Highland Ponies In Australia

Highlands & Australian Highland Ponies

The Breeding up or Foundation section of Highland Ponies in Australia

This document provides an explanation of the rules & processes that support the breeding up of Highland Ponies in Australia and the difference between a purebred Highland pony & an Australian Highland pony.

A Highland pony is a purebred Highland Pony who's parentage traces directly to the Highland Pony Society Stud Book in Scotland. These ponies are registered in Section 1 in the APSB. (Australian Pony Stud Book Society)

An Australian Highland Pony is the resultant progeny of a pony that has been bred using the breeding up program in Australia. Hence it's pedigree does not trace directly to the Scottish stud Book. Somewhere in it's lineage will be a pony of unknown breeding or another breed. So we call these Australian Highland Ponies. They are registered in section 2 in the APSB.

A breeding up program was introduced due to the very small numbers of Highland ponies in Australia and the very limited gene pool. As only 2 stallions were originally imported to Australia and 4 mares, it was necessary to introduce this program to ensure the survival of the breed in Australia.

The breeding up program works as follows:

  1. An Appendix Highland mare is the bottom of the ladder so to speak. This pony is the female progeny of a Purebred Highland Stallion or Mare by or out of a pony (of pony type) registered in a stud book. If you get a male foal as a result of this cross then it must be gelded and registered as a part bred within the APSB.
  2. You then take your Appendix mare and join her to a purebred stallion. The female progeny is then classed as Foundation stock (FS).
  3. You then take your FS mare and join her to a purebred stallion. The female progeny is then classed as Foundation stock 1 (FS1).
  4. You then take your FS1 mare and join her to a purebred stallion. The female progeny is then classed as Foundation stock 2(FS2).
  5. Finally you take your FS2 mare and join her to a purebred stallion. The female progeny is then classed as Australian Highland Pony (AHL).

If you have colts during any of these stages they MUST be gelded and the geldings are recorded in the stud book as geldings with the suffix AHL.

As you can see it is a very long process to get to AHL for females and will take many years of breeding. But the idea is by the time you get to 5 generations of continually joining to purebred stock the pony is essentially pure and has the full characteristics of a purebred pony.

Breed Standard & Judges Notes

The Highland Pony, a strong and hardy native of Scotland, is found on the mainland and in the Western isles. Ranging in height from 13 to 14.2 h.h. it is one of the most versatile of the British native breeds.

They are hardy and of sound constitution, while their winter coat, consisting of a layer of strong badger-like hair over a soft, dense undercoat, enables them to live out in all weathers. There are two recognised types, the mainland type also known as the Garron is the taller of the two standing up to 14.2 h.h. and is the most widely known. The Western isles type varies in height from 12.2 h.h. to 14.2 h.h. and is often regarded as being the purer strain.

This type, particularly those that come from the Isle of Rhum, often display the characteristic dun or cream coat colouring which appears to have a silvery outer layer. Silver hairs also abound in the otherwise black mane and tail. In general both Highland types are powerful, well built animals with short, broad heads, cresty necks and compact muscular bodies. They are used as all purpose utility animals by the Highland farmers and crofters.

Their sure-footedness, willingness to work, docile nature and immense stamina make them ideal for work over rough, often inhospitable terrain.

Traditionally associated with deer-stalking, they have found great favour more recently as trekking mounts. They make excellent 'family' ponies, many being natural jumpers, and are very easily broken to harness.

A.P.S.B.S breed standard and notes for judges are as follows:

As a Judge you will encounter Highland Ponies in a variety of breed classes:

Highland Classes/Mountain and Moorland Classes/Any Other APSB Breed classes

Highland Pony’s are a rare breed and in Australia certainly a minority breed.  Also now registered as a rare breed in the UK with less than 200 breeding mares worldwide.

The Highland is the largest of the three Scottish native breeds of pony, reaching a maximum of 14.2hh (148 cm) and a modern adult pony can weigh as much as 650kg. The Highland is the heaviest of the native breeds of Britain.

When judging Highland ponies you may want to take some of the following special features into account. These features are the result of evolution and adaptation to their environment and should be preserved within the breed.

