The German Riding Pony, known as Deutsches Reitpony in their homeland is a pony bred specifically to serve young riders and provide an alternative to the larger Warmbloods. Their unique blend of characteristics makes them a popular mount throughout Europe and North America as riders enjoy and compete in a variety of disciplines.
A Deutsches Reitpony, or German Riding Pony, is often the mount that a child or youth will learn to ride on in Germany and other European countries. This athletic animal combines a cheerful and willing attitude with an athleticism and energy level often seen in larger breeds. The breed is also known as the Westfalen German Riding Pony. They dominate pony competitions throughout Europe at the sport’s highest levels. An intrepid group of breeders created this young breed, and their commitment to quality and high standards showed early and continued success.
History of the German Riding Pony
The history of the German Riding Pony is young, as horse breeds go. Pony breeders in Europe convened a Working Group of Pony Breed Associations in the 1960s. One breeder, from the Netherlands, noted that larger ponies were needed. He saw an increasing demand for youth mounts. Pony tournaments, or competitions where youth competed on their mounts, were becoming popular, and people had more disposable income.
That meeting was a catalyst for the new breed. The German Riding Pony breed was started in Westphalia in 1965. Early breeding attempts used Haflingers and Fjords. That didn’t produce the vision breeders had. Then, Welsh Ponies were imported instead. Early breeders also used New Forest Ponies. It only took about a decade for a distinct breed to begin forming.
Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Welsh Ponies, and Anglo-Arabians were used to create the breed as we know it today. They are small and athletic mounts for youth and petite adults. Interest in the breed expanded to other areas of Germany, including Rhineland and Weser-Ems, with this their popularity also grew, creating a self-perpetuating cycle.
Breeding quality horses is a staple of the German equestrian scene. Many horse breeds originated there or were influenced by German breeds. This equestrian culture means there are also lots of shows and competitions, and that certainly helped further the quick breeding and proliferation of the German Riding Pony.
Those familiar with horses can imagine how beautiful a breed would be that used Thoroughbred, Arabian, and Welsh Pony bloodlines to create the foundation. The German Riding Pony lives up to these expectations in beauty. They have large, kind eyes on a noble heads. The shoulder and hip have an adequate slope to create smooth and ground-covering gaits. The prominent withers, well-muscled croup, and straight legs provide further evidence of their usefulness as riding mounts.
Height ranges from 138 to 148 centimeters (13.2 to 14.2 hands). All colors are acceptable, and common ones include chestnut, bay, black, gray, and palomino. The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory also lists Agouti (bay/black), cream, dominant white mutations, roan, white patterns, and red factors on their list of tests for the breed.
An easy way to think of a German Riding Pony is as a small Warmblood – they have the scope and athleticism of the Warmblood, along with a workmanlike and agreeable personality – in a pony-sized frame. A steady and unflappable temperament is a breed hallmark. These attributes make them excellent ponies for children to learn and compete on. Of course, like any equine, they can also be sensitive, but this characteristic is largely acceptable if they have good care and youth are receiving instruction. Their energy and enthusiasm are positive attributes that allow them to excel in competition.
The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) is the governing body for international equestrian sports at the highest levels. It includes pony competitions in eventing, dressage, show jumping, and driving. The German Riding Pony gained traction at these events in the 1970s and remains a strong contender and frequent winner in many of the disciplines represented in the FEI.
The International Sport Horse/Oldenburg North America registry (ISR/Oldenburg NA) oversees the breed in North America. This has allowed breeding to flourish in North America as well, with the German Riding Pony a popular mount for young riders and representing more countries in international competition. Registration is contingent on passing an inspection. Evaluations on movement, conformation, rideability, and temperament or conducted.
The Germany Riding Pony Today
The German Riding Pony is a versatile breed. Jumping, dressage, driving, leisure riding, lessons, and western riding are popular uses. Naturally, a large population still exists in Germany. Europe, North America, and other parts of the world also have thriving populations.
Many breeds can contribute to the German Riding Pony now. Still, the emphasis is on the rideability type and adherence to breed standards. Quality control is through mandatory breed inspections prior to registration. The history and current popularity of the German Riding Pony show us that this young breed will continue being beloved companions and international competitors for years to come.