The Origin of the New Forest Pony
The New Forest consists of 93,000 acres of forest, heathland and grassy lawns in Hampshire in southern England. Residents of the New Forest still graze their cattle, horses and donkeys in the Forest.
There have been ponies in the New Forest for 1000 years so it is impossible to accurately trace the origins of the "Forester". Since early times the New Forest was on the well-travelled route from London to Winchester (which was once the English capital) and there were limitless opportunities for the crossing of domestic stock with the wild ponies.
In more recent times, from the 1800s onwards, a variety of breeds have been used to improve the Forest stock, including Arabian and Thoroughbred, as well as other native English breeds such as the Exmoor pony and the Dartmoor pony. Marske, the reputed sire of the great Eclipse, covered New Forest mares for a period of four years from 1765. It is not surprising then, that there is much variation in the type and size seen in the ponies still running in the forest. The ponies running in the forest are tough and hardy, able to subsist on poor quality forage, as are many native breeds.
Characteristics of the New Forest Pony
New Forest ponies range from 12.2 to 14.2 hands high and can be any solid color. Various shades of bay are most common. They are well built ponies with a good sloping shoulder which gives them a good straight action, making them popular ponies for riding or driving. They have a tendancy toward a shortish neck and large head and most have good feet, short backs and strong hind quarters. They have a good temperament, making them suitable ponies for any member of the family.
The New Forest Pony Today
Currently there are in the region of 3,000 ponies running on the Forest, owned by those with "commoners" grazing rights. They are rounded up annually for branding, tail-marking or sale at the regularly-held New Forest Beaulieu Road sales.
The ponies are very popular are are bred at numerous studs thoughout Britain and abroad. Since the 1950s, ponies have been exported to the United States, Canada, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany and Australia.