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A Hackney showing the typical action of the breed. The Hackney

The Hackney Horse is an elegant high stepping breed of carriage horse entirely British bred. It made its appearance in the 18th century in Yorkshire and Norfolk in the UK and quickly became the ideal carriage horse of the day - only to be replaced by the motor car in the 1920's.

Today, Hackney Horses and Ponies are renowned for their brilliant and extravagant displays of high stepping action in the show ring. Pulling smart four-wheeled show wagons or immaculate in Private Drive or Concourse d'Elegance turnouts, they captivate audiences worldwide with their grace, elegant bearing and lively personality. What many people do not know is how the Hackney and Hackney Pony evolved from quite humble origins to become through two centuries of selective breeding, one of the most spectacular of British breeds.

A Hackney horse In the 18th century, Hackneys were mainly used as dual-purpose nags by farmers, who greatly valued them for their courage, soundness and endurance. Even then their reputation as sports horses was growing, and there are many contemporary reports of their trotting feats, both ridden and driven - 16 miles in an hour or 60 miles in a day were regular achievements. The famous mare Nonpareil is reputed to have trotted 100 miles in 9 hours 56 minutes, showing no signs of fatigue. The sporting gentlemen of the day matched their animals against each other for considerable amounts of money.

Hackneys continued to develop through selective breeding into types suitable for the job in hand. The heavier sort, used mainly for coach work and remounts for the British Army were also exported for improving the breeding of European military horses. The smaller, lighter animals were used for private harness work and sporting activities. In 1866, a Mr. Wilson from Westmorland used his 14 hand Hackney stallion on a pony mare, The Pet, said to be a thoroughbred, and the resulting filly was in time put back to the Hackney stallion. The progeny of these matings formed the foundations of the Hackney Pony, completing the size range for the breed which now extends from under 12 to over 16 hands. Hackneys are now exported all over the world, mainly to improve the breed, but also for show purposes.

Although modern Hackneys may often be regarded as specialised animals, suitable for their showing role, this is far from the truth. In the driving world as well as being recognised as the superlative animal for Concours d'Elegance, Private Driving, Trade and Coaching classes, Hackneys and Hackney cross-breds compete with great success in the taxing disciplines of Carriage Driving Trials. They also perform successfully in ridden dressage, eventing and show jumping. Breeders are once again looking at these remarkable horses when making plans for the breeding of competition horses and ponies, for the Hackney's attributes of quality, courage, activity and great strength, qualify him for serious consideration in the breeding of the modern Sports Horse.

The Hackney Horse Society

The information and pictures on this page are provided by the Hackney Horse Society. For more information please follow this link to visit the Hackney Horse Society

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