What is a Sport Pony - A Brief Answer
A Sport Pony is 14.2 hands or less in height with the conformation, movement, rideability and type to excel in the Olympic equestrian disciplines of dressage, jumping, eventing and combined driving.
Originally developed in Germany in the early 1960’s, this Riding Pony, also known as Deutches Reitpony, is graded and tested at Keurings, or inspection tests, for the individual Reitpony registries, much the same as for the different European warmblood and sport horse registries. The German Riding Pony is the admitted model of the new Sport Pony registries just starting within the past few years in the United States and Great Britain.
In 1965, at an annual convention of German pony breeding associations, a Dutch New Forest pony breeder lectured on the rising need for a breed of larger riding ponies for the growing numbers of young riders. In that climate of increasing prosperity and leisure time, the pony breeders caught on to the idea and started breeding a larger pony.
The first attempts at crossing some of the local pony breeds did not produce the desired results, and it wasn’t until the large scale importing of British ponies, primarily Welsh, that the Reitpony program started achieving its breeding goals. By1975, specific Reitpony types were on their way to becoming well recognized in the North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony regions with registries such as Weser Ems, Hanover, Schleswig-Holstein and Westpahlia, and dominated at that time by British breeds and Welsh in particular. These were bred with Arabs, Anglo Arabs and small warmblood horses, and, starting around 1975, the German Reitpony type began its rise to the top of international competition. (1)
Here in the United States, and also in Great Britain, sport pony registries based on the German Riding Pony type are just beginning. The breeding goal for the new Sport Pony Division of the International Sport Horse Registry “is to produce a noble and correct pony with dynamic, spacious and elastic movement - well suited for dressage, hunter classes, show jumping, eventing or driving because of its temperament, character and rideability. It is a riding and competition pony for kids and young riders and an elegant driving pony. The breeding goal is similar to the breeding goal of the German Riding Pony.” (2)
The breed standard specifications for the American Sport Pony Registry, conceived and managed by the American Warmblood Registry, for example, are as follows:
Height: 138 - 148 cm (13.2 - 14.2). American Sport Ponies being inspected as breeding stock may fall outside this ideal range.
Head: Small and regal with defined jaws (no puffiness), a clean throatlatch, kind eyes, nostrils that are large and wide and small ears.
Neck: Long, wide and well set on, narrowing towards the poll.
Body: Refinement obvious, more so than in any other pony breed with emphasis toward an athletic riding type. Exhibits a longer neck, higher and more pronounced withers, a longer croup that is slightly sloping with a tail set at medium height and slender through the girth.
Limbs: Dry limbs with flat knees, correct alignment, dense and medium sized hooves.
Movement: Regular and correct cadence with a large stride. Even, energetic and elastic rhythm. No exaggerated knee action. Exhibits significant impulsion from the hindquarters.
Special Hallmarks: An easy keeper, good natured ready and willing to go, courageous and intelligent.(3)
Along similar guidelines, The Sports Pony Studbook Society was established in Great Britain within the last 2 years, and more registries in America are claiming Sport Pony Divisions. It will be very interesting to see how the different sport pony registries and their ponies develop over the next few decades, both in the breeding shed and in the equestrian pony sport arenas. Personally, I would like to see youth programs, dressage and jumping competitions on a level with those in Europe, with the eventual goal of sending our ponies to Europe to compete. We have a long way to go, but judging from what I’ve seen at registry inspections over the past 2 years, we in the U.S. have made an excellent start.
Barb Young of Rainbow Farm Unltd.
(1) www.pony-shop.de/Deutsches_Reitpony/ deutsches_reitpony.html