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A new Hackney pony

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  • A new Hackney pony

    Greetings fellow drivers!

    After an interesting turn of events, I have come to own a Hackney pony that was purchased for me at New Holland for $150. He was bought for me by an Amish friend who is also a harnessmaker, and, at age 73, has had considerable driving experience, though none with hackneys.

    My pony is a very beautiful 10 or 11 year-old bay gelding with four white feet and a white stripe. My friend knew the seller, who had bought the pony for someone else two weeks prior, but that did not work out, and thus he decided to resell the pony. The seller told us that his 13 year-old son drove the pony one time in a two-wheeled cart and that they went on the road, and that the pony did better than he expected.

    We haven't tried to drive him yet because he is so very nervous and spooky. Both my friend and the seller expect that he has been mistreated because the pony flinches so easily and jumps away from everything. For now, I'm boarding him at my friend's house, in his three-horse barn.

    I have been trying to spend as much time with him as I can--just letting him get to know and trust me, and providing him with firm yet kind handling. He will paw when tied up, pace back and forth, snort at every little thing he sees, etc. I am working on absolute basics with him and trying to desensitize him. For example, after his work, I came to visit him in his stall and give him a couple of carrots. He was terrified of the crinkling of the plastic carrot bag, almost trying to climb out of the stall to escape it.

    I don't have any experience with hackneys. I drove standardbreds as an amateur in 1993-4 in a driving club that had races at Rosecroft and also at a couple of different fairs. My hope is to drive my pony around some of the beautiful roads in Lancaster county.

    I would like to hear from others with hackney experience. I understand that they are very spirited, animated ponies, but I wonder how much of my pony's behavior is par for the breed and how much could be him telling me about his past: lack of use/many changes in environment/unkind handling, etc.

  • #2
    I know ponies who have never been abused or mistreated a day in their lives that will act as you describe. Some Hackney Ponies are very hot cookies, with hair triggers. Others are more mellow. Almost all like to have a job and have that job and what is expected of them be very well defined.Most Hackney Ponies like to go forward, very very much, and some if you remove the option of going forward some will learn a bad habit of rearing up and falling over backwards. So be patient in teaching a pony to stand and don't over harshly punish them for wanting to go forward.

    As far as "desensitizing" them, they are not Quarter Horses or Standardbreds, and I don't know what your idea of desensitizing is, but trying to convince one to hold still so you can slap a saddle blanket about it or rub a plastic baggie on a whip over its body to me is just torturing such a high strung creature. Teach the pony its job and let it do it, but realize that for most Hackeninnies their job will never be leisurely country drives. You can't make a Porsche into a minivan. If you think driving a real sporty pony who doesn't know the word quit, a pony who will go forward into flames so long as you keep his head up and let him trot on sounds like fun that is what most Hackney Ponies can offer.


    • #3
      Listen to Renae

      My own experience with a Hackney pony is similar to yours.

      2 years ago my shoer gave me a pony he had driven 20+ times & shoer shows Roadster/Fine Harness Hackneys so he's no novice.
      He had a bad crash with this pony and trying to rehitch after that was no success.
      Since he's in his late 60s, pony went to another client as a pasture puff for 2 years before I got him.
      No abusive treatment in his then-10yo life as far as I can tell, but my pony was a Wild Thing when I first got him.
      He loaded easily for me but once I got him home, took off his halter and turned him out it took 2 days!! to get that halter back on.

      For a long time the only way I could work with him was to sneak up behind him in his stall (my stalls are open to pasture always).
      Once haltered his manners were good, but he was always on High Alert.

      Now 2 years later I can harness and ground drive pony and he has calmed down considerably - can now be haltered from pasture, worked with in the aisle ground-tied and ground-driven in my indoor.
      I've even managed to slow his normal GoGoGo! trot to something that could be a pleasure to sit behind.

      IMHO, PATIENCE is your BFF working with this breed.
      In some 40yrs+ of working with all sorts of horses & ponies I've never experienced the quickness that is the Hackney mind.
      You can see the wheels turning and the thought bubble in that little head 24/7!

      Good luck with your guy.
      They are smart cookies and great companions once you earn their trust.
      *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
      Steppin' Out 1988-2004
      Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
      Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


      • #4
        You have what is known as a "tight-rein" pony as opposed to a "loose rein" pony in the local vernacular.

