FAIRMONT, Minn. – It is a long drop from the back of a full-grown Quarter horse, especially for young children and beginner riders. At the time, a pony, like a Shetland, is just too small. That was the reasoning behind the development of the POA, Pony of America breed.
“It is the pony version of an Appaloosa horse,” said Lori Krome of Dakota Krome POA. “They are designed to be a smaller-size horse, designed specifically for kids, so good disposition, easy to handle, less intimidating for a kid and just kind of a general all-around nice horse.”
Lori and her husband Dan, moved from South Dakota to Fairmont, Minn. about 10 years ago. At the same time, they decided to change their horse breeding program from full grown Appaloosas to POA. They have developed a very successful and well recognized POA breeding program.
“We started out when our kids were small – all of our kids rode,” said Lori. “We did it as a family activity, instead of going to the lake, we went to the horse show and so, it was a great time for all of us and a great family bonding kind of thing. There are lots of nice people in the POA Association.”
As part of the breed characteristics, a POA cannot be more than 14 hands or 56 inches tall. They are also required to have an Appaloosa color pattern.
“It either has to be a solid horse with a white blanket on its rump and spots with that or it has to have like a leopard kind of pattern,” she said.
When making breeding choices, the first thing Lori looks at is the disposition of the horse. Since this is a breed that is very popular with children and also older adults looking to continue riding, a calm disposition is key.
“I want something that when the kid says go, they go, ‘well, okay, I'll go,’” she said. “I want something that will just be really easy going.”
Picking and pairing color patterns is a bit more challenging. It requires a close evaluation of the genetics behind the coloring for both the mare and the stud, to ensure the foal meets the breed standard.
Lori’s stallion is white with brown spots over his whole body. In his DNA, he is homozygous for the color trait. This means, any of his offspring will also be colored.
He is also well-built and athletic, which is important in the breed.
Maintaining the proper height of a POA can be challenging.
To develop the breed, breeders of Appaloosas selected shorter Appaloosas and crossed them with smaller horse breeds. Full blood Appaloosa genetics are still used in POA breeding.
“I have tried to max out the height, because everybody wants something that is about as big as you can get, so they can carry most any size person,” she said. “To get a POA, you can breed to an Appaloosa, you could breed to a Quarter horse and do that kind of stuff, but then you also have that tall parentage in your background.”
The real challenge comes when it takes six years for a foal to reach mature height.
On the show circuit, before each show, POAs are measured to ensure they are under 56 inches and qualify. Anything over 56 inches, is disqualified from POA competitions.
Lori spends a great deal of time planning and deciding how to breed her mares.
“Breeding season isn't going to be until probably April and May next year and I'm already planning right now what I'm going to be doing then,” she said.
Gestation for a horse is 12 months. Lori breeds her mares so that they will foal in the spring, April-May, and then she weans the foals in the fall, around August.
Lori and Dan work with each foal as soon as they are born – touching them, handling them, playing with their ears, feet, mouth and tail. This sets the foal up for the training that is to come later.
“After they are born, it is fitting them up, doing the exercising and the training, everything to have them in good physically-fit shape by the time we are ready to show them in October,” she said.