History of the New Forest Pony
The New Forest Pony is named after the New Forest – that lightly-tamed area of old England between Southampton and Bournemouth in Hampshire.
The New Forest isn’t pure ‘forest’, rather it is today a huge tract of open country including forest and is hugely popular with the general public, as well as being a managed, farmed and working area of the countryside.
The New Forest Pony is a recognized British Isles breed but has an unusual background for a native pony breed. They have existed in the area for over a thousand years with attempts to standardize to a ‘type’ since the late 1920s; our lovable New Forest Pony is really the outcome of the interbreeding between the different bloodlines of the ponies that have been turned loose in the New Forest Commons over the years, giving wide variation from pony to pony.
Origin of the New Forest Pony
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. Since then, either as specific attempts to improve the breed or just as part of the normal ebb and flow of life and trade in the New Forest, many outside breeds were turned over to roam free and pasture on the commons. Notable blood lines introduced by this method were Welsh, Arab and Hackney. Later, another concerted effort was made to improve the New Forest blood and other British Isles pony blood-lines were introduced to achieve this, including Fell Ponies, Dales, Highlands, Dartmoor and Exmoor.
Right up to the present day, each New Forest Pony, even though privately owned, roams free in its natural and original environment. Even though owners pay for grazing rights their lives are relatively unhindered by man except during the autumn round-up when ownership of that year’s foals is established and breed stock selected by the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society.
Height of the New Forest Pony
New Forest Ponies range in size from 12 hh to 14.2 hh, and although there is no official lower limit, they seldom go below 12 hh.
Colour of the New Forest Pony
The most prominent colours are bay, brown and gray followed by chestnuts, roans and blacks. Limited white markings are allowed on the head and legs.
Characteristics of the New Forest Pony
You can identify a New Forester by its free, even movement, plenty of frame, muscular hind quarters, good depth of body and a sense of solidity in the frame. The head should show pride, the shoulders should be well sloped with deep reach, the quarters, strong and well muscled, the body is deep, and the legs show an even line with strong joints and stolid hooves.
Temperament of the New Forest Pony
They are noted for friendliness, intelligence, strength, versatility and are nearly always willing-to-please. New Forestors are amongst the most approachable of all the native British pony breeds, perhaps because of their history of frequent contact with man.
Uses of the New Forest Pony
The New Forest ponies most endearing quality is their inbred, gentle nature. Their calm temperaent naturally recommends them as an excellent choice and an ideal mount for families seeking a horse suitable for both children and adults. They have long been raced locally and are surprisingly fast, especially over rough terrain. They are suited to many social activities from Pony Club to Polo, Driving to Dressage, and they are naturals at jumping and gymkhana and are successfully trained to carry handicapped riders.