Best Horse Breeds For Kids: New Forest Pony – Characteristics, Height & Origin


Of Britain’s nine mountain and moorland breeds, the New Forest Pony is, with the exception of the Highland, the largest. Its ancestry, as in the case of the other breeds, is uncertain and based largely on conjecture, although in the days of Canute mention is made of wild horses living in the Forest. That such has existed continuously since those days there can be no doubt.

Today the New Forest Pony is allowed to roam at will over some 60,000 acres of forest in Hampshire, though in fact there is little to denote a forest, for the land is mostly bare of trees and offers the poorest pasture to the ponies, consisting in the main of heather and poor or rank glass. This has many effects on them, causing them to be hardy and economical feeders when brought off the Forest to ‘family’ life.

The breed has been subject to a considerable amount of ‘improving’ by various breeds, and Queen Victoria in 1852 lent an Arab stallion, ‘Zorah’, which was in the Forest for eight years. Not for several decades have alien stallions been turned out there, and the pony is now of a definite type, and increasingly, it would appear, breeds true to it. ‘Marske’, the sire of ‘Eclipse’, was kept by a farmer in the New Forest district for four years, 1765-1769, until ‘Eclipse’ became famous.

The New Forest ponies, as with other native breeds, play a most important part as foundation stock. Bred to survive the constant struggle for existence, they develop an acute sense of intelligence, courage, and resource. They are used to picking their way over rough ground and are consequently very sure-footed. Accustomed to seeing the traffic along the roads on the verges of which they constantly graze, they become immune to every kind of road terror and make the safest possible mount for children when properly broken in. The poor quality of the grazing and the fact of living out in every kind of weather provide them with constitutions of iron.

Owing to parts of the New Forest being largely a health and pleasure resort, the pony, though running wild, is less shy of mankind than other mountain and moorland breeds, and in consequence, is much in demand.

Description: The New Forest can be any color except piebald or skewbald, and is a good riding type of pony. The head is well set on and the neck a little short from throat to the chest, but the good, laid-back shoulder gives plenty of length of rein. The back is short and the loins and quarters strong; the tail is well set on, though not exaggeratedly high; the forearm and second thigh good, short cannon bones and good feet. The pony should have plenty of bone and straight but not exaggerated action. There are two sizes:

  • Type A: Ponies up to 13.2 hands, lighter in bone than the larger ones; ideal as children’s hunting ponies; with quality.
  • Type B: 13.2 hands up to 14.2 hands, with plenty of bone and substance: a strong type of pony able to carry adults.

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