Hackney ponies are considered rare and are generally kept for showing and breeding more Hackney ponies. However, no matter how careful a breeder is, many will wind up in a slaughterhouse or abandoned by their owners. This is happening to all horse and pony breeds on both sides of the Atlantic and is not necessarily any character flaw on the part of the ponies. The cause was the 2008 economic crisis.
Hackney ponies are very elegant in appearance which may attract inexperienced pony owners. These are highly intelligent, highly sensitive ponies that need patient and experienced handling, especially if they are young animals. Unless the child is an exceptionally good equestrian, these ponies should be handled by adults.
Although they can be ridden, they usually do not grow large enough for tall adults to ride them. Instead, they pull small, four-wheeled show carts. Hackney ponies are capable of learning jumping, dressage or just about anything you want to teach them. They are not only found in classes restricted to Hackney ponies, but many Hackney pony owners may select breed-specific classes in order to win points given by the country’s Hackney breeders’ association.
Once a Hackney pony meets a sensible human, they can settle down to have some fun. Although considered the quintessential show pony, they do enjoy hitting the trail just like any other pony.
One elderly Hackney named Tony the Pony is the school horse for children at Orchard Hill Stables in Sebring, Florida. In his younger days, he competed in competitive trail rides.
In 1998, 240 Hackney ponies were found abused on 60 acres in Paola, Kansas. 133 were stallions, which constantly fought with each other and divided the females into small herds. The Hackney ponies were left without decent food, fencing, water or veterinary care. Manure had grown into hills that reached five feet high. But somehow, 240 managed to survive, although an unknown number had died before rescuers came. Nine had to be euthanized soon afterward nut many managed to be trained and adopted.
On the other side of the pond in the UK, five purebred Hackney ponies were kept in a barn for years until they could be rescued. They had never been allowed outside and had such neglected hooves that they looked as if they were wearing a genie’s shoe at the end of each leg. Their owners were elderly and couldn’t cope. But they also responded to love and patient care.
Anyone considering buying a Hackney pony should check out horse rescue facilities. The odds are that a Hackney pony purebred or crossbred will already be in there. Many times ponies are surrendered through no fault of their own.
“Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America.” Judith Dutson. Storey Publishing, 2005.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
“The Ultimate Horse Book.” Elwyn Hartley Edwards. Dorling Kindersley; 1991.