The French Saddle Pony, also known as the Poney Franšais de Selle, is one of a group of ponies throughout Europe and the United Kingdom that was specifically bred as a competition pony for children and smaller adults. The goal of the breeding programs was to keep the pony spirit and enthusiams but to add a refinement and athletic ability that would make these ponies excell at competitive events such as show jumping, dressage and eventing.
There are a huge number of breed influences in the development of the French Saddle Pony and they include the Selle Francais, New Forest Pony, Welsh Pony, Connemara, Merens, Basque, Landais and the Arabians. The emphasis in the French Saddle Pony development was not on pure bloodlines, but rather on creating a competition pony. Breeding was for performance, not for pedigree, which is something noted in most competition horse breeding in the 20th century.
Although primarily used as a show and competition pony in the demanding disciplines of dressage and show jumping, the French Saddle Pony makes and excellent driving pony in either teams or in solo hitches.
The French Saddle Pony can be registered with all Pony Clubs and with many of the Sport Pony Associations around the world.
Although competitive children's ponies for dressage and show jumping have been popular in Europe for the last two centuries, it is only recently that breeders have strove to develop a specific type to the pony that would allow them to be recognized as registry. The French Saddle Pony is a relatively newer competitive pony than either the British Riding Pony or the German Reitpony.
The French Saddle Pony can be any color or solids and patterns such as pinto are allowed within the breed. This is an attractive feature for riders that are looking for a pony with lots of flash or color.
French Saddle Ponies, although originally bred as children's ponies, are more than capable of competing with young adults or even smaller adults as riders. They are very spirited in the ring and have the typical show horse carriage and grace in the competitive ring or even when being ridden for pleasure that characterizes the broad group of competitive sports ponies.
The French Saddle Pony has not been as popular outside of Europe as many of the other competitive ponies. This is a trend that is changing with French Saddle Ponies seen in many Pony Club registries and Sport Pony Associations around the world.
A French Saddle Pony cross New Forest Pony stallion named Etoile d'Hardy represented France in the European Championship for Dressage in Germany in 2002.