The Pony of the Americas, more commonly referred to as the POA, is a popular and growing breed that was designed as a mount especially for young riders who were too big for a small pony but not ready for a full-sized horse. The small size of the POA makes it easy for parents to match a child to the proper pony. The Pony of the Americas is a distinctive pony breed that looks more like a small horse and possessing the attractive coloration of the Appaloosa. Their quiet disposition and gentle nature make them highly competitive in all equine disciplines. It is a rugged, athletic pony with the speed for games and jumping; strength for driving small carts; and the intelligence and patience for showmanship and equitation.
Les Boomhower, of Mason City, Iowa, was a Shetland pony breeder and an attorney with his own practice and in 1954 one of his neighbors offered him an Arabian/Appaloosa mare who had been bred to a Shetland stallion that was due to foal in the spring. Les waited until the foal was born before he bought the mare. The resulting colt born was white with what looked like black paint smears all over his little body. What intrigued the lawyer the most were the spots on the colt's flank that formed a definite black hand, which was the basis for the colt's name, Black Hand.
Mr. Boomhower had an idea to provide a pony breed between 44" and 52" tall that would be good for children to ride and show and that had the beautiful head of an Arab; a body muscled for speed like the Quarter Horse; and coloring distinguishable as an Appaloosa from a distance of 40 feet along with good stamina. He invited his Shetland breeder friends to his Memory Lane Ranch to discuss the idea and that was when the Pony of the Americas Club (POAC) was born. Mr. Boomhower's expertise in the law set up a solid foundation for the new breed registry of this distinguished pony's off-spring. As the foundation stallion for the Pony of the Americas breed, his colt was given the first registration number and is now known as Black Hand #1.
Among the breeds influencing the original POA were the Arab, Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Appaloosa, Welsh Pony, and Shetland Pony. In1963, the height limit of the breed increased to between 46 inches and 54 inches and the Shetland started being phased out of the POA breeding program. Larger ponies such as the Welsh and small horses such as the wild Mustang and the Arabian were combined with Indian ponies, Quarter Horses and Appaloosas to achieve a "little horse" look rather than the pony look of the Shetland. In 1986 the upper height limit of the breed was again increased, this time to 56". Today, the Pony of the Americas is created by crossing registered POAS; by crossing a registered POA with a registered horse or pony of an approved breed (see POAC for list); or, by crossing a registered POA with a grade horse or pony that has been identified with the POAC as being acceptable for breeding purposes. By 1996, the POAC had over 45,000 registered ponies.
The Pony of the Americas Club, Inc is now an international organization that it is the only equine breed organization devoted to youth riders. From the original Club came more than 40 POA state clubs and chapters throughout the United States and Canada that offer, state shows, regional shows and sales, a world class international show and sale and a world championship show in addition to Play Days and other events year round. The age limit of a child showing a POA changed from age 16 in 1954 to age 18 in 1973 and in 1987, age19 and over riding classes were added with a limitation that the POA under saddle is to be only 2, 3, and 4 year olds in training. Since the shows are designed around youths, adults are limited to showing the animals only in halter or pleasure driving classes. However, this makes the breed a pony for the whole family.
The Pony of the Americas should show style and substance, beauty and symmetry, being a balanced individual regardless of size and correct in all aspects of conformation, exhibiting approved color patterns and characteristics. At maturity, the POA is between 12 and 15 hands inches in height at the withers and typically weighs 750 to 950 pounds.
In addition to the refined head with dished, Arab-like nose showing mottled skin about the nostrils and lips, the Pony of the Americas has expressive eyes and fine ears. The chest is deep and broad, the back is short and the shoulders are sloping. The quarters are substantial, and the legs should have ample bone. The POA is a strong, fast, and durable pony capable of performing a wide variety of tasks.
The POA is most commonly recognized by their variety of colorful coat patterns that are similar to Appaloosas, from blankets to leopard spots; mostly white over their loins and hips with dark, egg-shaped spots, although the spots may vary in size from specks to spots four inches in diameter. Spots may be dark in the middle with a lighter ring surrounding it, called a halo. White over the hips without dark spots is known as snow-capped. Ponies that have white hairs mixed in with the base coat color are said to be roan. Ponies with Paint, pinto or albino parentage or markings cannot be registered.
The POA also has other distinctive characteristics such as mottled skin; white sclera around the eyes; and vertical black-and-white striped hooves in the absence of white leg markings. It is possible a POA will not have any striping on its hooves, so for this reason, the other characteristics of mottled skin and white sclera are the primary ones to look for in identifying the POA. The mottled or parti-colored skin is a unique trait found in the Appaloosa and POA and therefore it is a basic decisive indicator of a POA and it should show good contrast between the dark and light areas. All horses and ponies can show white around the eye if it is rolled back, up and down, or if the eyelid is lifted. The POA sclera is white and usually readily visible when the eye is in a normal, relaxed position.
POA has 4 gaits. The walk is straight with a long, easy stride that is true and flat footed. The Western Jog Trot is soft, relaxed, and quiet with a definite two beat gait. The English Trot is a free-moving stride, executed in a long, low frame with no excessive knee or hock action. The Lope or Canter is rolling and comfortable with a natural three beat pattern.
Since Appaloosa and Quarter Horse have been used in the development of the POA, Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP) is a possible genetic defect that could occur. HYPP is inherited as a dominant trait and is characterized by intermittent seizures of uncontrolled muscle tremors (shaking, trembling or twitching) or profound muscle weakness, and in severe cases, may lead to collapse and/or death. To date, HYPP has been traced only to descendants of a Quarter horse named IMPRESSIVE, #0767246. Additionally, with the POA having Appaloosa in their ancestry, it is important to be aware that Appaloosas have a highest risk of any breed of developing spontaneous Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU) or "moon blindness", which can lead to blindness if not treated.
The POA is easy to train, senses what is required and readily obeys the demands of its handler and shows good manners in the ability to stand quietly, and back readily. Kids and POAs develop special bonds and these gentle child-size equines can give a child the confidence and the responsibility that will serve them well later on in life. Children cheer for each other even though they are competing against each other. . The gentle disposition, durability and intelligence of the Pony of the Americas serve it well.