Pony of the Americas

  • HEIGHT: 11.2–14.2 hands
  • SPECIAL QUALITIES: Athletic; loudly colored with Appaloosa patterns
  • BEST SUITED FOR: All-around pleasure and competition mount for children and young adults

One of today’s most popular breeds of children’s ponies was developed in the 1950s when a lawyer from Iowa who bred Shetland Ponies bought an Arab/Appaloosa mare that had been bred to a Shetland Pony stallion. The mare produced a colt that was white with black splotches all over its body, including a mark on its flank that looked like the perfect imprint of a hand. The owner, Les Boomhower, named his colt Black Hand. Boomhower admired the pony tremendously for his beauty, conformation, and disposition, which were later reliably passed on to his offspring.

Boomhower decided to use Black Hand as the foundation sire for a new breed and called in some Shetland friends to help work out the details. They set up a new registry with very strict standards to produce high-quality Appaloosa-colored ponies. They wanted the ponies to stand between 44 inches and 52 inches and to have loud Appaloosa coloring, so they required that the spotting be visible from forty feet. They intended the animals to have small, dished heads like Arabs but muscular bodies like Quarter Horses. In addition, they wanted ponies for children to ride and show, so the new breed also had to be gentle and easy to train. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.


According to the Pony of the Americas Club (founded in 1954):

• There are more than 47,000 ponies registered as of 2005.

• About 1,000 new foals are registered each year.

In 1954, Black Hand became registry #1. Within a year, the organization had twenty-three members and twelve registered ponies. Today, the registry lists more than 47,000 ponies and accepts crosses to Appaloosas, Arabians, Connemaras, Galicenos, Australian Palouses, Morgans, and Thoroughbreds, as long as the foal meets other breed requirements. In addition, planned crosses to Quarter Ponies, Shetlands, half Arabs, Anglo Arabs, Spanish Mustangs, and Welsh Ponies are subject to individual approval. The registry does not accept any pinto, paint, or pintaloosa coloration, or ancestry that indicates of any of these breeds.

The Appaloosa-like markings on a POA must be visible from a distance of forty feet.

Over time, the height limit has increased to between 46 inches and 56 inches, but the breed has otherwise retained its original qualities. The upper age limit for children showing the ponies has changed from sixteen to nineteen, and many state and local clubs exist for POA enthusiasts. The Pony of the Americas Club (POAC) sanctions state and regional shows, as well as a popular world show. The organization is unusual in its sincere efforts to develop quality in its young human competitors as well as in their animals. Its motto is “Try hard, win humbly, lose gracefully and if you must . . . protest with dignity.”

Breed Characteristics

Although the breeders originally developed the POA as a Western or stock-type pony, its athletic ability, sound build, and gentle disposition have carried it quite successfully into the worlds of endurance, event riding, show hunters, and both combined and pleasure driving.


The POA is a finely made, medium-sized pony with a slightly dished profile and large, expressive eyes. The neck is well proportioned and slightly arched. The withers are prominent, and the chest is deep and wide. The shoulders are well sloped. The short, straight back connects to broad, strong loins. The croup is long, muscular, and rounded. The legs are strong and solid with good muscling, strong tendons, and sloping pasterns. The hooves are broad and high at the heels, with bold, clearly defined vertical light or dark stripes.


A POA should have Appaloosa coloring visible from forty feet. There must be mottled skin somewhere on the animal. The most common areas for mottling are around the eyes, on the muzzle, and on the genitals. The pony should have visible white sclera and striped hooves.

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