Depending on context, a pony may be a horse that is under an approximate or exact height at the withers or a small horse with a specific conformation and temperament. The word pony derives from the old French poulenet, meaning foal, a young, immature horse, but this is not the meaning, unlike a horse foal. However, on occasion, people who are unfamiliar with horses may confuse an adult pony with a foal, the ancestors of most modern ponies developed small stature because they lived on the margins of livable horse habitat. These smaller animals were domesticated and bred for various purposes all over the Northern Hemisphere, ponies were historically used for driving and freight transport, as childrens mounts, for recreational riding, and later as competitors and performers in their own right. During the Industrial Revolution, particularly in Great Britain, a significant number were used as pit ponies, ponies are generally considered intelligent and friendly, although sometimes they also are described as stubborn or cunning. Properly trained ponies are appropriate mounts for children who are learning to ride, larger ponies can be ridden by adults, as ponies are usually strong for their size. In modern use, many organizations define a pony as a horse that measures less than 14.2 hands at the withers. Different organizations that use a strict measurement model vary from 14 hands to nearly 14.3 hands, many breeds classify an animal as either horse or pony based on pedigree and phenotype, no matter its height. Some full-sized horses may be called ponies for various reasons of tradition or as a term of endearment, for many forms of competition, the official definition of a pony is a horse that measures less than 14.2 hands at the withers. However, the pony can be used in general for any small horse. Furthermore, some breeds may have individuals who mature under that height but are still called horses and are allowed to compete as horses. In Australia, horses that measure from 14 hands to 15 hands are known as a galloway, people who are unfamiliar with horses may confuse an adult pony with a young, immature horse. While foals that will grow up to be horse-sized may be no taller than some ponies in their first months of life, a pony can be ridden and put to work, while a foal is too young to be ridden or used as a working animal. Foals, whether they grow up to be horse or pony-sized, can be distinguished from adult horses by their long legs. Their heads and eyes also exhibit juvenile characteristics, furthermore, in most cases, nursing foals will be in very close proximity to a mare who is the mother of the foal. While ponies exhibit some neoteny with the wide foreheads and small size, ponies originally developed as a landrace adapted to a harsh natural environment, and were considered part of the draft subtype typical of Northern Europe. At one time, it was hypothesized that they may have descended from a wild subspecies of Equus ferus. The usefulness of the pony was noted by farmers who observed that a pony could outperform a draft horse on small farms, by the 20th century, many pony breeds had Arabian and other blood added to make a more refined pony suitable for riding
A Highland Pony, demonstrating the pony characteristics of sturdy bone, thick mane and tail, small head, and small overall size.
A pony foal. Pony foals are smaller than horse foals, but both have long legs and small bodies.