One of the reasons the Highland Pony has been growing in popularity in recent years is the fact that the Highland is one of the most versatile pony's native to Britain. While it has always traditionally been used as a utility horse, it has been popular for Scottish trekking for centuries, as well as in stalking and shooting. Today, the Highland is participating in a wide variety of competitions, from in hand to riding and driving. Thanks to its wonderful temperament and athletic ability, the only limitations for the Highland Pony are the imagination!
Pony trekking is a very popular way of sightseeing in the Scottish Highlands and the Highland Pony is particularly suited to this kind of work because of its calm temperament. Because much of the most beautiful scenery in the Highlands is inaccessible by car or other motorized vehicles, it can be reached by pony quite easily by comparison. This tradition of sightseeing in the Scottish Island dates back centuries, and even Queen Victoria, who dearly enjoyed visiting Scotland, made mention of a trekking expedition in a journal she had published called "Life in the Highlands." In it, the Queen remembers a September afternoon in 1842 in which she, Prince Albert and their guide "set off to go up one of the hills."
Highland Ponies have been associated with deer stalking (usually called deer hunting in North American) and shooting for many years now. It is not just their natural sure footedness that makes them excellent companions, but their ability to carry upwards of sixteen stone, or about two hundred and fifty pounds. This means that they can carry most men up into the Scottish hills at the beginning of an expedition and carry a full grown stag on the way back down, all the while wearing a special saddle for the occasion which is quite heavy in and of itself.
Many Highlands and their owners participate in many different kinds of competitions. Most of these shows are in Great Britain, where the majority of Highlands can be found, but as they are growing in numbers around the world, more opportunities for competitions will soon follow. There are seemingly dozens of different classes and disciplines for this versatile pony, include in hand from yearlings all the way up to stallions, pairs, family and sidesaddle, dressage, working hunter, and even different classes for senior riders or young exhibitors.
Of course, the Highland Pony was traditionally used as a utility pony, performing such tasks as plowing, working as a pack horse or carrying its owner to town and back. While mechanization has done away with the need for many of these tasks, Highlands are still used in the more remote areas of the Highlands for working with shepherds or cattlemen (for the famous Highland Cattle, of course!) or for light carting work. Highland Ponies are also used frequently for foresting, as they are quite capable of dragging thinning from steep or soft ground and can carry bundles of young trees to areas that vehicles cannot reach.