Welsh Ponies are one of the most popular breeds of small equines worldwide. Breed registries recognize four sections of Welsh Ponies depending on size and type, ranging from the smallest Welsh Mountain Pony to the sturdier Welsh Cob.

The breed descends from the Celtic Ponies that roamed the mountains of Wales for thousands of years. The harsh climate of their native home produced a hardy equine, and refinement from Arabian blood helped develop the beautiful Welsh Pony of today.

While beloved for their elegance and versatility, certain sections of Welsh Ponies are more susceptible to congenital health problems. Like most ponies, they are also at risk of metabolic disorders and require careful attention to their feeding programs.

This article will review the origin, history, breed characteristics, health problems, and nutritional needs of Welsh Ponies and Cobs. Keep reading to learn more about caring for and feeding the Welsh Pony breed.

Welsh Pony History

Welsh Ponies have a long history in Wales, a country located in the southwest United Kingdom. Once threatened by 16th-century laws that ordered the destruction of small equines, the breed rebounded to become the most popular pony in the British Isles.


Archeological evidence suggests native ponies inhabited the British Isles since the Bronze Age. The original Welsh Mountain Pony evolved from populations of these ancient Celtic Ponies in Wales, where cold winters and sparse vegetation made survival challenging. [1]

Selection pressures created a native Welsh foundation stock with above-average intelligence and hardiness. Centuries of selective breeding by local farmers followed and, by the 15th century, historical records indicate Welsh Cobs existed in the region.

Modern Welsh Ponies share several characteristics with Arabian horses. Breeders in the 18th and 19th centuries used Arabian horses to refine the breed. However, historians believe that Arabian horses present in Britain until the Roman withdrawal in 410 AD, also had an influence on the early development of the Welsh Pony. [1]

Breeders established an official Welsh Pony stud book in 1901 that separated the Welsh breed into sections based on type and height. These sections include the following:

  • Section A: Welsh Mountain Pony
  • Section B: Welsh Pony
  • Section C: Welsh Pony of Cob Type
  • Section D: Welsh Cob


Historic Use

A small population of feral Welsh Ponies still roam free in Wales. However, domestic Welsh Ponies have served a variety of uses throughout history. [17]

Middle Age farmers in Wales relied on Welsh Cobs for farm work and timbering before larger draft breeds gained popularity in the British Isles. However, some areas couldn’t support heavier breeds and continued to rely on the strength of small but hardy cobs.

When Welsh forces helped Henry Tudor gain the English throne in 1485, Welsh Cobs served as speedy all-purpose mounts and packed supplies alongside the larger war horses ridden by knights.

British pony breeds came close to extinction in 1535 when King Henry VIII ordered the destruction of stallions under 15 hands in the Breed of Horses Act. The monarch believed culling smaller horses would improve British breeds and produce better war horses. [2]

Welsh Ponies escaped destruction in the rural hills of Wales until Queen Elizabeth I repealed the law. Welsh society continued to rely on the ponies for transportation and agriculture for centuries. After the industrial revolution, Welsh Ponies also served as pit ponies in coal mines.

Breed Registry

Founded in 1901, the Welsh Pony and Cob Society is the UK’s official breed registry. The society published the first studbook that same year.

All Welsh Ponies and Cobs registered in North America descend from animals registered with the WPCS in the UK. However, the Welsh Pony and Cob Society of America manages registration and preservation of the breed on this side of the Atlantic.

Breed Characteristics

The modern Welsh Pony has a similar type to the ponies described in Welsh records from the 15th century. However, the four sections of Welsh Ponies and Cobs have slightly different characteristics that allow these small equines to excel in many disciplines.


Different sections of the breed belong to either pony or cob types. All sections have elegant heads, large eyes, short backs, strong hindquarters, and sloped shoulders. Legs should be straight with well-shaped hooves. [3]

Pony types include the Welsh Mountain Pony (Section A) and Welsh Pony (Section B). These ponies have small heads with dished faces, small muzzles and ears, finely-cut throat latches, and long, arched necks.

These types have long but slightly finer hindquarters with a high tail carriage. They should move with a free gait and significant joint flexion. Section B Welsh Ponies are bred for the movement and bone desired in a riding pony.

Cob types include the Welsh Pony of Cob Type (Section C) and the Welsh Cob (Section D). These horses have more robust builds and hardier conformations. Their heads are less refined than pony types but still have pony characters.

