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Use and characteristics of Hackneys
High quality Hackneys not only look elegant and move with breath-taking action, their length of stride means they cover the ground quickly and efficiently. They are between 14.2 hands (147 cm) and 16.2 hands (168 cm) high. Colours include bay, brown, black and chestnut, with some modern Hackneys having a few white markings too. Because Hackneys and their ancestors have been working horses for centuries, breeders who sell a Hackney also value hard feet, strong tendons and powerful musculature. In terms of character, Hackneys are reliable, intelligent horses who can be driven at a steady pace on long road journeys, as well as looking spectacular at speed over shorter distances. What is not so well-known by those planning to buy a Hackney is that Hackneys and Hackney crosses can make excellent riding horses too. The long, rounded reach of the high-stepping Hackney trot can be used to great effect when training them for show jumping and other disciplines.
Origin and history of breeding Hackneys
The modern Hackney is of recent origin; like many other breeds, its stud book and breed standard date to the 19th century. The Hackney Stud Book Society published the first stud book in 1883. The immediate ancestors of the breed were the famous trotter and roadster horses, many of which came from the eastern coastal counties of England such as Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, which specialised in breeding horses of this type. Horses with lively, dashing trots had been particularly prized in Regency times, and stallions such as the famous Darley Arabian had been used to add further qualities to the native trotters. Hackney horses and their trotting ancestors have contributed to many other breeds, including carriage horses such as Gelderlanders and Holsteins, as well as all-rounders such as Morgans. However, the origin of the name Hackney is much older than the 19th century. In medieval times, Hackneys were everyday riding horses, many of which were bred in the marshes and on the meadows of Hackney, now part of Greater London. It was once thought that the name Hackney arrived with the Normans, the French term being hacquenée. However, most scholars now believe that the name derived from the area known as Hackney, and that hacquenée is the French version from this source. The original Hackneys would have been different from the modern Hackney breed, probably smaller, and they may have been amblers rather than trotters.
Hackney horses in equestrianism
The ancestors of the modern Hackney were famed for their feats of endurance and speed. In the early 1800s, Phenomena, a famous mare, won her owner's wager by trotting 17 miles in under an hour. Another mare, the trotter Nonpareil, travelled 100 miles in 9 hours, 56 minutes and 3 seconds. Bellfounder, a Norfolk Trotter, was one of the first trotters imported into the USA. This remarkable horse is said to have trotted 17 miles in an hour carrying 14 stones in weight.