Many people think of the Hackney Horse as the English carriage
horse but these well bred equines also make very suitable
riding horses and they are known for having excellent endurance
and good tempers. They also have a distinctive high-stepping
gait which makes them popular in the show ring, but it is
true that most of the horses are trained for driving.
The Hackney Horse has its roots in the 1300's when a desire
for a sturdy riding horse emerged in England in the 14th century
and various horses with incredible stamina and smooth gaits
started to be bred. But the modern Hackney Horse roots can
be found in the 1700's in Norfolk, England, where the horses
called Norfolk Trotters had been selectively bred for elegant
style and speed. When people crossed the famous Norfolk Trotter
mares with the grandsons of the foundation sires of the newly
emerging Thoroughbred, the result was the Hackney Horse, which
blended desirable traits from both breeds. The first Hackney
is said to be The Shale's Horse who was foaled in 1760. During
the next 50 years, the Hackney was developed as a special
In the early 1880's the name Hackney was chosen for the
breed because it was non-geographical and was also the name
of one of the carriages that it was often seen driving. The
British Hackney Horse Society (BHHS) was formed in 1883 to
provide a registry and to formalize the breeding of the horse.
The first Hackney Pony was imported to America in 1878 and
in 1891 the American Hackney Horse Society (AHHS) was founded
and affiliated with the English Hackney Society (CEHS) and
maintains the registry of the Hackney Horse and Hackney Pony.
From 1890 until the Depression, wealthy Americans and Canadians
imported boatloads of horses and ponies of the most noted
strains to be used as fancy carriage horses. When trotting
races began to lose their popularity in the second half of
the 19th century, the breed was gradually transformed into
the show horse that we see today.
Up to that point, there were 2 types of Hackney Horse -
the heavier coach type and the light horse similar to today's
horse. Along with the Hackney Horse, there are four types
of Hackney ponies. The Hackney Pony is smaller with distinct
pony traits and evolved in the span of a few years in the
1870's in England. It was developed by Christopher Wilson
who crossed Hackney Horses with Fell Ponies and Welsh Ponies,
which are extremely hardy British ponies well known for their
sassy attitude and surefootedness. The pony has all the speed,
action and courage of the horse but is a true pony with pony
character. Hackney ponies have a reputation for being tenacious
yet every bit as strong as their horse relatives. The differences
are in their sizes, show ring performance and the appearance
of their mane and tail. The pony was actively imported by
United States as the horse was.
The Hackney Pony is also known as the Cob Tail and is a
dynamic high-stepper that stands 14.2 hands and under. These
ponies are shown with a shortened tail and with a braided
mane. They are hitched to a four-wheel vehicle called a viceroy
and are shown in pairs. The Hackney Harness Pony is also called
the Long Tail and this dynamic high-stepper stands 12.2 hands
and under. It is shown with a long mane and an undocked tail.
They are hitched to a four-wheel vehicle called a viceroy
and are also shown in pairs.
The Hackney Roadster Pony, or Road Pony, is popular and
speedy and measures below 13 hands. It has 3 separate trotting
speeds: jog, road gait and at speed. It is shown hitched to
a two-wheeled road bike with the drivers wear racing silks.
They are also shown under saddle by Junior Exhibitors wearing
racing silks. In a new division, the Road Pony is raced hitched
to a miniature doctor's buggy.
The Hackney Pleasure Pony is the newest variety and stands
14.2 hands or under. These may be shown either as Long Tail
or Cob Tail but with unbraided manes and tails and hitched
to an appropriate pleasure vehicle. They can be shown only
by Amateurs or Junior Exhibitors in any of the following gaits:
pleasure trot, road trot, and flat walk. They must be able
to stand quietly in the line-up and back up when asked. It
is well mannered, quiet, and a pleasure to drive.
In contrast, the Hackney Horse must stand over 14.2 hands
to approximately 16.2 hands and is shown in a variety of ways,
such as the many different driving and carriage events, as
singles, pairs, tandems, four in hand, and obstacle with some
also being shown under saddle as dressage, eventing and trail
riding. Some people also rely on the Hackney's sound feet
and intelligence to help them through challenging courses
of competitive jumping.
The Hackney has a small, refined head like its Thoroughbred
ancestors, along with a muscular, compact body and long neck.
There should be a general impression of alertness. The Hackney
can have either a long or a docked tail that is carried high.
They have a bright spirit, and gentleness, along with intelligence
and responsiveness when well trained.
Both the Hackney Horse and the Hackney Pony, have a good
reputation for soundness. In order to be accepted into the
Hackney studbook, the modern Hackney must be black, brown,
bay or chestnut with some small white markings permitted.
But the most identifiable trait of a Hackney Horse is their
incredibly flexible knees that give these horses a high stepping,
showy gait, especially in the trot. This action of Hackney
is the hallmark of the breed and often amazes the first time
Hackney viewer. According to the AHHS, the gait is described
thusly: "Shoulder action is fluid and free with a very high,
ground covering knee action. Action of the hind legs is similar
but to a lesser degree. The hocks should be brought under
the body and raised high. All joints should exhibit extreme
flexion. The action must be straight and true. The whole effect
must be arresting and startling, showing extreme brilliance."
Author Resource:-> Crystal Eikanger is a writer for