These cobs have well-carried, long necks, deep bodies, round ribs, muscular loins, solid hindquarters and well-set tails. Their legs are sturdy, with broad joints and muscling that propels their rounded movement.

Height standards depend on the section:

  • Welsh Mountain Pony: (Section A) Under 12 Hands
  • Welsh Pony: (Section B) Under 13.2 Hands
  • Welsh Pony of Cob Type: (Section C) Under 13.2 Hands
  • Welsh Cob: (Section D) Over 13.2 Hands



Welsh Ponies and Cobs can be any solid colour. Grey, black, bay and chestnut are the most common, but coat colours associated with dilution genes also occur.


The Welsh breed has a reputation for friendly personalities and good dispositions. These ponies also have a high level of intelligence and spirit. While Welsh Ponies typically lack the stubbornness of other pony breeds, they can still be cheeky.

Well-trained Welsh Ponies can make excellent beginner children’s ponies. However, young riders should always have guidance from experienced adults to ensure they handle their ponies correctly.


All Welsh Ponies and Cobs are versatile mounts that excel in nearly every riding and driving discipline today. However, different sections are best suited for different types of riders.

Welsh Mountain Ponies are generally too small for riders larger than young children and are often used for leadline classes. Adult owners can still enjoy these Welsh Ponies in halter and harness arenas.

The slightly larger Welsh Pony is a refined light riding type commonly seen in the hunter/jumper, dressage, and English pleasure divisions with youth riders. Welsh Cobs and cob-type ponies are stronger, allowing them to carry small adult riders in the same disciplines.

Health Concerns

Welsh Ponies and Cobs are hardy equines that evolved to stay healthy and sound in harsh environments.

The biggest health threat to these ponies is their high risk of metabolic disorders and associated conditions, which require careful management to prevent.

Metabolic Health

UK native pony breeds are known to have a high risk of equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), with one study reporting a prevalence of 23.3% in a population of 354 animals. [16]

The researchers found that Welsh section A ponies had a higher risk of EMS compared to other sections of Welsh ponies. [16] Another study showed that 7 or 9 metabolic traits associated with EMS were considered moderately to highly heritable in Welsh Ponies. [4]

Equine metabolic syndrome is associated with hyperinsulinemia, obesity, and an increased risk of laminitis. [4] Laminitis is a debilitating condition characterized by weakening of the laminae, which are the structures connecting the hoof to the coffin bone in horses. [5]

In severe cases, laminitis can cause the coffin bone to rotate or sink, resulting in significant pain. Euthanasia may be necessary to alleviate the suffering experienced by the horse. [5]

Health Problems

While the Welsh Pony’s small head is beautiful, the breed has a higher incidence of dental problems caused by overcrowding teeth in small mouths. These issues primarily affect pony types with dished faces. [6]

Excessive dishing can also impact tear ducts. Furthermore, prominent eyes in Welsh Mountain Ponies are more susceptible to environmental irritants, which makes the breed prone to eye problems. [7]

Cob types have a higher incidence of ringbone, sidebone, and other bone problems associated with increased concussion caused by their rounded action and short, upright pasterns. [8]

Research also suggests Welsh Ponies have a higher incidence of certain congenital heart defects. One auscultatory survey found cardiac murmurs consistent with a ventricular septal defect in 4% of 200 Welsh Mountain Ponies. [9]

Welsh show ponies are also susceptible to health problems associated with the stress of training and competition, including gastric ulcers, and degenerative joint disease. [10]

Care and Management

All Welsh Ponies and Cobs need quality basic horse care and regular veterinary examinations, includes vaccinations and a deworming program.

Frequent dental exams and teeth floating are crucial for maintaining tooth balance in these ponies. Owners should schedule an oral exam every six months.

Routine farrier care from a qualified professional can help maintain optimal hoof balance to manage concussive forces and reduce the risk of bone problems in cobs. Therapeutic shoeing can also support ponies with a history of laminitis. [11]

Ensure that your Welsh pony gets enough turnout to support their physical and mental well-being and to enable species-appropriate behaviours, including grazing, socializing and free movement.

Daily turnout helps to prevent boredom and reduces the risk of behavioral issues that can arise from prolonged stall confinement. Turnout also helps to maintaining fitness, supports healthy bones, joints and hooves, promotes digestive health and reduces the risk of respiratory problems.

