The first recorded evidence of ponies in the New Forest was in 1016 in the Canute’s Forest Law.

There have been may influences on the breed since this date in an attempt to improve quality and looks by the infusion of thoroughbred, Arab, Welsh and other native blood.

The first attempt to regulate the breed as a specific type was in 1906 with the formation of the Burley and District New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society, which published its studbook in 1910. No outside blood has been permitted since the mid-1930s.

There are about 3,000 ponies — some of which are not tame — owned by Commoners and living in the Forest. Traditions upheld by the Commoners (a person occupying land where common rights are attached) date back to the creation of the New Forest.

Descendants of the breed have developed qualities of hardiness, thrift and surefootedness, suitable for grazing on unforgiving heathland.

The breed society has laid down guidelines for its ponies to ensure that good quality and type is perpetuated.

Foresters should be of riding type with substance. They should have sloping shoulders, strong quarters, plenty of bone, good depth of body, straight limbs and hard, round feet.

Large ponies should be capable of carrying an adult and smaller ponies tend to have more quality.

Quality is sought by the society and to encourage this, there is a performance test for young adults, which includes a dressage and jumping phase.

Foresters are renowned for their intelligence, willingness and docile nature, making them excellent riding ponies, excelling in many disciplines. They are popular exports to Europe, USA and Australia.

For more details, contact the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society at www.newforestpony.com