Herds of ponies have lived on the New Forest for thousands of years. The New Forest ponies are fantastic family ponies because they are so docile and gentle.
Evidence of ponies living on the New Forest have been found and dated back to before the last Ice Age. These ponies were approximately 12 hh and more closely resembled the Exmoor Ponies. New Forest ponies were also used in the pits.
During the 19th century the breed quality declined and attempts were made to 'improve' the ponies - Queen Victoria loaned an Arab stallion who spent 8 years in the Forest. Later a Thoroughbred stallion was introduced, unfortunately all this did was to cause the breed to lose its hardiness and dilute the breed.
In 1937 the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society was formed and did not allow any 'foreign' blood. The numbers of ponies on the Forest fell until 1945, when there were only 570, but since then have increased to several thousands, currently approximately 4500.
The ponies are now exported all over the world, to the US, Australia, New Zealand and throughout Europe.
The New Forest ponies live in small groups which usually consist of an older mare and her female progeny .... and their foals. These groups have their own areas of the Forest. All the ponies have owners and, as with the Dartmoor ponies, every Autumn there is a roundup by the owners and the ponies are wormed and checked over. Each pony's tail is trimmed in a specific pattern to show that the grazing fee has been paid and which area of the Forest the owner lives. Ponies not strong enough to cope over the coming winter and foals destined to be sold are separated before the others are released again. Approved stallions are then allowed out on the Forest for a short time each year during the Spring/Summer.
Height: Not exceeding 14.2hh
Colour: Any colour except skewbald or piebald, but most often Bay or Brown.
Conformation: Well set head with good sloping shoulders and a short back. The quarters are powerful and legs straight with good bone and round, hard feet.
Temperament: They have excellent temperaments and are generous, docile, and intelligent. They are hardy, strong, sure footed and agile.
The New Forest ponies make excellent children's ponies as they are real all-rounders. Used for hunting, jumping, dressage and eventing. They are also used for gymkhanas and driving! The larger New Forest ponies are also able to carry adults and as such make excellent riding club ponies!
I always thought my first pony might be a New Forest - looking at these photos I am even more convinced he was!
The New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society Website: http://www.newforestpony.com/
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