Hackney stallion thought to be oldest of his breed in the country celebrates 34th birthday

  • A Hackney thought to be the oldest living registered stallion of his breed in the UK has celebrated his 34th birthday.

    Highmoor Demonstrator, known as Blue, has been owned by Charlie Sparrowhawk since he was a yearling.

    The bay stallion was bought by Charlie’s grandfather, also Charlie Sparrowhawk, as part of an entire stud bought from Arthur Spurling in 1988.

    Blue was shown by Charlie in costers and light trade classes but is now living on the family farm, where he is turned out with his 29-year-old gelding companion Sunny.

    “They are the naughtiest pair sometimes,” said Charlie’s partner Mari Wilson. “I also breed dressage horses and I have a Totilas colt who is turned out with a Shetland friend. I’ll bring those two in and they’re fine, but the two old pensioners will be dragging you down the field.

    “I think they’ve probably reached the age where they’ve earned the right to misbehave a bit. He’s always had lovely manners but they have started to slide!”

    Mari also used to hack Blue before he fully retired at the age of 28, and said that he is still sound despite his advanced years and the extravagant Hackney action.

    “He’s quite a chunky Hackney but being tough and sound is a trait of the breed,” Mari said.

    “He’s still got it, love him, every now and then you see him trotting up the field and you think ‘he can’t half shift’.”

    Blue’s father, Ashingdon Ellen’s Boy, also reached the age of 34 before he died. Blue has not sired any offspring himself.

    “He was turned out with mares for a few years but by that point he wasn’t interested!” Mari added.

    Hackney horses and ponies are listed as “critical” on the Rare Breed Survival Trust’s watchlist, having a breeding population of less than 300. Out of the UK’s 14 native horse and pony breeds, 12 are considered rare and five of these are considered critical: joining the Hackney in this category are the Cleveland Bay, Dales, Eriskay and Suffolk.

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    The breed has its origins in the Norfolk and Yorkshire roadsters and is considered a “blood” type, having been influenced by early thoroughbred stallions.

    Improvements in the roads during the 16th and 17th centuries increased the demand for carriage horses and the high-stepping Hackney breed evolved. The Hackney Horse Society and stud book was formed in 1883.

    Hackneys are still principally used for driving, having good stamina and soundness from their ancestry. They have also been used to influence continental breeds such as the Gelderlanders/Dutch Harness Horses.

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