The Hackney pony is a breed of pony closely related to the Hackney horse. Originally bred to pul carriages, they are used today primarily as show ponies. The breed does not have its own stud book, but shares one with the Hackney Horse in all countries that have an official Hackney Stud Book Registry.
First known as Wilson Ponies, they were usually kept out all year, wintering in the inhospitable Fells with little food or care. This developed the breed's great toughness and endurance. By the 1880s the breed was established, and was very much liked for its great trotting ability and class.
The breed was used in Great Britain as carriage horses and were also imported into the United States. They were considered to be very stylish to drive during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when automobiles were still uncommon. After horses were replaced by cars as a primary means of transportation, Hackney ponies, along with many other horse breeds, were deemed unable to contribute to society and declined considerably. After World War II, however, the Hackney pony developed into primarily a show pony, and remain being bred for that purpose today. Thus their drastic decline in numbers and plight toward extinction came to an end, and the breed was popularized once again.
Many Hackney pony breeders today continue to develop a quality, refined pony. In the United States, Hackney ponies have also had considerable influence on the American version of the Shetland pony. They were crossbred with Shetlands to produce the American Shetland show pony of today, a type which displays many of the refined characteristics of the Hackney pony. The Hackney has also influenced the miniature horse, adding refinement and action.
The hackney pony is a very common and distinctive contender in horse shows, seen primarily with saddlebreds and standardbred road horses. In the show ring, the hackney pony is most commonly seen being driven in harness. They are also shown under saddle, usually as road ponies, and [[halter|horse show|in hand] as weanlings or yearlings. Their world's championship is the Kentucky Kentucky State Fair Horse Show in Louisville, Kentucky, and their national championship is the American Royal in Kansas City, Missouri. There are four primary divisions in which they are shown.
In addition to being shown with a bike, road ponies are shown under saddle by junior exhibitors or hooked to a four-wheel wagon. Wagon classes are relatively new but growing in popularity; the World's Championship Horse Show offered a wagon class for the first time in 2006.
The Cobtail pony division is often called the "hackney pony" division, particularly by the USEF, although this can be confusing since the common name of the division is the same as the breed itself, and there is obviously more than one division for the breed. Cobtail ponies are shown with a braided mane and a docked tail. They are generally tall, for any height of pony is permitted to show in the division as long as it is still a pony, not exceeding 14.2 hands.
There is also a pleasure driving division for the breed, which is for a variety of different types. There is no height requirements except that the hackney be a pony, and the pony can have a long or docked tail. Pleasure ponies are shown to a two-wheeled cart, and the driver usually wears more casual dress. The division has classes for adult amateurs (trainers are not allowed to show in pleasure classes) and junior exhibitors. They are shown at a road gait, pleasure trot, and flat walk. Temperament is a more primary factor for judges; the pleasure pony should indeed be a pleasure to drive. Other than that, they are judged on basically the same parameters as the other three types.
Some hackneys are shown in one or two pairs in harness, though classes which are designated for this are fairly rare.
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