5 Exquisite English Horse Pony Breeds | Full Comparison between Fell Dales New Forest and Hackney Pony Breed

The equine variety is variable and vast. There exist remarkable diversity between pony breeds from small to great, white through to black, etc. Today we will be looking at four pony breeds

These are: 

  • Fell pony breed
  • Dales pony breed
  • New Forest pony breed
  • Hackney pony breed

Fell Pony Breed | excellent for riding

The Fell Pony is a versatile, working breed of mountain and moorland pony. This unique equine type originates from the north of England in Cumberland and Westmorland farms. It is used as a riding and driving pony.

Origin: England – Westmorland, and Cumberland. 

Height: 13-14hh.

Color: Usually black; occasionally bay, brown or gray. White markings are rare, especially on legs, where they are considered undesirable. 

Character: Lively, alert pony; an excellent ride and also, because strong and untiring, a good work pony.

Physique of the Fell pony breed

The fell pony has an alert head, carried high, with short, pricked ears. Good, sloping shoulder. Muscular body with well-sprung ribs and strong loins. It also carries strong, sloping hindquarters.

Fell Pony Breed Physique
Fell Pony Breed Physique

Thick mane and tail, gay tail carriage. Hard, strong legs with some feathers. Feet hard and round. It has a smooth, fast trot which it can keep up for many miles. 

Evolution of the Fell pony breed

This all-purpose pony, nowadays almost exclusively used for riding, was formerly a harness pony and farmworker in the uplands districts and a lead-mines pack pony. 

In the 17th and 18th centuries, pack ponies were used to take lead from the mines to the coast – for heavy carts there were no roads suitable and the Fell regularly carried 220lb for 30 miles and more day by day. 

It was also famous as a trotter during the 19th century. It could trot at up to 20 miles an hour for many miles without fatigue. It has great substance.

The Fell appears to stem from the Friesian horses introduced to Britain by the Romans and from the now-extinct Galloway breed of the west Scottish lowlands, of which the 17th-century writer Gervase Markham, in his book, “The Horseman’s Honour or the Beauty Of Horsemanship, reports:

“In Scotland, there is a race of small nagges which they call Galloways or galloway nagges which for fine shape, easy pace. pure metal and infinite toughness are not short of the best nagges that are bred in any country whatsoever.”

Dales Pony Breed | Exceptionally strong

The Dales pony is one of the United Kingdom’s native mountain and moorland pony breeds. The breed is known for its strength, hardiness, stamina, courage, intelligence, and good disposition. 

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Origin: England – north country dales.

Height: 14-14.2hh.

Color: Jet black, bay, dark brown (locally known as hackberry). White markings other than a small star on the face or a white heel or coronet are unacceptable since a white face, fetlock or hoof indicates a touch of Clydesdale ancestry. 

Character: The Dales pony is a sensible, quiet equine to handle.

These qualities, combined with its great physical strength and sureness of foot, make it ideal for pony trekking, though its strength makes it a more suitable ride for adults than for children. Thrives on work.

Physique of the Dales pony breed

The DALES pony breed has a powerful body with a muscular back and quarters.

Dales Pony Breed Physique
Dales Pony Breed Physique

The head should be pony-like. Abundant mane and tail, feather on feet. Exceptionally strong, capable of carrying a 16-stone (224lb) rider or pulling a load weighing a ton.

Evolution of the Dales pony breed

A native of the eastern side of the Pennines, the Dales pony is very similar in appearance to its slightly smaller close relation, the Fell pony. 

The dales pony breed is of Celtic descent and has been used for hundreds of years by fell and dales farmers for carting and riding and all kinds of farm work.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, they worked as pack ponies, carrying lead from the mines to the coast.

Some outcrossing was done to improve the Dales pony for farm work and for transport. In the 19th century a famous Welsh Cob stallion, Comet was brought to the dales to compete in trotting matches, which were a local sport. 

Comet, who could trot 10 miles in 33 minutes carrying 12 stone (168lb) on his back, was bred to the Dales mares with such unanimous approval that today every Dales pony traces back to this great Welsh Cob.

The Dales pony breed was almost extinct

With the invention of heavy machinery and automobiles, the Dales pony became redundant. Hundreds were slaughtered for meat, and by the early 1950s, the breed was nearly extinct. 

It was saved by the advent of pony trekking and is now much used to carry tourists across the country where, for centuries before, its ancestors carried the local doctor or the farmer on his way to market.

New Forest Pony Breed | docile, friendly, and a quick learner

The New Forest pony is one of the most recognized mountain and moorland or native pony breeds of the British Isles. 

Origin: England – New Forest area of Hampshire. 

Height: 12-14.2hh.

Color: Any color except piebald or skewbald. 

Character: The New Forest pony is Intelligent, brave, willing, docile, very friendly, and quick to learn. Because the New Forest area- less a forest than an open expanse of common cross-hatched with roads and picnic places – is within handy reach of London and the densely-populated southeast.

