New Forest Pony

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The New Forest Pony is an elegant, high-quality children’s riding pony. Okjen Farm

The New Forest Pony Association, Inc., and Registry of North America

P.O. Box 206

Pascoag, Rhode Island 02859

www.newforestpony.net

The New Forest Pony is known as a medium to large pony with three good gaits (not the short, fast pony gait) and a calm, quiet temperament that is well suited for children. It is a low maintenance pony that is elegant, without sacrificing hardiness, and loves to work. It is also a good performance pony with excellent temperament and can perform at the professional level. The breeding goals are to produce the highest quality riding pony for children, as well as other specific ideals such as elegance and durability, but always keeping in mind that it is solely for children to ride.

The breed stands out from other ponies due to its more horse-like gait and looks. The New Forest Ponies are flat ribbed, making it easy for children to get their legs around, unlike many of the round ribbed, barrel like ponies. They also resemble and perform like warmbloods, but in a smaller package. They are noted for their intelligence, strength, versatility, and quiet, willing-to-please temperament. As easy keepers with giving personalities, they are a wonderful choice for families and especially for children.

One owner, after discovering the breed for herself, remarked, “I had grown up with horses and, over the years, had ridden or owned horses of many breeds. However, I found that once I got over forty, I didn’t bounce like I used to. Knowing it’s a fact of life that if you ride, you may take a tumble every now and then, I thought that falling from 14.2 instead of 17.2 hands held a lot of appeal. Plus, I found that I didn’t have the same confidence that I did as a young rider.”

The New Forest is an all-encompassing pony: loving temperament, beautiful looks, warmblood movement, excellent athletic ability, and tons of versatility for dressage, driving, and jumping. It has comfortable gaits and is as smooth as any horse. It rides big, unlike most of the other pony breeds, and is very intelligent. It picks up quickly on training and learning new exercises, trying greatly not to disappoint.

The New Forest loves to be around people and makes an effort, even from a distance, to come for a pat or visit. It has excellent hooves, which are very strong; trimming and shoeing are not a constant necessity as with other breeds. It is a very economical pony to feed and own. Owners find that feeding and stall cleaning finishes a lot quicker because the ponies are not usually messy in their stalls.

History

The New Forest Pony is one of the recognized breeds of Mountain and Moorland ponies of the British Isles. They originated in, and were named after, the New Forest area located in Hampshire on the South Coast of England, which spreads out over ninety thousand acres. New Forest has remained a protected region over the years, and semi-feral New Forest Ponies still inhabit the area.

Although Canute’s Forest Law of 1016 records the presence of horses among the other wild animals of the forest, there are few written references about them. Just how and when all the New Forest Ponies passed into private ownership is not certain, but in general they seemed to have been valued locally for their docility, hardiness, strength, and sureness of foot. Thoroughbred and Arabian blood was introduced from time to time to improve their looks and increase height, but it was not until the end of the nineteenth century that systematic efforts to improve the breed were made.

In 1891, the Society for the Improvement of New Forest Ponies was founded to offer premiums to suitable stallions to run on the forest. In 1906, the Burley and District New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society started to register mares and young stock and published its first Stud Book in 1910. There was a current theory that the best way of improving the breed was to introduce stallions from other native breeds, and as the earliest Stud Book shows, there were acceptable sires from a curious assortment.

From 1914 to 1959, registrations were recorded in the National Pony Society’s Stud Book. In 1938, the two local societies amalgamated, and no outside blood has been permitted since the mid 1930s. In 1960, the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society published its own Stud Book and has done so ever since. A notable significance of New Forest Pony breeding in recent years has been the increase in both the numbers of ponies bred in private studs (breeding farms) outside the New Forest and in the numbers of ponies exported. There are now flourishing studs of registered New Forest Ponies not only in the United Kingdom, but all over Europe as well as in North America and Australia.

Performance Pony

In recent years, higher standards have been achieved by the breed due to the increased performance level required by the sports of dressage, jumping, and driving. To meet the demands for a modern sport type pony, the registries have selectively bred for better movement in all three gaits and toward a versatile, luxury sport pony.

