The Messara pony are a light draft and riding horse found off the Greece coast on the island of Crete. Founded in the prefecture of Heraklion, they developed Messara ponies on the islands Messara-region by crossing Arabian stallions, which were brought in during the Turkish occupation, with mountain type native mares. The Messara ponies are an extremely rare horse breed today and believed to be almost extinct.
The main color of Messara ponies coats are grey, black, brown, bay, and a variation of bay similar to their ancestors.
Unlike some horse breeds, Messara ponies have a pacing gait that is natural, comfortable, and easy to ride. A two-beat lateral gait has the Messara ponies two legs on the left side moving together forward and then the two legs on the right side moving forward together, unlike a trot where the front legs move together and then the back legs. Both always have two feet not touching the ground. Pacing is usually faster than trotting but uncomfortable and almost impossible for riding due to the rapid side-to-side motion. Messara ponies have a slower natural pace that gently rocks the rider from side to side, which makes the rider far more comfortable.
Breeders often cross female donkeys or Jennies with Messara stallions to produce hinnies. These are rarer than the offspring of a female horse and male donkey, called a mule. Hinnies are usually far more cooperative and obedient than a donkey, more intelligent than a horse, unlike mules, and are normally smaller than mules and horses. Similar to donkeys, which are notoriously hardy and can survive in even the harshest environments, hinnies are popular because they are healthier than horses and cost less to maintain and feed but are more difficult to obtain. Other than one recorded exception, a hinny is always sterile.
Retaining some of their Arabian ancestors characteristics, the Messara ponies normally stand between twelve and fourteen hands high. Four inches is the now standardized measure for a hand or 'h', which is usually the unit of measure used to describe the height of ponies, horses, and other equines in many countries including the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. They measure Messara horses from the ground up to the top of the pony's withers or shoulder blade ridge, which is the highest point on horses back. A horse standing sixty inches from the top of the withers to ground is fifteen hands high or 15 hh, while a fifty-six inch horse is fourteen hands high or 14 hh.
In most great societies including the Ancient Greek society, they always considered horses just under the gods in importance. All of the ancient Greek society horse breeds were equally valued as awe inspiring, majestic beasts, especially in battle. Throughout Greek history, the Messara and other horses represented wealth due in part to expensive pastureland, which only the wealthy could afford. The upper class generally used Messara in the Greek cavalry during wartime and for racing and hunting by during peace times.