Founded in the United States just more than 50 years ago, the Pony of the Americas (commonly shortened to the initials POA) is a versatile performer, brightly colored with the spots of an Appaloosa horse. The breed was created as a pleasure and competition mount for children, with adults allowed only a limited ability to show them.
In 1954, Leslie Boomhower, a Shetland Pony breeder in the state of Iowa, found himself with an accidental cross between a Shetland Pony stallion and an Arabian/Appaloosa mare. The resulting foal was a well-built white pony with black Appaloosa markings, including a mark on his flank that resembled a black handprint, so he was named Black Hand. With Boomhower recognizing the colt’s qualities and encouraging other breeders, Black Hand became the foundation sire of the Pony of the Americas. Les Boomhower and other interested breeders went on to establish the Pony of the Americas Club.
Original breed standards required the POA to have the well-muscled body of a Quarter Horse, the small, refined, and even “dished” head of an Arabian, and the distinctive coat patterns of an Appaloosa, visible from 40 feet. The height requirements were originally 11 to 13 hands, but that’s been raised to 11.2 to 14 hands now. Other traits of the Appaloosa horse — mottled skin, striped hooves, and the white sclera around the eye — also hold true for the POA.
POAs, true to their original breeders’ intentions, make excellent mounts for young riders on the trail, in the show ring or in any kind of competition, as well as reliable companions around the barn.