There is no disputing that the brilliant, high-stepping Hackney is the world's most spectacular harness horse. Today, it is largely confined to the show ring but it also has all the courage and ability to compete with equal distinction in competitive driving events. The early Trotters, on which the breed was founded, were noted for their speed and endurance under saddle and in harness. One Trotter, Bellfounder, trotted 2 miles in 6 minutes, and 9 miles in 30 minutes.
The origin of the word Hackney is doubtful but probably derives from the French haquenee. In Old French haque, a word related to the Spanish haca, means a "nag" or gelding.
The Hackney, both horse and pony, has its base in the tradition of English trotting horses of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The pony also has a Fell influence through the Wilson ponies, bred by Christopher Wilson of Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria. There were two recognized English Trotters or Roadsters, those of Norfolk and those of Yorkshire. Both shared a common ancestor in the Original Shales, a horse born in 1755 out of a "hackney" trotting mare by Blaze. (Blaze was related to Messenger, founder of the American Standardbred harness racer.) Brilliance of action is always paramount in the judging of the Hackney. It has to be straight and true, with no cheating or throwing of the hooves from side to side.
The head is small and the profile is convex with small, neat ears and a fine, quality muzzle. The Hackney head carriage is always high, and the expression is one of great alertness and spirit. The eye is large and very bold. The neck is fairly long and well formed. It rises almost vertically out of the shoulders. The shoulders are powerful and the withers are low - not like those of a riding horse. Without undue length in the back, the body of the Hackney is compact but has great depth through the chest. Limbs must be short with the hocks strong and "well let-down", i.e. not standing high from the ground. At rest, the Hackney stands firm and four-square with forelegs straight and the hind legs back to cover the maximum ground. The tail is set and carried high. Colors in both Hackney Horses and Ponies are usually dark brown, black, bay and chestnut. The coat of both horse and pony is particularly fine and silky. The Hackney Pony combines the brilliance of Hackney action with realy pony character. The Hackney Horse is 15-15.3hh on average and the Hackney Pony does not exceed 14hh.
Reference: The Ultimate Horse Book; Elwyn Hartley Edwards; 1991
Hackney Horse Society
Hackney Horse Affiliates
Canadian Hackney Society
Native Oaks Farm
Reference photo courtesy of Hackney Horse Affiliates
Background phot courtesy of Hackney Horse.com