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I will be spending a couple days on Unst on the Shetland Islands next year. My wife is very keen on seeing some Shetland ponies, and I am wondering how to go about this.

My research seems to indicate that Unst is a good place for this. Furthermore it seems that they are roaming freely and one can find them grazing at the roadsides. Now, by randomly looking through some Google Streetview, all I can find is a lot of sheep.

So my question is, how do I go about to find Shetland ponies on Unst? Is there a high probability of us finding them at the roadside without looking for them or are there specific places (farms, parks) where one would have to go to find them?

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The North Link Ferries site has a Shetland Ponies page which says:

As you travel through Shetland, you will see lots of ponies grazing by the roadside or on the heathery hills, appearing to roam wild. These apparently wild ponies are all owned by local crofters. Ponies can be seen in the West Mainland, Tingwall, Dunrossness and the island of Unst. Shetland Pony breeder farms are called studs – some tour group of Shetland include a visit to Shetland Pony studs, where you can get up close and personal with the ponies.

I think it tends to depend on the weather and time of year, but it should be possible to find a few of them.

There's a Shetland Pony Breeders website that lists stud farms in Unst which have e-mail addresses and some idea of location which may help you.

One farm has their own website: Muness Shetland Ponies and they talk about visitors being welcome to their other farm in Skye which implies they'd probably be OK with visitors to their Unst farm is organized in advance.

Using Google Street View to try and find that yields some ponies at the side of the road:

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In general, as long as you're respectful and not causing damage or a disturbance, I'm sure most farms would be happy to let you have a look at the their ponies.

  • Remember that if you visited horses or (other) farms recently, you might carry infections the ponies have no defence against. – Willeke Jan 4 '16 at 11:07
  • @Willeke Thanks for that information, I didn't consider that. However, we are living in a city, so it's very unlikely we'll be anywhere near a farm. – drat Jan 11 '16 at 13:42
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I am now back from Shetland and wanted to write up my own answer to provide some first hand experience for whoever else wants to go see some Shetland ponies.

As it turns out (and as the other answer correctly stated), it is really not hard at all to find them. We found some already before arriving on Unst while driving towards the ferry on Yell. On Unst itself they are pretty common, we found them at Muness, along the A968 (the main road) between Uyeasound and Baltasound, near Westing and at a small side road in Haroldswick right after the exit of the village when driving towards Saxavord. (I refer to the place names as on this tourist map). We didn't have to look for them, we just happened to drive past them while touring the island, so even if those places change, it would be pretty much impossible to drive around the island for more than a couple kilometres without seeing any ponies.

In most spots outside the main road (and most of the time even on the main road), it was no problem at all just to stop at the roadside (or at a passing place) and to get out to take some pictures. Most of the ponies were not very interested in us, but we did find some which were curious and came to the fence.

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