        I love hackneys, and my barn owner has several purebreds and crosses, and they are snotty little things in the best possible way.

        Don't make the mistake of confusing "road safe" with "slow & leisurely" All of my BOs ponies are road safe, but are also high stepping hot rods. Even the older ones. They are "tight rein" ponies, they go, but on a tight rein. They are a pleasure to drive for people who don't like going slow.

        Your pony may also be telling you something that you are reading wrong. My old show horse will climb the walls if you crinkle a bag,shake a can, or make some noise in her stall because she had been trained to do it. At 22, she's kind half @ssed about it, but still does it.
        Visit my Spoonflower shop


        • #5
          Whoo Hoo... Someone after my own heart! I love, love, love, our hackney!

          I wouldn't be so quick to jump on the "must have been abused" bandwagon, though. Welcome to the wonderful world of hackneys. They are hot, jumpy, and often times quite skittish.

          I had a friend who used to worked exclusively with hackneys. The barn had approx 150 of them! (you heard correctly), and every single one of them I ever dealt with was a total loon. In part from training (or lack thereof, if applicable) and in part from the general nature of hackneys.

          My amazing hackney (I'm not too partial or anything) pony (who is 12.2 hands and 15 years old) we bought when he was 10. We've owned him for quite a while, and he still plays hard (Ok, ok, ok... impossible) to catch sometimes, jumps when we fly spray him, and is a real hard a** when it comes to getting shoes on. Oh boy!

          However, he's also been to many shows and events, been in crowded fairgrounds, has logged countless hundreds of miles on the roads, and wins darned near everything in every pleasure show we've ever put him in.

          He can be passed (and has been) by "crotch-rockets" and groups of motorcyclists, speeding trucks hauling rattling trailers full of scrap metal, and 18-wheelers, and yet, the lines in the blacktop are what scares him. Or heaven forbid a SQUIRREL jumps across a branch near him. You know, they eat hackney ponies, right?!


          Standing to still to harness is not his favorite thing in the world, either. He can trot circles around my 16.2 QH any day, and outpaces him constantly. Quick, quick, quick is definitely most hackneys' middle name!

          Hackneys are smart, smart, smart as a whip, you can bet on that every time. They are sensitive, but they are also TOUGH. They have one heck of a heart, and I am truly convinced my hackney would trot on until he ruptures his spleen or something if I asked him to.

          They really do take a special mind-set to handle. But they really really do love to work and love to learn. Once your pony learns how to learn (so to speak), he will always be looking for his next education. They really do always have their gears turning, as 2DogsFarm said. But that is a really special, unique, and great quality about them. Be gentle, patient, and guiding with him! I can't wait until I get another hackney, and all-willing, actually a pair of hackneys and a carriage to match. <oh, to dream>

          He sounds lovely, and I hope to see pictures!!!

          I'll show you mine if you show me yours, lol!

          Trotting down the road the other week.

          Another road drive:

          At a show:

          Having a good run in the arena:

          Another show recently:


          Ok, I'll stop now!
          eBook on Amazon - The Beginner's Guide to Buying a Horse
          My Blog - Life in 2014; Horses, Life, Photography


          • #6
            A good friend drives Hackney horses. She is fond of saying there is a lot of drama involved, but they stay in their own bubble. . .



            • Original Poster

              Thanks to everyone for your helpful replies. I'm really enjoying getting to know my new pony. I am trying to get him used to me, getting groomed, getting his feet picked up, and leading from both sides. I take the point about the plastic bag! That might have been/always be a trigger type of thing for him and I certainly learned to ditch the bag when I go visit him in his stall.

              I've also noticed that he is quite brave once he knows that something is not going to hurt him. (The neighbor's laundry flapping on the clothesline didn't spook him at all today!)

              I wish I could post a picture or two, but I don't have any of them uploaded to a site like Shutterfly where I could post a link. There are pictures of him on my Facebook account if anyone would be interested.

              I have met a couple of Hackney owners who live near where he is boarded, and they echo what everyone has said here---that they will trot right along with the horses and have boundless energy and hearts for their jobs. A few people have admired him and asked questions about him while we go out for our walks/grazes.

              I'd love to meet more Hackney owners on COTH, too. It is such a wonderful resource.