These ponies have long evolved as a multi purpose farm horse, later finding great popularity as riding mounts because of their temperament and comfort, also remember a good highland is supposed to be able to carry an 80kg stag over the roughest terrain. Look at the pony’s suitability for these tasks, could they do the job?

  • Are they sound? Have they retained the true pony characteristics including good bone and quality feathers and a long mane and tail? (known as the “trimmings”)
  • Have they got good feet? Could they work on rough rocky ground? For even though we are in Australia not Scotland and the climate is fairer and the ground smoother we want to honour and retain these most valued of native characteristics.


The head should never be coarse and should be pleasing to the eye. A white star is the only white marking acceptable.


A Highland’s eyes are set further forward and closer than most other breeds allowing better frontal vision. Eyes should be clearly visible from the front of the pony.

The eyes are often further down the face than most breeds). This increases the ability to utilise binocular vision (can focus quickly on objects directly in front of him) – this increases surefootedness, it also enables highly efficient selection of grasses in rough terrain that is essential for survival on the islands.


They have wide nostrils that will warm the freezing air before it passes into the lungs.


They should have powerful well-aligned jaw with sound teeth that can chew rough herbage.


Poll flexion or dropping down of the head allowing the best possible vision of ground underneath him – is generally the natural “way of going” for a highland pony.


Thick forelocks provide a hair screen over eyes so they can see and feed in terrible weather. Also protection from flies and insects, dust and sun.


Highlands have long head and facial hair particularly in winter – it waterproofs and watersheds – this should be left natural for the show ring and is often a lot finer in summer.


Their extensive manes often falling on both sides of the neck reduce heat/energy loss and waterproof the head, jowls and neck. The tendency of the mane to twist into ropes further aids the shed of water.


They have a dense double coat.


Synonymous with their surroundings, designed to blend in with the heather & gorses of the Highland regions.  Usual colours are yellow dun, mouse dun, cream dun & grey dun all with dorsal stripes & zebra markings.  Grey is also a common colour.

Dun Factors are genetically linked to a calm temperament and highly sought after for stalking.

No other white markings apart from a small star on the face are desirable. White markings on the legs are discouraged.


They have long thick feathers to divert water from the heels and lower legs. These should not be trimmed.


They have extremely thick tails, which shields their rear and inner thighs when the pony turns his rump to the wind – this helps reduce heat and energy loss.

They have a “Snow tuft” on top of the dock.


A well-developed neck and shoulder is important for leverage in draught work and for balance.


They should have a short strong back capable of carrying large weights


A highlands well-muscled rump and second thigh (Power) should suggest excellent power and strength. The rump should be well rounded.


They have wide powerful chests (Traction) with good heart-room.


They have Short cannons (strength) with approximately 10 inches of bone for a male and 8 for a female.

Highlands should have well set down hocks provide strength of support and leverage particularly for harness and draught work. They can be closer behind than some breeds, although not as close as a Clydesdale.


They should have hard black hooves (large and open) with no white.

Highlands are known for gregarious herd behaviour that makes them good for group riding or trekking.


A highland pony should give the impression of power and its best pace should be the walk, if it can’t walk – forget it. It was originally bred to perform most of it’s work at this gait.

    “Anyone who has been lucky enough to have followed a sturdy Highland Pony carrying a fifteen stone stag out of a deep corry, along gravelly scree and through treacherous bogs, and who have watched how it swings its tail at every step, like a well proportioned man swings his kilt, keeping up a steady four miles per hour, will fully appreciate how important it is to put the greatest value on a pony that can walk rhythmically.”

The other gaits should be straight & true. Daisy cutting and high knee action are faults as are dishing & straddling.

Highlands have excellent temperaments and good trainability. They are sensible & docile to handle and are a willing and steady companion.

Renowned for their hardiness they will live out all year round and tolerate many adverse conditions.

Overall They should have good symmetry as in any other breed.  It is important that judges appreciate & understand the characteristics of the breed in order to judge them fairly against others.  Their special characteristics are a direct result of evolution & adaptation to their environment and as breeders & judges of these ponies it is important that these characteristics are maintained and standards upheld.