However, given the breed’s predisposition to metabolic dysfunction, good pasture management strategies are necessary to reduce the risk of pasture-associated laminitis. [12] Using a grazing muzzle and turning your pony out on a dry lot can help to keep them safe.

Regular exercise plays a crucial role in helping Welsh Ponies maintain a healthy body condition. But if you notice signs such as poor performance, low energy, or prolonged recovery after exercise, this could indicate a heart problem. Consult your veterinarian to investigate underlying medical issues. [9]

Nutrition Program

A well-formulated feeding plan is critical for supporting the overall health of your Welsh Pony and controlling the risk of metabolic disorders. It’s essential to provide a balanced diet that meets their nutrient requirements without exceeding their energy needs.

For supporting overall health in ponies, a low-starch, forage-based diet is considered the best option. This type of diet prioritizes the consumption of fiber-rich forage, while minimizing the intake of high-energy, grain-based feeds.

While ponies and horses have similar basic nutrient requirements adjusted for their body weight, smaller equines have unique needs for owners to consider when formulating a diet. Learn more about these special considerations in our Pony Nutrition Guide.

Weight Maintenance

Welsh Ponies and Cobs are notoriously easy keepers, with an efficient metabolism that can better utilizing nutrients from forage. This means they require fewer calories to maintain a healthy body weight.

However, Welsh ponies also have a tendency to gain weight quickly when overfed, and they are prone to obesity and metabolic problems. These animals need to avoid energy-dense concentrate feeds and rich pasture.

It’s crucial to monitor your pony’s body condition regularly and adjust their diet accordingly. Consider implementing some or all of the following measures to help control your pony’s body weight:

Straw and hay should be submitted for analysis to determine their energy, mineral and protein content. In particular, straw often contains insufficient protein and its higher levels of poorly or non-fermentable fiber may cause a distended abdomen.

Hay Analysis
Know exactly what nutrients your horse is getting in their diet with our comprehensive equine forage testing.
Order Now

Welsh Ponies should easily maintain their condition on a balanced diet. Consult your veterinarian about any unexpected weight loss, which could signify a digestive problem.

Sample Diet

The following sample diet is intended for a mature 250 kg / 550 lb Welsh Pony with normal body condition at maintenance (not exercising).

Feed Maintenance Diet
(Amount / Day)
Mid-Quality Hay (10% crude protein) 3.5 kg / 7.7 lb
Straw (5% crude protein) 1.5 kg / 3.3 lb
Salt 7 g (1/2 tbsp)
Omneity Pellets 100 g (1 scoop)
Diet Analysis
Digestible Energy (% of Req) 103%
Protein (% of Req) 121%
NSC (% Diet) 7.6%


Welsh ponies at maintenance (not exercising) are at high risk of becoming overweight and developing metabolic syndrome. In this diet, straw is mixed into the hay to reduce the total energy content of the diet while maintaining high forage intake.

Forage-only diets meet the energy requirements of most Welsh Ponies. However, hay lacks several essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that are required in the equine diet. Adding a vitamin and mineral supplement to your Welsh Pony’s diet can help fill these nutritional gaps.

In this sample diet, Mad Barn’s Omneity is provided to ensure micronutrient requirements are met. Omneity is a concentrated vitamin and mineral balancer with no fillers or added sugars, making it an ideal choice for easy keeper ponies.

Omneity – Premix

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Learn More

  • 100% organic trace minerals
  • Complete B-vitamin fortification
  • Optimal nutrition balance
  • Our best-selling equine vitamin

For ponies with equine metabolic syndrome or Cushing’s disease, choose Mad Barn’s AminoTrace+, which is formulated with elevated levels of key nutrients to support insulin sensitivity. AminoTrace+ contains only low NSC ingredients and provides the ultimate nutrition for hoof and coat quality, digestive health and antioxidant status.

Welsh Ponies also need fresh water and plain loose salt available at all times to support hydration and gut motility. Most ponies do not get enough sodium in their diet to meet requirements, so make sure to add salt to their daily ration.


For all equines, a balanced feeding regimen starts with including adequate forage in the diet.

Horses and ponies should consume approximately 2% of their body weight in forage daily. You can estimate your pony’s weight using measurements of their heart girth and body length.

Welsh Ponies should be provided with average-quality, low-sugar and starch grass hay. The combined total of starch and sugar should be less than 10%. This will enable maximal forage intake without consuming excess simple carbohydrates which cause an insulin spike.

