In the 1960's on a farm in Sugar Grove, Virginia, William Pugh had a
vision of developing a type of horse. He wanted a good looking, gentle,
small and smooth riding horse that would appeal to woman and children.
Bill Pugh began with a mare that was 1/2 Arabian and 1/2 Walking Horse;
she was bred when he purchased to her, reportedly to a Welsh Pony. The
resulting offspring was Pogo, a horse that Pugh thought was
exceptional. Pogo was gentle with good action and he could trot and
single foot. Pogo became the inspiration for the breed.
Pugh bred Pogo to small mares with good conformation and action, smooth
gait and gentle nature. Among the breeds he incorporated to define the
Virginia Highlander were the Morgan, American Saddle Bred, Hackney
Pony, Welsh, Tennessee Walker, and Arabian. Bill Pugh had a goal of
developing a breed of small (13-14 hands), gentle, naturally gaited
horses. He used Arabian blood for "sparkle", Tennessee
Walkers for gait, Morgan horses for size and gentle nature, as well as
American Saddlebred, Hackney, and Welsh ponies. As soon as he
got a stallion that met his expectations for the breed, the previous
stallion was sold. He also sold any mares and yearlings that
he didn't consider "the best". This developed a breed that is heavy
through the body, giving them the ability to carry the weight of a man,
but gentle, smooth and small enough to appeal to kids and the woman
rider. The breed is less than 15 hands in height and have fine heads
with wide set eyes of great expression.
Thirty years later, a distinct breed arose and The Virginia Highlander
Horse Association was formed, and a registry began with two foundation
stallions and twenty foundation mares. The Virginia Highlander is
commonly a roan colored horse, but chestnut, blacks and white horses
are found in the breed as well. There are over 50 registered Virginia
Highlander Horses registered with the breed registry. The Virginia
Highlander Association was established in 1991.