Exploring the Mystique of the Highland Pony

Explore the remarkable world of Highland Ponies in the rugged Scottish Highlands. Discover their rich history, royal connections, and unique characteristics that make them a symbol of strength and grace. Whether you're an equestrian enthusiast or a lover of Scotland's untamed landscapes, Highland Ponies will leave an indelible mark on your journey.

Jeremy Ricketts
Jeremy Ricketts Posted on 29 September 2023
8 Min Read shaggy highland pony

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    Exploring the Mystique of Highland Ponies: A Rideout Adventure

    The Scottish Highlands are famous for their breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and aura of mystique that envelops everything within their rugged terrain. Among the many enchanting aspects of this region, the Highland Pony stands out as a symbol of hardiness and strength. In this article, we invite you to explore the world of Highland Ponies and their remarkable role in the Scottish Highlands.

    Highland Ponies: Icons of Resilience

    Highland Ponies, often referred to as "pony giants," are a breed known for their robustness and resilience. Originating from the Scottish Highlands, these ponies have adapted over centuries to thrive in the harsh and unforgiving landscapes of the region. 

    Highland ponies, renowned for their strength and adaptability, possess incredible toughness that makes them stand out in the equine world. Their ability to graze on tough Highland vegetation and endure cold conditions with driving rain is a testament to their hardiness. 

    highland poney in the rough

    Highlanders are Tough

    A Highland Pony thriving in the harsh Scottish Highlands.   

    A Journey through History

    To truly appreciate the Highland Ponies, it's essential to understand their historical significance. These ponies have been an integral part of Highland life for centuries. They were used for various tasks, from working on farms to carrying deer stalkers and their game in the hills. Their contribution to the Highland way of life cannot be overstated. 

    Highland Pony Myths and Legends: Unveiling the Mystique of Scotland's Equine Icons

    Highland Ponies, deeply entrenched in the rugged landscape and cultural heritage of Scotland, have inspired a tapestry of myths and legends that add an enchanting layer to their mystique. These captivating stories have been passed down through generations, weaving tales of bravery, magic, and the enduring spirit of these remarkable equines. In this section, we'll delve into some of the most cherished Highland Pony myths and legends and explore how they have contributed to the enduring allure of this breed.

    1. The Kelpie's Steed: One of the most famous legends surrounding Highland Ponies involves their alleged kinship with the mystical water creature known as the Kelpie. According to folklore, these ponies were believed to be the favored steeds of Kelpies, water spirits that often took on the form of a horse to lure unsuspecting travelers to their watery demise. This association with such enigmatic beings adds an aura of otherworldly intrigue to the breed.
    2. The Faery Ponies: Highland Ponies are said to have a special connection to the world of the faeries. Legends tell of riders encountering mysterious, diminutive faery folk while astride a Highland Pony. It's believed that these ponies possess the ability to traverse between the mortal realm and the faery realm, serving as guides for those who are fortunate enough to befriend them.
    3. The Pony of the Picts: The ancient Picts, an enigmatic people who once inhabited Scotland, are said to have had a deep reverence for Highland Ponies. Legends suggest that the Picts saw these ponies as sacred animals, and their distinctive markings were believed to hold mystical significance, offering protection against malevolent forces.
    4. The White Mare of the Highlands: A particularly enchanting tale speaks of a magnificent white Highland Pony mare that roams the misty moors during the full moon. This ethereal equine is said to grant wishes to those who are pure of heart and brave enough to approach her. Her ghostly appearance under the moonlight has sparked many a poetic tribute.
    5. The Cursed Herd: In the darkest corners of Highland lore, there exists a haunting story of a cursed herd of Highland Ponies. Legend has it that these ponies were cursed by a vengeful sorcerer and now wander the Highlands at night, their eyes glowing with an eerie light. Encounters with this spectral herd are said to foretell impending doom.
    6. Contributions to the Breed's Mystique: These myths and legends have, over time, lent Highland Ponies an air of mystery and wonder. They've become more than just horses; they are creatures of folklore and magic, deeply intertwined with the land and its stories. The tales of Kelpies, faeries, and other supernatural connections have not only enhanced the breed's allure but have also reflected the deep reverence and respect that the people of Scotland have for their Highland Ponies.


    Intriguingly, these stories have inspired a sense of kinship and partnership between the ponies and the people who care for them. Whether through tales of supernatural alliances or mystical journeys, the Highland Pony's enduring place in Scottish folklore serves as a testament to the enduring bond between humans and these hardy, enigmatic equines. 

    The mystique of the Highland Pony continues to be a source of fascination and pride, preserving the breed's place as a symbol of Scotland's rich cultural heritage and untamed spirit.

    Highland Ponies have been used in Warfare

    For centuries the warring Scottish clans used their highland ponies for transport, although they fought on foot the clans were effectively mounted infantry.  However, as recently as the Second World War the Scottish Lovat Scouts used these tough Highland ponies because of their strength and toughness.

    highland pony  acting

    A Highland Warhorse

    This Highland Pony is involved in a reenactment scene set in the times of Robert the Bruce of Scotland. 

    The Bruce won independence for Scotland and became King of Scotland in 1306. His troops all rode tough Highland Ponies.