The demand for good sport ponies has continuously grown worldwide, with an increased interest particularly in the United States in recent years. With the promotion of dressage as a junior/young rider’s sport by the U.S. Dressage Federation (USDF), the demand for dressage ponies has increased significantly. The New Forest Pony is a proven athlete and is capable of performing at the highest levels.

Many of the top European riders started their careers riding well-bred New Forest Ponies. At the 1991 European Pony Championships, the New Forest Pony was represented by five highly bred individuals, and their abilities would have been considered world class had they been horses. In 1977, New Foresters competed at the World Four-In-Hand Driving Championship. In 1993, a pony named Calypso won the USDF Bronze Medal in third-level dressage ridden by a nine-year-old girl.

New Forest Ponies are shown in Devon for under saddle and in-hand classes. They are seen at the International Sporthorse Registry (ISR)/Oldenburg inspections and at the American Warmblood Society (AWS), where they are approved and registered in the Sport Pony division. (ISR/Oldenburg is a warmblood sport horse and sport pony registry in which the horses and/or ponies are judged during an inspection on type, conformation correctness, and movement.)

In the United States

The herd in the United States began with twenty-two purebred champion ponies imported from England in 1950. Most of the original imports were brought to North America by Mr. and Mrs. Piel from Maine, Mary Wilson from Massachusetts, and Dr. and Mrs. Holbrook from Ontario, Canada. These individuals shared stories and ponies among themselves.

The New Forest Pony Association (NFPA) and Registry of North America was founded in 1989 by Lucille Guibault and Jody Waltz, both Rhode Island residents. It uses the same standards and forms as the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society in England. After Guibault reviewed all the studbooks from England to locate ponies in North America, she and Waltz eventually tracked down some pure New Foresters that had been bred, but never registered. The society sanctioned the Welsh Pony Show to include a New Forest Pony Division from 1990 to 1995 with a qualified pony judge from England and Wales. Enthusiasts from Canada also included a New Forest Pony Division at the Ancaster Fair from 1995 to 1999.

In the mid 1990s, Linda Kindle, now the president of the registry, became involved. Kindle was born and raised in the Netherlands, and her parents owned and operated a riding academy that had mostly New Forest Ponies. “The main reason we purchased New Forest Ponies for our riding school was their steady temperament and their ability to perform well,” says Kindle. “Over the twenty years that we ran the riding academy, there was never an incident where anyone was injured on these ponies. In general, they are very tolerant and willing to please.”

Other breeders started to recognize the potential of these sport ponies and began to import new blood into North America. Canada imported from England, and the East Coast of the United States also imported an approved stallion along with some New Forest Pony mares from Holland.

In 1992, the NFPA expanded its responsibilities and commitment to the breed by becoming a fully operational registry for the United States and Canada, and produced its first studbook in the same year. The NFPA is the only licensed and recognized registry for the breed in North America, and it follows the same guidelines and standards as in England. Since the association’s expansion, the NFPA has been responsible for more than three hundred registrations of New Forest foals and ponies brought from England and Holland.

Registration

A pony is eligible for registration in the NFPA Stud Book if its sire and dam are registered in a recognized New Forest Pony Stud Book, provided that it meets the recognized breed standards. Its sire must be registered and licensed before the mare was covered.

Most European countries have inspections and a performance test that stallions must complete to become a breeding stallion. Inspection is where the pony is shown in-hand on both hard and soft footing, performs free-jumping, and completes a veterinarian exam. In the performance test, the pony is judged under saddle in dressage, free-jumping, stadium jumping with a rider, and cross-country jumping with a rider, and then has another veterinarian examination.

Due to the fairly small amount of registrations and large distances between breeders, it is difficult for the NFPA to have the same inspections as in Europe. The Registry is, however, working toward organizing an inspection tour with European judges to inspect all New Forest Ponies in North America.