              • Original Poster

                Chewbacca, Thanks for posting the pictures and the videos! He is absolutely beautiful, and I love your meadowbrook cart. What fun he seems to be having.
                I had to chuckle at the 150 Hackneys at the farm & them all being loons. I can imagine that place being lively indeed!

                He came without a name, and I settled on Tempest in a Teapot. (I call him Tempi.)

                I'm looking forward to our farrier appointment next week. (He's barefoot now.)


                • #9
                  Love that name!

                  My boy is Naraku Kouma - loosely translated from the Japanese it means Hell Pony.

                  He answers to Kouma...when he feels like it's worth his time.

                  Unless you're going to start driving on roads soon, why not leave Tempi barefoot?
                  Kouma came to me that way and 2 years later still no shoes.
                  Even the dry,dry, Summer we've had hasn't given him a problem.
                  No chipping or cracking - good strong hooves.
                  *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                  Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                  Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                  Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                  • #10
                    I definitely agree with 2Dogs about leaving him barefoot. I only shoe my horses in the summer because they do some work on the roads, and I want that support for them. From about Nov-April, they are barefoot. I really don't drive them in the winter unless the weather is exceptional (like this year, I managed to start back to driving in February! woot!).

                    I much prefer keeping them barefoot.

                    Like I said, hackneys are tough. They are mentally tough, they have tough bodies and feet, and they are, at least mine is, pretty darn stoic. Whereas certain horses of mine (eh, hem... Chewbacca) can be wusses. lol.

                    I love the name, and Naraku Kouma is a great name, too! So appropriate for a hackney. lol.

                    Yes, the place with over 100 of them was quite an interesting barn. When we were hackney shopping, that was the first place we went to look. It was like being at Costco - hackneys in bulk, lol!! The barn owner was willing to make all kinds of deals. Unfortunately the ones with any training were pretty pricey, and the rest were dirt cheap for a reason. We were shopping for an "upgrade" for my husband, and an untouched 3 yr old that they had to "herd" in from the field was not exactly going to be a suitable pony for a beginner! lol!!

                    I may go back there at some point to buy one for myself, when I'm ready for that type of project.

                    We looked at 6 hackneys (outside of that barn), and there were some real doozies. Fun ponies, for sure. So glad we picked the right one! lol, funny story, though - when we looked at him (he was 10 at the time), he hadn't been driven in 4 years, he came from the Amish, sold through auction, and had a couple owners, and ended up with the people we got him from, who didn't drive. But they did have a cart and harness and hitched him up for us.

                    The cart was held together with duct tape, the harness had bailing twine holding it in shape. The pony hadn't been driven in 4 years, and my husband was a beginner. Out in the middle of nowhere with nothing in sight for miles and miles and miles.... and when the owners went to hitch the pony, they jammed him between the legs with the shaft. He jumped up, got loose, and I thought we'd never see him again. lol!

                    Fortunately he was caught fairly quickly. Despite everything, he took my hubby down the long long long dirt road without a fuss, and the little "winner" bell chimed in my head.

                    eBook on Amazon - The Beginner's Guide to Buying a Horse
                    My Blog - Life in 2014; Horses, Life, Photography


                    • #11
                      Thanks for telling Luke's story.
                      It gives me hope that Kouma can be driven again some day.

                      He came from a local breeder who has had some State champions and was bartered to the shoer when 30+ ponies needed shoes and breeder traded for them.
                      Breeder broke him to harness, and shoer was doing fine until he had the crash.

                      The story I got from the shoer was that crash happened when a wheel came off the cart (I was told there's a type of wheel that just "sits" on the axle?) which caused cart to tip, pony to tip with it, at which point pony kicked the $%&* out of the cart & ended up being cut from the harness.

                      Shoer did try hitching him again - this time to a haywagon, thinking the weight might slow him down.

                      I imagine Mrs Shoer then said someone had to go and Kouma got chose.

                      His next 2 years were spent at another of the shoer's client's place. Turned out with 6 mares, Kouma tried to get amorous.
                      Mares kicked the snot out of him so next turnout was with the owners Arab stud.
                      Kouma tried to start a fight
                      So he was then turned out by himself or stalled.
                      This left his Hackney brain free to amuse himself, with noone to answer to or direct all that energy.

