Horses generally mature to be 14.2 hands (58 inches (150 cm)) or taller, but some breed registries accept animals under this height and classify them as “horses,” as horse characteristics include factors other than height.
Ponies generally mature at less than 14.2 hands. However, some pony breeds may occasionally have individuals who mature over 14.2 but retain all other breed characteristics. There are also some breeds that now frequently mature over 14.2 hands due to modern nutrition and management, yet retain the historic classification “pony.”
There are over 350 horse breeds in the world today which fall into four major groups or types:
1. Light Horses – Horses with small bones and thin legs which weigh less than 1300 pounds. Some examples are: Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Morgans, Arabians, Saddlebreds and Tennessee Walkers.
2. Heavy Horses – Draft or large horses weighing up to 2000 pounds. They are strong with large bones and sturdy legs. Some examples are: Percherons, Clydesdale, Shire, Belgian and Suffolk horses.
3. Ponies – Ponies are not usually larger than 58 inches tall ( 14.2 hands and under) which makes them smaller than a horse. Some examples are: Shetland, Haflinger, Caspian, Fell, Fjord and Connemara ponies.
4. Feral Horses – Horses which are wild or semi-wild. A mustang is an example of a feral horse.