About Hackney Horses

an elegant 4-up of Hackney Horses to a Park Drag

an elegant 4-up of Hackney Horses to a Park Drag

HISTORY OF THE HACKNEY


The foundation of this breed began in England with the tradition of trotting horses.

King Henry VIII required the wealthy to keep a specified number of trotting horse stallions.

The origins of the Hackney as we know it began in Norfolk, England in the mid 1700’s, where the horses called Norfolk Trotters had been selectively bred for elegant style and speed. Seeking to improve on both counts, breeders mated the Norfolk mares to grandsons of the foundation sires of the Thoroughbred. The first Hackney as we know the breed today is said to be The Shale’s Horse, foaled in 1760. During the next 50 years, the Hackney was developed into a specialized breed.

Trotting races, usually under saddle, were very popular in the early part of the 19th century and this breed excelled in them.  The development of the Hackney breed matched, stride for stride, the improvement in both the quality of life and the use of public roadways in Britain.  Hackneys were prized for their stamina and soundness and for their ability to eat up the miles at trot rather than any high knee action at this time.

 During the nineteenth century, the Hackney was sought after by many governments for crossbreeding to improve their military stock. Hackney stallions were actively exported to France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Finland, Holland and Hungary.   Many European warmblood breeds can trace their origins to the hackney crosses including the Gelderlander, Dutch Warmblood, Friesian, Standard bred and American Saddlebred.

Hackney horses were also imported by Canada, Argentina, Australia, Africa, and the United States to be used as fancy carriage horses.

 It is also widely believed that Justin Morgan, the foundation sire of the Morgan Breed, was a Norfolk Roadster. Hackney blood is dominant when out crossed and appears to influence rather then be influenced.

 

When trotting races began to lose their popularity in the second half of the nineteenth century, the breed was gradually transformed into the specialist show horse that we know today. Up to that point, there were 2 types of Hackney – the heavier coach type and the light horse similar to today’s horse.  The Hackney was the ultimate driving machine of the 1880s both in America and in Britain.

 

 The Hackney pony evolved in the span of a few years in the 1870’s in England by crossing Hackney horses with Fell and Welsh ponies. The pony has all the speed, action and courage of the horse but is a true pony with pony character.


In the early Twentieth Century the show hackney reached it’s hey day in 1911 when there were 626 entries at the London Hackney Show.   Interest in driving began to decrease between the 2 World Wars due to the increased use of the automobile when the breed was heading toward extinction since the Hackney was viewed as a specialist show animal.  Fortunately, by 1948 the demand for Hackneys began to recover.


From the 1940’s on, the focus for the breed remained in driving. It was rare to find the Hackney shown in any other arena. It has been said that they are not suitable for work under saddle as they are an uncomfortable ride. This may be true of the fine harness horse whose high step has been accentuated through various training methods but it is hardly true of the pleasure horse! The pleasure horse with it’s natural high step is a very comfortable ride.

 

 They were used for polo in the 1950’s & 60’s, and, the ability of the Hackney as a jumper has been known for many years.

 

Confidence jumped 7 feet 2 inches at the New York National Horse Show in 1910 and later cleared 8 feet 1 1/2 inches.

Sir Ashton (later renamed Greatheart) jumped 8 feet 2 inches in 1915. There are not many present day jumpers capable of clearing that height.  Between the 2 World Wars the show jumping scene was full of Hackneys. The half-Hackney mare, Tosca, was the Gold Medal winner for the German team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Hackney ponies often are used as children’s hunters.

 

In the Twenty-First Century, Hackneys have made their presence known in Combined Driving for the United States Equestrian Team for the 2000 World Singles Championships, and World Pony Championships with a pair of Hackney Ponies.


There is nothing more elegant than a Hackney Horse put to an antique carriage or coach. Why drive another breed when you can have the Rolls Royce of carriage driving?!  When you are tired of the rest, step up to the best- step up to a HACKNEY.

 

HISTORY OF THE HACKNEY PONY

The evolution of the Hackney Pony as distinct from the Hackney Horse occurred in the latter half of the 19th Century when a Mr. Wilson of Westmoreland set out to breed a Hackney pony. He wanted not just an undersized Hackney horse but an animal with distinct pony character. He brought mainly Fell brood mares and also experimented with a Welsh pony cross. His chosen foundation stallion was a brown stallion called Sir George, an animal with outstanding looks, presence and action, standing just under 14hh.

The first Hackney pony imported to America was 239 Stella, brought to Philadelphia in 1878.