Currently, there is a veterinary exam required for the stallion at the age of two and one-half years. If it passes the exam, it receives a temporary license to breed New Forest mares. During this time, the stallion must enter in an Open Halter Class or inspection in a pony division and registry, such as ISR/Oldenburg, USDF, or the American Warmblood Society, all of which are accepted.

After the age of three years, the pony stallion must have performed a first-level dressage test with a minimum score of 58 percent, or have performed in a Hunter Jumper class and placed in the top three. For the final stallion approval, another veterinary exam is performed when the stallion is five years old. Before the age of six, performance testing must have been completed.

Section A main Stud Book is for purebred New Forest Ponies with three generations of registered New Forest Ponies on the sire and dam sides. Section F main Stud Book is for Canadian-born ponies that are purebred New Forests with three generations of registered New Forests on the sire and dam sides. There must also be DNA test results on file for both the sire and dam.

Entry in the First Cross Section is open to the progeny of registered New Forest Ponies mated to a registered purebred horse or pony of a different breed, but not any color breeds. Part-bred ponies are not accepted for regular registration.

Standards

New Forest Ponies range in size from 12 to 14.2 hands. The colors allowed for registration are bay, brown, gray, chestnut, roan, and black. Limited white markings are allowed on the head and legs, otherwise they are not allowed unless they were acquired from scars. Blue-eyed creams, palominos, piebalds, and skewbalds are not permitted.

Well-bred New Foresters display free, well balanced, straight movement, plenty of bone, strong quarters, and good depth of body; they must be a riding type with substance.

New Forest Ponies are suited to a kaleidoscope of activities, from dressage, driving, jumping, Pony Club, polo, and gymkhana, and are successfully trained to carry disabled riders.

One of their most endearing qualities is their natural, gentle manner. Their calm dispositions naturally make them excellent choices for children.

“As with a lot of the people who own these ponies, I have had a great companionship with the ponies I owned,” says Kindle. “One of the ponies I had, named Sasha, was one of the special ones that became a one-person horse. She became my favorite and we did everything together. . . . When I had grown out of her, we had to find a new home for Sasha. It took three tries to find her a good home because she didn’t want to accept any of the people wanting to buy her. A mother was looking for a companion for her daughter who was born deaf and had a speech impairment. When the little girl approached Sasha, she immediately connected with her and the two became inseparable. This was the first horse the little girl ever owned and she soon learned to ride on her. It became an incredible bond, and they spent hours on end together.”

The future of the breed looks very promising. Not only kids, but smaller adults looking for a top- level performance prospect are turning to New Forest Ponies because of their versatile capabilities. They are also shaking up the world in top-level competitive driving with frequent wins.

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The New Forest is a noble, yet gentle pony. Okjen Farm

Breeding Goals

The first prerequisite is for a functional pony. The second is to produce a type that matches the market demands. There should be selective breeding toward a performance pony that today’s rider wants, one that can perform more. The original type should not be lost, but there can be a little more elegance and the capability to compete against hunter/jumper ponies in the United States, Canada, and Europe beyond the typical riding pony.

Specializing in breeding could produce a dressage type, which should have correct gaits with a good overstepping walk, an extended trot pushing from behind, and a round, well balanced canter, as well as exhibiting talent besides good conformation and pedigree. A hunter/jumper should have jumping talent with scope, good canter, good jumping blood in the pedigree, and exterior soundness. An English and western pleasure pony should be calm with a pleasant, flat-moving trot and canter, and a good exterior and pedigree. The conformation of a dressage pony can be good for jumping also, yet a good hunter/jumper is not always a good dressage pony. Likewise, an English and western pleasure mount is not always a good jumper and, gait-wise, will not always make a good dressage pony.

The best selection would be for the all-around pony. Jumping can make heavy demands on any animal, especially on one already more susceptible to injury. With the added burden of the rider, the pony is most at risk when landing after a jump. The legs of dressage ponies are also subject to injuries and infections more frequently than is most often assumed. Classical dressage often consists of very strongly collected gaits, which place a greater burden on joints and tendons.

Credit: The New Forest Pony Association, Inc. and Registry of North America

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