    Highland Ponies have Royal Patronage

    Highland Ponies have been part of royal life since at least the time of Queen Victoria and the late Queen Elizabeth was very keen on preserving this special breed. The Balmoral Royal estate has a large working stud of Highland ponies that are used when stalking red deer.

    Highland Pony Breed Description and Character

    • Sturdy Build: Highland Ponies are known for their robust physique. They typically stand between 13 and 14.2 hands high (52 to 58 inches or 132 to 147 cm). Their compact, muscular bodies make them well-suited for various tasks, from riding to carrying heavy loads.~
    • Weather Resistance: Living in the challenging climate of the Scottish Highlands has made these ponies extremely hardy. Their thick, shaggy manes and tails provide insulation against harsh weather, and their dense, double-layered coat helps them withstand cold temperatures.
    • Intelligence: Highland Ponies are highly intelligent, making them quick learners and excellent companions.
    • Gentle Temperament: Despite their strength, Highland Ponies are known for their gentle and amiable disposition, making them ideal family pets. They are often described as having a friendly and sociable personality, which endears them to riders of all ages.
    • Colour Variety: Highland Ponies come in various colours, with the most common being dun, a sandy or light brown colour with a black mane and tail. However, you can also find them in shades of bay, grey, and even occasionally black. Their coat colours often blend in well with their natural surroundings in the Highlands.
    • Distinctive Features: Highland Ponies often have distinct physical features, including a broad head with kind eyes, and small, pricked ears,  They possess a strong, arched neck, short back, and a deep chest, giving them a well-balanced and powerful appearance.

    Is a Highland Pony for me?

    You may now be wondering whether the Highland pony breed is a good fit for you as your equestrian companion. The answer might be a resounding yes! Let's take a look at some of the unique characteristics and versatility of these remarkable horses to help make that decision a little bit easier.

    • Year-Round Resilience: Highland ponies are renowned for their hardiness, often requiring minimal winter care. Discover how their ability to thrive in all seasons can simplify your horse care routine.
    • Versatile and Adaptable: Explore the diverse range of activities that Highland ponies excel in at the grassroots level. Learn about their 'can-do' attitude that makes them adaptable partners in various equestrian pursuits.


    • Trailblazing Trekkers: Uncover why Highland ponies make outstanding choices for trekking adventures. Their ability to navigate rugged terrain and endure harsh weather conditions makes them perfect companions for exploratory rides.
    • Equestrian Driving Excellence: Learn how Highland ponies seamlessly transition into driving roles, showcasing their calm and sensible demeanour when in harness.
    • All-Age Friendly: Highland ponies offer exceptional experiences for children and adult riders making them family ponies. Explore their robust build, suitable for carrying riders of various sizes.
    • Robust and Supportive: Delve into the physical attributes that enable Highland ponies to carry riders weighing up to 15 stone (210 pounds). Discover how their sturdy frames, ample cannon bone circumferences, and broad loins contribute to their strength and resilience.
    showing highland ponies

    Showing Highland Ponies

    This highland pony is being successfully shown in a ridden class.

    Are there any Highland Pony Welfare Issues?

    Highland ponies are very tough and sound but must not be over-fed. Rich grass and too much feed can cause EMS and laminitis, so keep these ponies on restricted grazing and do not overfeed them. Turning Highland ponies out on rich grass in lowland regions is very unwise so really restrict their grazing.

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    Here are some Highland Pony Stud Farms:

    If you're looking to experience the enchantment of Highland Ponies, several stud farms across the UK specialise in breeding and showcasing these magnificent creatures. Here are three excellent studs that produce first-rate highland ponies.


    • Balmoral Stud: Located on the Queen's Balmoral Estate in Scotland, this stud farm holds a royal pedigree and is known for producing top-quality Highland Ponies.
    • Strathmore Highland Ponies: Nestled in the picturesque landscapes of Angus, this stud farm is dedicated to preserving the breed's purity and excellence.
    • Lochlands Highland Ponies: Situated in the heart of the Highlands, this farm is renowned for breeding ponies with strong conformation and excellent temperaments.

    The take-home Message

    Highland ponies are more than just a breed of horse; they are living symbols of Scotland's rugged and untamed landscapes, a testament to the resilience of nature, and a part of the country's rich cultural heritage. Their history, distinctive characteristics, and ability to thrive in the harsh Highland environment make them a breed like no other. 

    Highland Ponies offer a unique blend of history, royalty, and equestrian delight. Their remarkable characteristics, royal patronage, and versatility make them a breed like no other. Whether you dream of owning one or simply want to experience the joy of driving one or trekking through the Highlands of Scotland, Highland Ponies are sure to leave an indelible mark on your equestrian journey.


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    Jeremy Ricketts

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    Hello, I'm the resident writer here at The Rideout. I've been riding horses for the best part of... well my entire life! Over the years of owning, riding, competing and looking after horses I've built up a small wealth of information.

    This site owes tribute to my many hours spent in and out of the saddle learning about the behaviours, needs, and quirks of these amazing animals. From basic care and grooming to advanced training techniques, I've honed my skills through years of hands-on experience.

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