn) little buggers with a nice thick coats and manes so that they could handle the cold weather well. Also possible it's a smaller country so smaller plots of land available to keep them on.
posted by wwax at 1:34 PM on June 7, 2012

Are you sure those are Shetland ponies and not various other breeds of shaggy ponies? How big do these ponies seem to be?

Even relatively small ponies like smaller Shetlands are popular choices for pulling carts, and large ponies are surprisingly strong for their size and can carry some adults.
For its size, the Shetland is the strongest of all horse and pony breeds[citation needed]. It can pull twice its own weight under circumstances where a draft horse can only pull approximately half its own weight, as well as many being able to carry up to 9 stone – 130 pounds (59 kg). Shetland ponies are found worldwide, though mainly in the UK and North America. In general, UK ponies tend to preserve more of the original characteristics of the breed and are often stockier than their American cousins.
posted by maudlin at 1:35 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

They might not be Shetland ponies. They might be Gotlands. Or Freisians. Or any number of others.
posted by raisingsand at 1:37 PM on June 7, 2012

Best answer: They are, either way, extremely small ponies, and I have the same question. A British friend and I concluded that it must simply be the law in Drenthe that anyone with a field must own at least one tiny pony to graze it.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:13 PM on June 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Heh! It's not just ponies, it's horses in general. Many Dutch people (like many Europeans) are avid followers of if not participants in equestrian sports. In fact, you can watch events like Jumping Amsterdam or the Military on prime time TV - and this also used to be the case when there were only two channels, which only broadcast from 7 pm to around 11.30 pm (3 or 4 pm to 12 am or so on weekends). No, not kidding.

One of the sports they're keen on is "mennen" = buggy and carriage driving. Ponies are one of the main categories in competitions with classes dedicated to single-pony buggies, 2- or 4-pony team buggies and open carriages and closed carriages and... There are simple display events and timed events and dressage events and really rough and tumble course events (example, though of horses, not ponies) and I'm just going to shut up now and provide a link to some pics of a recent event with 4-pony teams, complete with coachmen and passengers in Victorian dress: pics, scroll down to see some of the 4-pony teams.
posted by likeso at 4:34 PM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

They take up less space, which may be attractive in one of the most densely populated countries in the world?
posted by HFSH at 6:31 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, as for what use they are, there's flat racing, steeplechasing, stadium jumping, carting, dressage, barrel racing, spoon racing (I think these are actual Dutch shetlands) and stage-coach pulling/raiding.
posted by drlith at 7:25 PM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Some speculation, I've never been there. They're useful, as previously mentioned.

But also, small ponies (and Shetlands in particular) have a relatively long lifespan (~35 years). You get one for the kids and it lives long past the point where the kid has gone to college, gotten a job, and started a family. You can maybe pass it along to another family, but the kids get sentimental and it's just a pony so maybe you keep it... Net increase of tiny hay burners.
posted by anaelith at 4:54 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

raisingsand: "They might not be Shetland ponies. They might be Gotlands. Or Freisians. Or any number of others."

Gotlands maybe, but Freisians are gigantic, and could eat a Shetland with room left over for an apple and a sugar cube.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:32 AM on June 8, 2012

I'm going to guess they are not Shetlands but are in fact a distinct local breed. Many places have their own regional varieties of itty bitty cutie patootie ponies. Ireland has bog ponies!
posted by DarlingBri at 9:06 AM on June 8, 2012

Best answer: ...and appears that Dutch shetlander are also of use for rescuing damsels stuck in trees or drowning in lakes and fighting mummy curses. THE PHARAOH AND THE PEOPLE THERE ARE NOT AWARE OF

Indeed, if it were not for these minuscuul kleine beestjes, the Netherlands would surely be overrun with all manner of nefarious evil invaders.
posted by drlith at 9:56 AM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

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