The Bhotia pony is known by many other similarly-sounding names such as the Bhutia pony, the Bhtuan pony, the Bhutani, the Bhote Ghonda, and the Indian Country Bred. They are found in the mountainous areas of Nepal, India and Bhutan but also can be found pulling packs, carts or plows in more southern regions of India.
This is not actually a breed or that ponies living in that area generally conform to a similar type. Since there isn’t a breed association or any type of registry for the pony, it is most likely a type rather than a breed. The modern Bhotia pony is most likely an amalgam of several different kinds of breeds from the Himalayan regions.
The ponies can vary greatly in appearance considering their varied backgrounds. But they can also appear vastly different from another due to whether they were able to get sufficient food, especially when young and growing. The Himalayan countries are a harsh environment for a horse, so ponies rarely grow to more than 13.2 hands. They are usually solid colored with some white markings or pale muzzles. Bay, brown, grey and chestnut predominate.
Ponies are often not given stabling or extra feed like ponies in the West. They have to scrounge about the rugged, wind-blown landscape themselves to find their food. This has made the breed intelligent, nimble and very sure-footed. They also have hard hoofs and an abundant mane, tail and fetlocks.
Over the centuries, time, the harsh environment and the constant work have created a pony that is strong and has excellent balance, but will not win prizes for beauty. Many Bhotia ponies have confirmations that would get them laughed out of a European or American show ring for their knock-knees and narrow bodies, but these are confirmations that help a pony survive in the Himalayas and not win ribbons in modern sports arenas.
Bhotia ponies can be like donkeys in that sometimes they can be stubborn or seem to be sluggish but generally are far more reliable workers than people. Bhotia ponies can be trained for a variety of uses and, if there is food and companions involved, they will be almost guaranteed to work. Ponies will often take their time to pick their way through any rocky terrain which may be interpreted as laziness.
Pack horses in the countries of the Himalayas often do not need any sort of halter, lead rope or bridle. They follow (or “tag”) with the other members of their herd, who all happen to be carrying packs, too. The ponies can also snatch at some plants and still work as they munch. This helps them to keep on going on the little grass they will find at the end of a day’s work.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press; 1995.
I Live For Horses.com “Bhutia and Spiti Pony Guide.” http://www.iliveforhorses.com/Horses/bhutia-pony.htm
Equinest. “Bhotia Pony.” http://www.theequinest.com/breeds/bhotia-pony/
Wikipedia. “Indian Country Bred.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiti_Pony