The New Forest Pony is an equine of antiquity, having existed on the New Forest Commons, Hampshire, for centuries. Horse remains dating back to 500,000 BC have been discovered in areas surrounding the modern New Forest, suggesting a likeness to the Exmoor Pony.
The indigenous breed is largely referenced in historical records, with evidence to indicate William the Conqueror shipped as many as 2,000 horses to England during his invasion of 1066. From here, the horses went on to breed in semi-feral conditions, producing great variation in offspring and evolving a diverse new breed native to the rugged New Forest Commons.
Due to ownership rights meaning that often the best examples of the breed were claimed, the quality of breeding stock diminished, causing a decline in New Forest Pony conformation and constitution. To counter this, a famous Thoroughbred racehorse called Marske was introduced to the Commons in 1765 to try and enhance the New Forest Pony bloodline.
The breed is known for its gentle and friendly disposition towards strangers and its strength, sure-footedness and hardy constitution. Due to interbreeding, a wide variety of coat colours and patterns are seen in the breed. The average height is 14 hands.
Another horse that was instrumental in improving New Forest Pony stock was an Arab loaned by Queen Victoria in the late 1850’s. The horse was named Zorah and was returned to Windsor after 4 years because New Foresters were unimpressed with its breeding.