The free-range pony is exposed to visitors from birth and grows up less shy of people and of man-created terrors such as traffic than any of the other British mountain and moorland breeds. For this reason, it is the safest possible ride for children. 

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Physique of the The New Forest pony

Because the New Forest pony is a mixture of many breeds over the centuries with no serious attempt to control the type until 1938, it comes in a wide range of sizes and shapes.

However, under the watchful eye of the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society, a definite type is becoming recognized.

New Forest Pony Breed Physique
New Forest Pony Breed Physique

Its rather large head which accommodates its intelligent eyes is well set on a rather short neck. Good shoulder, short back with a deep girth, and strong loins and hindquarters.

Good, hard legs with short cannon bones and excellent feet. It is a hardy, thrifty pony with plenty of endurance.

The ponies are categorized into two types:

  • Type A, lighter in bone than the bigger 
  • Type B, stands up to 13.2hh and is an excellent child’s hunter and riding pony. 

The evolution of the New Forest pony

More than a thousand years ago the area covered by the New Forest extended through southern England nearly as far west as Dartmoor and Exmoor, and so it is probable that the original New Forest pony was closely akin to those of the Devon and Somerset moors. 

The breed has been mixed with abundant new blood since those days, among them that of the Thoroughbred stallion Marske, sire of the unbeaten racehorse Eclipse.

In 1765 Marske, who had amounted to little on the racetrack, was sold cheap to a Dorset farmer who used him to cover New Forest mares. 

Marske’s obscurity as a farm stallion lasted for only 4 years. In 1769 Eclipse (foaled 1764) saw a racecourse for the first time and ran with such brilliant supremacy that his sire was quickly sought out and was sold away up to Yorkshire for £20. 

In the years 1852 to about 1890 Queen Victoria lent three Arab stallions to run wild in the Forest, and these must have had some effect upon improving the native ponies – though the degree of their effect would depend upon their personalities since it is not the most beautiful stallion who covers the mares in the wild but the most determined and aggressive. 

In the last part of the 19th century, Lord Arthur Cecil introduced to the Forest other native mountain and moorland breeds such as the Galloway and Welsh. Attempts to “improve” the New Forest pony with richer blood were not universally successful since the progeny was not necessarily able to cope with the sparse winter feed provided by the Forest. 

The New Forest pony’s ability to survive comes from other hardy British mountain and moorland breeds.

It seems logical that today’s pony which continues to survive running wild all year round must owe the larger part of its ancestry to the other hardy British mountain and moorland breeds.

The New Forest pony breed is the most tractable of all the British riding ponies.

It makes a splendid hunter and seems impervious to any sort of traffic. Unfortunately, this last quality permits it to wander without fear on the unfenced roads of the Forest and causes a high annual death and injury toll.

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Hackney Pony Breed | Dramatic in its actions but Graceful

The Hackney pony is a breed of pony closely related to the Hackney horse. Originally bred to pull carriages, they are used today primarily as show ponies.

The breed does not have its own studbook but shares one with the Hackney horse in all countries that have an official Hackney Stud Book Registry.

Origin: England.

Height: 12.2-14.2hh.

Color: Usually bay, brown, chestnut, black. 

Character: Active, honest, courageous, and possessed of great endurance

Physique of the The Hackney pony

The Hackney pony’s head carries its prick ears resting on a long neck, compact body with good shoulders and quarters. The iron-hard legs and good feet give this pony a good stance.

It is dramatic in its actions, the knees raised as high as they can go and the feet flung forward with an extravagant, rounded motion. 

Hackney Pony Breed Physical Appearance
Hackney Pony Breed Physical Appearance

Hocks brought up high under the body, with movement on all four feet straight and true. The effect of a hackney at the trot is one of flamboyance and brilliance.

Evolution of the Hackney pony

The word hackney comes from the Norman French haquenai, which was applied in the Middle Ages to riding animals of the humblest caste. 

This was a rather derogatory word, which worked its way into hack = hireling in the sense of a wretch loaned out for a small sum, came to be applied to the highly-prized breed developed during the 19th century from the famous old Norfolk Roadster trotting horse by way of the Arab and 

By the mid-19th century, the Hackney was held in great esteem not only in the British Isles but also on the Continent, to which many of the best Hackneys were exported.

The grace of the Hackney pony

It is exclusively a harness pony, trotting with a wonderful, airy grace that makes it seem to fly over the ground. In the days before motorization it was very popular as a carriage pony, and because of its high price and smartness.

Its appearance was valued and was fit as a prestige delivery pony by tradesmen who wanted to show their customers that they were successful. Fears that the car and truck would render it extinct have proved baseless. 

Hackneys are also popular throughout North America, where they appear in the show ring with tails nicked to give an artificially high carriage.

Though the American Hackney Horse Society Stud Book does not distinguish between horse and pony, the smaller American Hackneys of pony type, sometimes called “Bantam” Hackneys (some are bred as small as 11hh), must have definite pony character.

Aside from harness work they are also used for riding and for showjumping, at which sport they were once much in demand in Great Britain because of the powerful muscular development of the hindquarters and legs.

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