Happy Labor Day! And remember the horses & burros that have labored for mankind…

We hope you’re all relaxing and spending time with your loved ones on Labor Day.

Source:  horseandman.com



Since mine shafts were small and had a low ceiling, it made sense to put smaller ponies into play here. At the height of Pit Pony usage in 1913, there were 70,000 working in the mines. As of 1984, there were 55 still in service. The last pony, Robbie, retired in 1999.

It is true that most of them were employed by the British and Australians, but they were employed in the US as well. Mr. Wikipedia says they weren’t, but I read several accounts of native pit ponies here in the US…


Well, of course they needed to be small yet hearty.  Ceilings were low and the roads were rough and steep.  Consequently, ponies had to be full bodied, large boned and short.  A kind temperament was preferred and sure-footedness a must.   So, Shetlands and the Sable Island Ponies were the popular breeds.

Ponies were mostly raised IN the mines so they didn’t rebel against the conditions (nice).  However, they weren’t put to work until they were 4 years old.  Most ponies were retired in their late teens.

“Stable conditions were very important and much was done to tend to the comfort of these animals and lengthen their term of usefulness. In the stable, the height of the roof was to be seven feet when a five-foot horse was in use. It should be able to raise its head and relax its muscles because it had to work all day carrying its head low. Ventilation was to be arranged so that the direct current would not strike the horses. As little wood as possible was used in the construction of the stables to lessen the chance of fire. All stables were well drained with pipes and well whites washed for sanitary purposes.??The stableman usually shod the horses with shoes made on the surface. Sometimes, a ferrier went into the mine when a higher degree of shoeing skill was required. He would take the measurements underground and make the shoes on the surface.It was desirable that the horse have only one driver who would take more pride in the animal and so that they might both understand one another. It is true that a horse’s disposition was spoiled when drivers were changed.??The roadways were to be kept in the best possible condition to prevent accidents. The roof was also to be carefully brushed to rid it of protruding booms and rocks that might cause head injury to the horse.The horses were taken below ground in a cage or were walked into the slope mines on the footpath. Their daily working shift was normally the same as a man’s and drivers did not like their ponies to be double-shifted. When the animal got older, their work period was usually reduced to four hours. They generally stayed below ground for approximately five years, unless killed or maimed, and then they were either moved or replaced.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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2 replies »

  1. My Dad had a pit pony in the 70s that was rescued for my sister and US to ride. It was a bona fide pit pony straight from working. They planned to destroy 5 and since she was a mare and got a little fiestier than they wanted he bought her up. The miners were glad she got a home, he told me a lot of how ornery her first few days were. She always was the first animal in at dark though, always. So yes, there were some pit ponies in the US. We also had an old coal miners shack on the property we grew up on. It had an interesting back story, she would never work again with us. She enjoyed carrots and our country life but she always she different from the other ponies like something was always turned on in her mind. I loved her. She was paired with our white pony Princess who was a show pony in fine appointment and they dazzled. Momma called her A Coal Miners Daughter! Lynn for short. She could shave you off with a tree branch like buttering bread! Ha! And tangle you up in grape vines….I did say she was ornery, but never saw a pit again. I never thought a thing of it….until now. I always knew she was special, she is long since gone but her memory remains, Daddy bringing home a new pony always was an event to behold. We had everything. She loved loved loved Quaker Oats uncooked since the factory was close by. She also ate barley and sugar. She was unique!


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