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The New Forest Pony, in Hampshire, England displays a distinctive type that somehow occurred from a vast influx of cross-breeding with original stock. Because of the current New Forest pony’s scope and ability it is in great demand throughout Europe.
The habitat of the New Forest Pony is the county of Hampshire, England, where the ponies, a mixture of almost all British native breeds, live in a semi-wild sate. New Forest came to be this pony’s name because it was traditionally bred in a wooded area called The New Forest. The Foresters have been subject to outside influences for centuries because of the position of the Forest, an area crossed by the principal routes to the West. England is known for her native pony breeds, and the New Forest Pony is one of them.
Ever since Canute’s Forest Law in 1016, there have been efforts to improve the New Forest Pony. In 1208, Welsh mares were put into the Forest; in the 1700’s the Thoroughbred stallion Marske served Forest mares for a short time; and in the 1800’s Queen Victoria loaned Arabian and Barb stallions. Then Lord Cecil and Lord Lucas managed to introduce Highlands, Fells, Dales, Dartmoors, Exmoors Welsh phonies and even a Basuto Pony gained in the Boer War. The New Forest Pony surprisingly became a distinctive type emerging from this mix of breeds.
One of the major influences in the evolution of the New Forest Pony was the polo pony stallion Field Marshal, out of a Welsh mare who contributed his influence from 1918 to 1919. Other foundation stallions are: Denny Danny, with a line to the Welsh Pony Dyoll Starlight; Goodenough and Brookside David, both tracing to Field Marshall; Brroming Slipo and Knightwood Spitfire, grandsons of the Highland Pony Clansman. Of course the Throughbred Marske, the stallion used in 1765 was a son of Eclipse. Once Eclipse’s reputation was established, Marske was returned to stud in Yorkshire!
Despite the presence of so many contributing breeds, it is the Forest that provides what Lord Cecil observed as “the mysterious power of nature to grind down and assimilate all these types to the one most suited to the land”. The Forest, provided sufficient if not abundant good and has influenced the essential character and the distinctive movement of the versatile and sure-footed New Forest Pony.
The breed society is the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society, formed after the amalgamation of earlier societies in 1938, and produced its own studbook in 1960. In recent years an increasing number of Foresters have been bred in private studs outside the Forest and many ponies have been exported throughout Europe, Canada and Australia.
In spite of a considerable height range, the New Forest Pony is generally regarded as a large Mountain and Moorland breed and most breeders aim to produce strong animals with plenty of bone at a height over 13hh. The upper height limit is 14.2hh, but much Forest-bred stock may be smaller. The Forester still retains the special character and movement inherited from its natural environment.
The New Forest Pony has real riding shoulders and a typically long, low action made very evident at the canter, which is an outstanding characteristic.
Very used to human contact, they are easily handled and are excellent performers and very strong, the larger ones easily carrying adults. The Forester is an all-round riding pony and has plenty of depth through the girth.
The New Forest Pony varies in type and is occasionally somewhat horsey about the head. The overall impression is of intelligence and they are easily trained.
The modern Forester is in great demand throughout Europe. The pony has good strong limbs. The action is fee, long and low, the canter being especially good and they are wonderful cross-country ponies as well as remarkably sure footed.
Any color is found except piebald, skewbald or blue-eyed cream. Bays and browns predominate.
Most New Forest Ponies are good jumpers and are naturally good at gymkhana and mounted games, and make excellent harness ponies. The New Forest Pony has been successfully trained for dressage, polo, long-distance riding, cross-country events, has long been raced locally and is fast, even over rough terrain.