The Hackney Horse and the Hackney Pony have become so intertwined that many people assume that the pony is simply and shorter version of the horse, but this is actually not true. Even though they are usually found in the same breeding societies, both can be considered to be individual breeds, and while the pony certainly came from the horse, they enjoy two very different histories. Here we'll take a look at the differences between the Hackney Horse and the Hackney Pony.
The Hackney horse can actually trace its history all the way back to medieval times, when the word "haquenee" was used in the language of the time that combined Old English and French. The word was meant to describe a horse with a comfortable trot, and it came to describe a horse that was able to serve in a variety of tasks, from riding and driving to doing light work, with a great deal of stamina and an excellent trotting gait. By the 18th century, native Hackneys were being crossed with Arabians, which added some refinement to the horse. By this time, the Hackneys were mostly being used as harness horses, thanks to a general improvement in the roads throughout Great Britain at this time. Ignoring their infamous high knee action, the Hackneys of this period were prized more for their extraordinary stamina and speed, even under saddle. As carriages became more sophisticated, the desire for an aristocratic, showy horse was demanded, and the Hackney easily fit the bill with its high knee action and proud carriage.
Finally, the Hackney Stud Book Society was formed in 1883 and has continued to be published, with the most current edition printed in the year 2000, making well over one hundred years of Hackney history in these books. In the 20th century, the Hackney gained worldwide recognition as it was exported to North America, Australia, South America, and Europe.
The Hackney Pony, however, has a much more recent history but can be traced back to one man, who wished to not only create a smaller Hackney Horse, but to introduce the true pony character to the breed. This man was Christopher Wilson and he lived in Westmoreland, England at the end of the 19th century. Using a brown stallion called Sir George as his foundation stallion; Wilson combined Fell Ponies and Welsh Ponies to create his pony breed. Wilson also believed that the ponies would better be able to maintain their smaller height and hardiness by leaving them to pasture throughout the year, as many native ponies in Great Britain are used to. First called Wilson Ponies, the breed became a success. Much like the Hackney Horse, the Pony saw the danger of extinction during the Second World War, but thanks to a few dedicated breeders, the pony survived and soon was mostly bred for the show ring.
The most obvious difference between the two breeds is the height difference. The Hackney Pony will mature to between 12.2 and 14 hands, while the Hackney Horse is typically taller than 14.2 hands. However, while the pony does have the same general conformation of the horse, it will have some typically pony features, such as smaller ears and a small but fine muzzle. It should also be noted that the Hackney Pony does not have its own studbook at this time, although it is included in the studbooks of major Hackney Horse Societies.