Providing free-choice forage supports optimal digestive function in all equines, but ponies can go through their daily ration in a few hours. Providing hay in a small hole hay net will help to slow consumption and regulate calorie intake.

If your working Welsh Pony has higher energy and protein requirements, alfalfa hay is an excellent source of nutrients. This low-sugar legume hay is also high in calcium, which helps buffer stomach acid. However, too much alfalfa can throw off calcium-to-phosphorus mineral ratios. [14]

However, for reasons that are unclear, alfalfa can also worsen foot soreness in some ponies with metabolic syndrome.

Concentrate Feeds

Grain-based commercial concentrates can contribute to metabolic problems and gut dysfunction in Welsh Ponies. If required by your pony, consider replacing grains and high-calorie ration balancers with fiber-based feeds, such as beet pulp or hay cubes. [14]

Show ponies with demanding workloads may need additional calorie sources in their diet. Oils provide a concentrated source of energy for exercising horses. [13]

Fat supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids have additional anti-inflammatory benefits for Welsh Ponies. [15]

Nutritional Supplements

When designing a feeding plan for your Welsh pony, the first step is to provide a balanced diet with adequate energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Once the diet is balanced, you can consider nutritional supplements to further support well-being and performance.

Mad Barn’s W-3 Oil is an essential omega-3 fatty acid supplement that contains DHA. This omega-3 helps support regulation of inflammation, cardiovascular health, joint function and respiratory health in Welsh Ponies.

Another popular option for exercising Welsh Ponies is MSM, which can help in the normal homeostatic regulation of exercise-related oxidative stress and inflammation in joints and soft tissues.

Consulting an equine nutritionist can help you formulate a balanced diet to support your Welsh Pony and minimize the risk of common health concerns. Submit your pony’s diet online for a free consultation today.

Is Your Horse's Diet Missing Anything?

Identify gaps in your horse's nutrition program to optimize their well-being.


  1. Dent, A. et al. The foals of Epona. A history of British ponies from the Bronze Age to yesterday. London: Galley Press. 1962.
  2. Moore-Colyer, R. Horse Supply And The British Cavalry: A Review, 1066-1900. J Soc Army Hist Res. 1992.
  3. Ardestani, S. et al. A genome-wide signatures of selection study of Welsh ponies and draft horses revealed five genes associated with horse type variation. Gene Rep. 2020.
  4. Norton, E. et al. Heritability of metabolic traits associated with equine metabolic syndrome in Welsh ponies and Morgan horses. Equine Vet J. 2018.
  5. Pollard, D. et al. Incidence and clinical signs of owner-reported equine laminitis in a cohort of horses and ponies in Great Britain. Equine Vet J. 2018.
  6. Dixon, P. et al. A review of equine dental disorders. The Vet J. 2005.
  7. Carastro, S. Equine ocular anatomy and ophthalmic examination. Vet Clin Equine Pract. 2004.
  8. Haakenstad, L. Chronic Bone and Joint Diseases in Relation to Conformation in the Horse. Equine Vet J. 1969.
  9. Lange, L. et al. Prevalence and characteristics of ventricular septal defects in a non-racehorse equine population (2008-2019). J Vet Intern Med. 2021.
  10. Casey, R. Clinical Problems Associated with the Intensive Management of Performance Horses. The Welfare of Horses. 2007.
  11. O’Grady, S. et al. Farriery Options for Acture and Chronic Laminitis. AAEP Proceed. 2008.
  12. Geor, R. Pasture-Associated Laminitis. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract. 2009.
  13. Meyers, M. et al. Physiologic and metabolic response of exercising horses to added dietary fat. J Equine Vet Sci. 1989.
  14. Nadeau, J. et al. Evaluation of diet as a cause of gastric ulcers in horses. Am J Vet Res. 2000.
  15. Hess, T. et al. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in horses. R Bras Zootec. 2014.
  16. Carslake, HB., Pinchbeck, GL., McGowan, CM. Equine metabolic syndrome in UK native ponies and cobs is highly prevalent with modifiable risk factors. Equine Vet J. 2021.
  17. Winton, C.L. et al. Genetic diversity and phylogenetic analysis of native mountain ponies of Britain and Ireland reveals a novel rare population. Ecology and Evolution. 2013.