The Pony of the Americas (or more casually known as, POA) was first developed in 1954 by a Shetland Pony breeder and lawyer named Les Boomhower in Mason City, Iowa. A neighbor offered Les an Arabian/Appaloosa mare who was bred to a Shetland stallion. Les didn’t buy the mare until she had the foal; which turned out to be a white colt which had black “paint smears” all over his body. Boomhower later named the colt Blackhand because he had a definite black hand on his flank. Boomhower then told all of his fellow Shetland Pony breeders. They then came up with an idea, and the Pony of the Americas was born.
To be registered as a POA, very strict guidelines were followed. Originally for the height measurement, the pony had to be between 44 inches and 52 inches (The height requirement changed to 46 inches to 54 inches in 1963). The head had to be small and arabian like; the body had to be stocky and well muscled like the Quarter Horse; but also having to look like an appaloosa, being visible at 40 feet.
They were bred for children to ride and show. Adults could only show them in halter and driving. State clubs, shows, sales, a international show and sale, and a championship show all came from the original POA club (POAC). The registry went from Black Hand (POA #1) in 1954 to 1996’s registry which had over 40,000 registered POAs! A POA that is hardship registered is eligible when it’s two years old or older, has no registered POA parent on its pedigree, but has the characteristics of a POA (sclera, mottled skin, or striped hooves).
It must also have the height requirements of 46 inches to 56 inches. No stallions of unknown breeding can not be hardshiped. However, mares of unknown breeding can be registered, but only as non-breeding stock. Ponies that can not be registered are ponies that have paint or pinto coloring, their dam or sire was a paint or pinto, mares or stallions that have excessive white markings on the legs or face with underlying pink skin, Cryptorchid or mono-orchid stallions. If a stallion has one or two of these faults must be gelded by his third birthday or their parents papers will be voided.
If this issue exists at age two, the breeding certificates will not be honored. Ponies that have expired papers have no privileges as a POA pony. The pony cannot show, be a registered parent, or be transferred to another owner.In 1985, they changed the upper height measurement to be 56 inches beginning in 1986. The age limit also changed for the youth; from 16 years in 1954 to 18 years in 1973. In 1987, 19 and over riding classes were introduced to the shows with a limitation for POAs under saddle only be at the age of 2, 3, and 4 and were in training.
For the show ring, the POAC added Register of Merit Awards for halter, performance, and gaming. If a POA gets all three of these awards, they are granted the highest level of Supreme Champion. The first Supreme Champion mare was GR’s Siri Raindrop, the first Supreme Champion stallion was Chief Little Britches, and the first Supreme Champion gelding was Cindy’s Fury. Breeders whose POAs earn a number of the awards can earn Bronze, Silver, Gold, andDiamond Premier Breeder Awards.
A mare and stallion can earn Premier and Golden Premier status when a number of their offspring have achieved Supreme Champion. POA shows offer a wide variety of classes. Western pleasure, bareback equitation, hunter over fences, stock seat equitation, open jumping, leadline equitation, pleasure driving, showmanship, halter, hunter under saddle, reining, trail, western riding, and even a costume class. Only a couple of these can 19 and over participate in. The timed (gaming) events are only for the 18 and under participants; which include, but not limited to: barrel racing, calf daubing, flag race, pole bending, single pole, goat tying, go-go, keyhole, stake race, and texas rollback to name a few.POA coat patterns vary wildly, and over time change throughout their life, while some get additional colors.
The most common colorations is the blanket pattern, which goes over their loin and hip with dark, round, g-shaped spots. These spots can vary in size by being tiny specks, to over four inches in diameter spots. Others will show white over the hips without dark spots. It is a variation of the blanket pattern called a snowcap. Some have spots all over their body which is referred to as a leopard. Leopard ponies with little to no spots are called few-spot leopards. In both blanket and leopard patterns, the spots may be darker with a lighter ring surrounding it.
..this is called a halo. Roan POAs have varnish marks, which are darker areas appearing most often on the upper legs, point of the hip, bridge of the nose, and cheekbones. The dark areas have smooth edges that blend in the lighter areas.
Irregular edges on patches of white or dark hair are indicative of a paint or pinto coat pattern, which are prohibited in POA registration. Another primary characteristic of the POA is mottled skin. This characteristic is unique to the Appaloosa and POA breeds. Different from commonly pink skin (as found under blazes) mottled skin is speckled and blotchy which is on pigmented and non-pigmented skin.
The mottled skin found on the eyes and muzzle will have a different appearance than which is found in the genital area. The mottled skin on the genital area is more blotchy, as where as it is more speckled around the eyes. White sclera on a POA is very visible; which is another characteristic of both POA and Appaloosa.
Striped hooves are another characteristic. They have bold, clearly defined dark or light stripes. It is possible a POA will not exibit any striping on its hooves.
For this reason, the examiner would want to look for other indications like the mottled skin or white sclera. Another characteristic for some POAs is that they have really short and thin manes and tails. The short tail is called a “rat tail” It was an attribute passed down from the Appaloosa.
Some POAs can also have thick and long manes and tails. These child-sized ponies can give boys and girls confidence and responsibility, which in turn will serve them well later in life. POAs are well suited for trail and endurance riding, ranch work, speed events, western pleasure, and hunter under saddle. They are known for having a gentle disposition, being very hardy, and their intelligence. The POA motto is “Try hard, win humbly, lose gracefully and, if you must…protest with dignity.” This statement sets the POA exhibitors apart from all other breed associations and shows.