From 1890 until the Depression, wealthy Americans brought boatload after boatload of horses and ponies of the most noted strains.

These ponies have 4 classifications:

THE COB TAIL

The Hackney Cob Tail division is for ponies measuring 14.2 hands and under at the withers.  These ponies must be shown with the appearance of a shortened tail and with a braided mane.  Ponies are to be shown to a four-wheel vehicle called a viceroy.

THE HARNESS PONY

The Hackney Harness Pony (or Long Tail) must measure 12.2 hands or under at the withers. It must be shown with a long mane and an undocked tail. Ponies are to be shown to a four-wheeled vehicle called a viceroy.

THE ROAD PONY

This very popular and speedy Hackney measures below 13 hands and shows at three separate trotting speeds: the jog, the road gait, and at speed.  They are shown to a two-wheeled road bike with their drivers wearing racing silks. There are three divisions for the roadsters, the Open, Amateur, and Junior Exhibitor.

THE PLEASURE PONY

The Pleasure Pony is 14.2 hands or under, and is well mannered and a pleasure to drive.  These ponies may be Long tail or Cob Tail, and are shown with unbraided manes and tails to an appropriate pleasure vehicle.

Both the Hackney horse and the hackney pony are still prized for their intelligence, stamina, soundness, and their beautiful naturally high stepping action.

Credits to: Karen Knowak, Dr. Alice Simpson, DVM, American Hackney Horse Assoc., British Hackney Soc.

Links to more Hackney information:

http://cast.csufresno.edu/agops/farm/animal/horse/hackney%20program.htm

 

HACKNEY FACTS

 

v    The breed was started in the mid- 1700’s in England with the Norfolk Trotter.

 

v    Hackneys were prized for their stamina and soundness and for their ability to eat up the miles at trot rather than any high knee action at this time.

 

v    Hackney HORSES are listed as ‘RARE’ by the ABLC (American Breeds Livestock Conservancy), as their numbers are fewer than 5000 globally.

 

v    In 2008 there were only 14 Hackney HORSES registered, vs.  242 Hackney PONIES in the  USA.

 

v    In the USA in 2007 there were only 26 Hackney HORSES registered, vs.  495 Hackney PONIES

 

v    The Hackney HORSE and the PONY are 2 distinct different types of the same breed.

 

v    The Hackney was sought after by many governments for crossbreeding to improve their military stock. Hackney stallions were actively exported to France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Finland, Holland and Hungary.   Many European warmblood breeds can trace their origins to the hackney crosses including the Gelderlander, Dutch Warmblood, Friesian, Standard bred and American Saddlebred.

 

v    Hackney blood is dominant when out crossed and appears to influence rather then be influenced.

 

v    The Hackney pony evolved in the span of a few years in the 1870’s in England by crossing Hackney horses with Fell and Welsh ponies. The pony has all the speed, action and courage of the horse but is a true pony with pony character.

 

v    The ability of the Hackney as a jumper has been known for many years.

 

v    Confidence jumped 7 feet 2 inches at the New York National Horse Show in 1910 and later cleared 8 feet 1 1/2 inches.

photo-confidance-jumping

 

v    Sir Ashton (later renamed Greatheart) jumped 8 feet 2 inches in 1915. There are not many present day jumpers capable of clearing that height.  Between the 2 World Wars the show jumping scene was full of Hackneys.

 

v    Many children’s hunters are ex-hackney show ponies.

 

v    The half-Hackney mare, Tosca, was the Gold Medal winner for the German team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

 

v    In the Twenty-First Century, Hackneys have made their presence known in Combined Driving for the United States Equestrian Team for the 2000 World Singles Championships, and World Pony Championships with a pair of Hackney Ponies.

 

v    Hackney ponies come in 4 types: Cob Tail, Roadster, Harness, pleasure pony

v    Both the Hackney horse and the Hackney pony are still prized for their outstanding intelligence, stamina, soundness, and their beautiful naturally high stepping action.  They also tend to live well into their 20’s and 30’s.

 

v    The ponies tend to be more flighty and over react to stimuli, giving them the bad reputation for being ‘hotter than a $2 pistol’.

 

v    The Hackney personality is wonderful, but only after you’ve proven yourself worthy of your hackney!  They are brave, confident, and can be very affectionate.  The hackney is easily bored and will find mischief to get into if not kept busy.  They LOVE to work.

 

v    Hackneys are not for everyone.  They are considered a ‘Horseman’s Horse’.  The Horses are often slow to mature, and often not until they are 8-10 years old.

 

 

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