                      Now he's mainly a companion to my 17h+ WB, and the 2 get along famously for the most part.
                      Disagreements are evidenced by infrequent WB-sized bitemarks on Kouma's butt.
                      *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                      Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                      Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                      Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                      • #12
                        Well, I'm sure with patience and time, Kouma will go again.

                        Crazy story, for sure!

                        Life in 2012; Horses, Life, Photography
                        eBook on Amazon - The Beginner's Guide to Buying a Horse
                        My Blog - Life in 2014; Horses, Life, Photography


                        • #13
                          I am a Welsh girl myself, but I have one Hackney pony. He is a sweet little bay gelding by Vindicator. He can be driven by a child, but like others have said, he too is terrified of crinkly noises and fly spray.

                          I worked for a Hackney show barn out of college and that's where I learned to drive. They have an amazing work ethic and once I'd been around those bright, quick pony minds long enough, it was hard for me to go back to horses. They are a wonderful breed.

                          We also had several Hackney horse mares and though beautiful, they were sometimes that unpleasant combination of hot and stupid, which I'm not a huge fan of.
                          Spring Paddocks, LLC
                          Breeding Welsh and Half-Welsh Ponies.


                          • Original Poster

                            So neat hearing Luke and Kouma's stories.

                            I'll never forget my first look at Tempi. We found him, the only Hackney, in the New Holland catalog and went to see him. As opposed to the scores of standardbreds and morgans who were there that night, he was not sandwiched in between lots of other horses. I wasn't sure what to expect, but he looked MUCH smaller and much more delicate than what I thought, and he was tied in the corner of this HUGE pen with his nose stuck in a hay rack, across from some cows. When he saw us come in to see him, the head and neck went straight up and those neat little ears swiveled around to see who we were! Bright and bulging eyes set wide on a convex little head divided down the middle with a wide stripe took us in. I was truly smitten.

                            I see what you mean about keeping him barefoot. I do plan to drive him on the roads, though, so I think it is best to shoe him. Perhaps in the winter when we aren't doing any road work it would be alright to remove the shoes?

                            My other horse is a Rhinelander who needs a foot supplement, Keratex, and for all the stars to be in alignment for him to keep his much-needed shoes on.


                            • #15
                              I love reading all the Hackney stories! Sure makes me miss my little madman (buried out in back). He was exactly as y'all describe--absolutely insane, terrified of the most routine things (evil mailboxes especially), but would calmly walk by a fire truck with all its lights going and spraying water on a burning house (training, not emergency) and dealt fine with being followed by a road line painter, which got right behind us (jerk driver), was loud and hissed. He would just go and go and go, and never forgave me for retiring him at age 27 when he couldn't even manage pulling the empty cart. He still begged to go out until he died at age 29.



                              • #16
                                Do you have any pictures?
                                "One person's side effect is another person's desired effect." -The Vice Guide to Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll


                                • #17
                                  Sorry, I would post pics if I could do it directly here, but I don't ever give out links to my pics.



                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post
                                    He loaded easily for me but once I got him home, took off his halter and turned him out it took 2 days!! to get that halter back on.
                                    LOL! A couple of years ago I hauled an aged Hackney stallion up from Southern California to my place in the Bay Area where he would stay for 2 days then continue. It was soooo tempting to turn him out in the pasture for a bit to see what his movement was like, but I thought, right, he's a Hackney Horse, an older one, but still. If he's of a mind, it could be days before I could catch him again, lol!


                                    • #19
                                      I'm new to the world of Hackney ponies myself--just took in a 4yo foster pony mare a few weeks ago and we're getting to know each other. The descriptions above are making me laugh because they fit her to a tee. She is sooo smart, I'm really having fun training her. And holy cow she can JUMP! She was running around with the horses last weekend, and free-jumped some brush in perfect form. Then she circled back and jumped it again just for fun.
                                      I can totally see her as a little eventing pony. She won't bowl over the dressage judges with her high knees, but I bet she would just eat up an
                                      x-c course.


                                      • #20
                                        I've known a couple hackney ponies that were jumpers for some pretty darned advanced (and brave) kids with no sense of self-preservation. lol! They were really something to watch work. Lightening quick. Definitely jumper material, far far far from hunters, lol!

                                        Life in 2012; Horses, Life, Photography
                                        eBook on Amazon - The Beginner's Guide to Buying a Horse
                                        My Blog - Life in 2014; Horses, Life, Photography