The New Forest pony: the ideal performance native pony

The New Forest pony has an upper height limit of 148cm and there is no lower limit.

New Forest ponies may be any colour except piebald, skewbald, spotted or blue eyed cream. Palomino or very light chestnut and cream ponies with dark eyes are not eligible as licensed stallions.

The society provides a detailed description of the colour requirements:

“Blue eyes are not permitted. White markings other than on the head and lower limbs: loss of, or absence of, pigment in hair or skin that is not known to have been associated solely with skin trauma is not acceptable. So, for the purposes of entry into the approved section of the stud book a pony shall not have any white markings behind the head, above a horizontal line level with the bony protuberance of the accessory carpal bone at the back of the knee in the forelimb, and the point of the hock in the hind limb, unless proven to be due to trauma/injury.”

Other ideal features of the breed include:

Type: New Forest ponies should be of working type with substance. They should have sloping shoulders, strong quarters, plenty of flat bone, good depth of body, straight limbs and good hard round feet. The ponies are quite capable of carrying adults, while narrow enough for small children. The smaller ponies, though not up to so much weight, often show more quality.

Action: This should be free, active and straight, but not exaggerated.

There have been ponies in the New Forest since the end of the last ice age. The earliest record of horses in the New Forest dates back to 1016 when rights of common pasture were granted to the people living in what was a royal hunting ground.

is a recognised British Isles breed, but, according to the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society, it has an unusual background for a native pony breed.

According to the breed society: “In 1507 mounts from the New Forest were shipped to the French wars. New Forest pony mares were very probably bred to a Spanish Horse standing at the Royal Stud at Lyndhurst rather than the myth of the Spanish Horse swimming ashore from the Armada.”

“During the 19th Century they were regularly raced and with prizes of £5 or £10 when wages were £1.25 or less a good pony who might race in two races in an afternoon was a valuable asset. The colts also had the reputation of being excellent harness ponies, fast trotters, strong, docile and patient. Unfortunately this led to the better colts being gelded and sold. A few gentlemen were concerned at the poor standard of stallions and considered the ponies inbred and new blood was needed. The deputy surveyor as a sop to commoners for his endeavour to make them run on their ponies in the winter, borrowed an Arab stallion from Prince Albert but commoners were not to be taken in so very few mares were covered by him. Towards the end of the century the Verderers hired  four stallions; Fitz George, Welsh Star, Katerfelto and Bampton Boy and Queen Victoria lent two Arabs, Abeyan and Yuresson, but commoners wanted stallions that ran out.”

In the show ring, New Forests have seen an increased presence at top level. They have their own final at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) which was introduced several years ago to separate them from the Connemaras. In 2014, the roan gelding Marleydenes Shiraz and Alex Hawkins landed the overall ridden Mountain and Moorland Pony of the Year title, becoming the first New Forest to win the accolade. The winner of the 2018 New Forest final was Clare Davies’ Harvey’s Magic Moment and Lauren Brill. Steph Peto also rode her own bay mare Bisterne Diva to win the exceeding 143cm M&M Working Hunter Pony of the Year final.

Shirley Young piloted Farriers Fingerprint to the Olympia native crown back in 2009.

The first New Forest to win the coveted Olympia title was Shirley Young on her home bred stallion Farriers Fingerprint. The grey scooped the victory in 2009 and is the only New Forest to win Olympia to date.

As well as having a super jump for the worker ring, they also excel as performance ponies in other disciplines, many being scopey enough for eventing and hunter trials. They are popular choices for pony club and riding club all-rounders as well hunting and dressage ponies. They are quite capable of carrying adults, while narrow enough for small children.

Despite their performance attributes, in 2013, H&H reported that the New Forest pony is on the verge of becoming a rare breed. At present, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust reports that the breed is still considered to be ‘at risk’. Dedicated breeders are working hard to promote the breed and maintain the quality of the youngstock.

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