The New Forest Pony has the most varied genetic background of the British native breeds. Before the Norman Conquest in AD 1066, when Winchester in the west was England’s capital city, the New Forest, in south-west Hampshire, was passed through by anyone traveling in that direction. This provided many opportunities for the ponies to mate with domestic stock, either animals passing through the forest or horses kept locally. Nevertheless, the environment did produce a distinctive type.
We know from the Forest Law of Canute, proclaimed in Winchester in 1016, that there were ponies in the forest at that time. After the Norman Conquest, William Rufus (1087-1100) made the New Forest a royal hunting ground, preserving the deer and also consolidating the Rights of Common Pasture for those occupying forest lands.
The first recorded attempt to up-grade the stock was made in 1208, when 18 Welsh mares were introduced. However, the most distinguished outside influence on the New Forest Ponies was that of the Thoroughbred, Marske, even though the long-term effect of his stay in the forest area may be debatable. Marske came to the forest in 1765, after the dispersal of the studs belonging to HRH The Duke of Cumberland. Like all the Thoroughbreds of the time he would not have stood more than 1.47 m (14.2 hh).
He had no success on the racecourse, but he was the sire of Eclipse, arguably the greatest racehorse of all time. Eclipse established his reputation in his first racing season in 1769, and Marske was immediately rescued from obscurity to stand at stud in Yorkshire.
The people living in the forest may have practiced some form of selective breeding in the following years, but by the 19th century the stock had degenerated to a point where it was necessary to take positive action. In 1852 Queen Victoria lent the Arab stallion Zorah, but in four years he covered only 112 selected mares. The deterioration of the New Forest Ponies continued as a result of in-breeding within the herds. A stallion premium scheme was set up, and in 1889 Queen Victoria lent two more stallions, the Arab Abeyan and the Barb Yirrassan. They had more influence, particularly through a son of Abeyan out of a Welsh mare.
IMPROVING THE NEW FOREST PONY
Degeneration would probably have occurred again had it not been for the intervention of Lord Arthur Cecil and Lord Lucas. In order to correct the Forester’s lack of substance, bone, and hardiness, Cecil brought in huge amounts of native blood, using ponies from the Isle of Rum (Black Galloways) and other Highlands Dales, Fells, Dartmoors, Exmoors, and Welsh Lucas added the famous Welsh Starlight blood through his Picket ponies, and also used Dartmoors, Exmoors, and Fells. He even introduced a Basuto Pony that he had brought back from South Africa, although no discernible influence can be attributed to it.
MODERN FOUNDATION SIRES
The founding father of the modern New Forest Pony was the polo pony Field Marshall. He stood in the New Forest in 1918-19, and appears significantly in the lines of the famous Brookside ponies. After the Second World War there emerged a group of five stallions that are recognized as being the founding sires of the modern breed. These horses, found in the pedigrees of the best modern Foresters, are Danny Denny, with a line to Dvoll Starlight; Goodenough, out of a Welsh type dam reputedly by Field Marshall; Brooming Slipon, a chestnut by Telegraph Rocketer out of XV out of Judy XV; Brookside David, descended from Field Marshall; and Knightwood Spitfire, by Brookside Spitfire out of Weirs Topsy, whose sire was the black Highland, Clansman, from whom all dun strains in the Foresters are thought to descend.
It is possible to detect some of the various contributing elements in the New Forest; for instance, the heads can still be rather horse-like. There remains a definite variation in height: forest-bred ponies may be as small as 1.22-1.27 m (12-12.2 hh), but the stud-bred Forester can reach 1.47 m (14.2 hh).
Nonetheless, the environmental influence is apparent. While conformational weaknesses are still evident in the forest-bred ponies, they are largely offset by very good riding shoulders. The Forester is naturally sure-footed. It has a longer stride than most other native ponies, and is notable for the easy smoothness of its canter, a characteristic encouraged by the terrain of the forest and not nearly so apparent in the other native British breeds. The breed society, which produced its own stud book in 1960, is the New Forest Breeding and Cattle Society. It permits any coat colour except piebald, skewbald, and blue-eyed cream
The New Forest Pony is bred in the Australia and has its own breeders Association which you can visit here http://newforestpony.asn.au/, the website is also a good place to visit for information about ponies the sale and stallions at stud. The ponies are popular in Australia in pony clubs and becuase of their strength, willingness and calm temperament are considerd ideal for learning showjumping and eventing disciplines.