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History of the Hackney

The Origins of the Hackney Breed

The origins of the Hackney as we know it began in Norfolk, England where the horses called Norfolk Trotters had been selectively bred for elegant style and speed. Seeking to improve on both accounts, breeders mated the Norfolk mares to grandsons of the foundation sires of the Thoroughbred. The first Hackney as we know the breed today is said to be The Shale’s Horse, foaled in 1760. During the next 50 years, the Hackney was developed as a special breed.
The seas were being crossed regularly during the 1800′s, by ships bearing both Hackney horses and the smaller ponies which certain breeders were selectively encouraging. Vast improvements in British roadways in the mid-1800′s also contributed to the development of the swift trotting horse. These roads did not always demand heavy dray animals which tug carts from deep ruts. Now, a man could say “Trot On” and really go!
The breeding of Hackneys in England was formalized in the founding of the Hackney Stud Book Society in 1883.
This was the Golden Age of Driving, when automobiles were not even a dream. The Hackney was the ultimate driving machine of the 1880′s both in America and Britain. The first Hackney pony imported to America was 239 Stella, brought to Philadelphia by Mr. A.J. Cassatt in 1878. In 1891, Mr. Cassatt and other Hackney enthusiasts founded the American Hackney Horse Society, an organization and registry which thrives today. From 1890 until Depression, wealthy Americans brought boatload after boatload of horses and ponies of the most noted strains.


The Hackney Today

The modern Hackney is colored black, brown, bay and chestnut in the minority, with or without strip and white stockings. He should possess a small head, muzzle and ears, giving the general impression of alertness. The neck should be long and blend into a broad chest and powerful shoulders. A compact body with a level back and round rib, a short strong loin and level croup with either a long or docked tail carried high are desired. The legs should be of medium length, the joints large and of strong quality. The thighs and quarters are well muscled. Pasterns are of good length and slope. The Hackney has a good foot and the breed, both the horse and pony, has a good reputation for soundness.

The action of the Hackney, his hallmark, is spectacular and highly distinctive. Shoulder action is fluid and free with a very high, ground covering knee action. Action of the hind legs is similar but to a lesser degree. The hocks should be brought under the body and raised high. All joints should exhibit extreme flexion. The action must be straight and true. The whole effect must be arresting and startling, showing extreme brilliance.

The remarkable high stepping gate of the Hackney is exciting to watch. Hackneys ponies are shown in four divisions, the Hackney Pony (Cob Tail), Harness Pony (Long Tail), Roadster Pony, and Pleasure Pony. The Hackney Horse can be shown single, pair, four in hand, obstacle, and some are shown under saddle.