Shetlands – Trail Companions?

Here’s another post from me with my thoughts.  Original post is by  Golden Tree in WA state.  

Posted 12 May 2017 – 07:12 PM

I’m interested in joining the world of Mini’s and Shetlands but I have a few questions. First scurry driving looks like a lot of fun but where can I watch and get more information about driving mini’s in general? I’d like to get some first hand training, discussion, and try it on for size so to speak.

Another question, I do a lot of backcountry hiking and have pack goats that go with me mainly as companions but to take a little weight of my back too, I’m interested in the idea of adding a shetland to my string but how hardy are they? Are they sturdy enough to navigate rugged terrain through mountains, and could there hooves handle it? The trails I’m considering are ridden by horses, mules and donkeys so larger equines are capable. I know it’s an odd question but I’m throwing it out there to trainers, breeders, and enthusiast to gather information.

Please no criticism or judgment, also I’m strictly speaking of shetlands, no donkey’s, mules, or riding mounts, for personal reasons.

Posted 14 May 2017 – 09:30 AM



Well, Shetlands originated on/in the Shetland Isles and there they still live out often in the wild – in the rocks, browsing/grazing much as goats do.  Buffeted by the winds off of their coasts.  The first shetlands imported to the USA often were used as “Pit Ponies” – the ponies that went into the mines and pulled the carts that were filled with coal.

Today’s Shetlands in the USA are/can be different due to American’s love to change/IMPROVE everything we touch.  Many of today’s Shetlands are bred too refined and “hot” and reactive making them pretty and suitable for the show ring but not for the task(s) that you describe.  That said, there are still many breeders out there that have the heavier set, easily adaptable Shetland that will and can still do well in the setting you are talking about.  Shetlands can carry more than the goats HOWEVER, they do not “bound” from rock to rock or platform to platform that a goat can/will.  They will also eat differently than the goat does – possibly requiring different feed to be carried while you are packing out  Besides using the canvas type bag packs, you can use the packsaddles sized for mini’s and ponies – allowing for a much larger amount of supplies and eating stuffs.  Most trails that a goat or any other equid can navigate can be navigated by a Shetland and a sound, healthy Shetland should have no problems with their hooves in such a situation.

Only you can decide what you are looking for in a walking companion.  YES, Shetlands do well as hiking companions and there used to be several people on this forum that have had them for that use – even with the packs like you are suggesting.

We’ve never used ours quite that way – but have had children ride them (out on trail rides the pony not only carried a saddle and the youngster, but also either individual bottles of drink &/or saddlebags loaded with goodies and supplies for pitstops, clean up and snacks) – unfortunately I have no pictures of our purebred, smaller Shetlands with saddles/packs while trail riding.  We have also used ours for “logging” (dragging tree limbs, cut tree trunks, brush) and pulling draft horse sized equipment (for short times) and other equipment sized more for them (ATV & small garden tools work well or custom made) – for dragging pastures, moving manure and plowing/disking for field planting prep.

Our Shetlands range in size from 36″ to 44″ at the withers in height.

Can I ask what state you reside in?  We may be able to direct you towards owners that have appropriate Shetlands to visit.

When she stated they were in Washington state, I responded –

Go to Cherry-Hill ponies!!!  They have what you are looking for and if she doesn’t, I bet she can help you locate what you are looking for.  Right now she doesn’t show any ponies for sale, but usually has some later in the year – after foaling.

About lppaintedponys

Husband and wife team raising shetland ponies, rescuing dogs/cats & becoming self sufficient.
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