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Shetland Ponies: Choosing the best from the rest

Published: 16 July 2019

The Shetland Pony is iconic around the world and will be the focus of a week long celebration of the breed this July culminating in the Shetland Pony Stud-Book Society annual Breed Show.  This is only the second time the show has ever been held in Shetland, the last one over ten years ago in 2009.   In celebration of the event, the Shetland Museum and Archives are working with the Pony Breeders of Shetland Association (PBSA) to put on an exhibition about Shetland Pony shows and their history.  The PBSA was established in Shetland in 1971 to encourage closer communications and collaboration amongst island breeders and with the Shetland Pony Stud-Book Society.

The exhibition, entitled ‘Shetland Ponies: Choosing the best from the rest’, opens on Friday 19th July at the Shetland Museum and Archives.  It will feature stories, photos, and items of interest from local shows gone by and provide a glimpse into past winners and judges and how they decide what makes a winning pony.

Small ponies have existed in Shetland for over 2,000 years and probably much longer.  Excavations have revealed the bones of small ponies dating back to the Bronze Age and it is thought the ponies have been in domestic use since this time.  The island location enabled the breed to evolve with little importations and this small but strong breed became well adapted to Shetland life.  Over time they became popular with both collieries and royalty and began to be exported around the world.  During this period of huge popularity, the Shetland Pony Stud-Book Society was formed in 1890 with the aim of publishing the first Stud-book – the first for a native breed of pony anywhere in Britain.  Many of the registered ponies can today trace their pedigrees back to the first volumes of the Stud-book.  The annual breed show is the highlight of the Shetland Pony Stud-Book Society calendar.

Dr. Ian Tait, Curator of Shetland Museum and Archives said, “It has been great working with the PBSA to put on this exhibition and the intriguing stories of the evolution of these shows and the popularity of the breed.”

Carole Laignel of the PBSA continued, “It is exciting to have the Annual Stud-Book Breed Show back here in Shetland.  This exhibition will be a wonderful way of celebrating the event, our own shows, and the remarkable animal that is the Shetland Pony.”

The exhibition is on in the Upper Gallery at the Shetland Museum and Archives from Friday 19th July.