A few weeks ago we looked at the draught breeds native to the UK & Ireland. Today we are looking at some of our other native horse breeds, from racehorse to carriage horse. Unfortunately a few of these breeds are now at risk of extinction.
The fastest horses in the world.
- Height: 15-17 hands
- Coat Colours: Solid colours. Bay, brown, black, chestnut & grey.
- Temperament: Smart, trainable & responsive.
The English Thoroughbred first appeared in 17th-century England. The rich wanted a horse breed with exceptional speed and stamina, specifically for horse racing purposes. Three foundation Arabian stallions were imported to improve native mares, producing horses with swiftness, agility, and a competitive spirit.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the Thoroughbred dominated the racing world. Horses of this breed achieved legendary status, winning prestigious races such as the Epsom Derby, St. Leger Stakes, and the Royal Ascot. The breed was exported to various parts of the world, including North America, Australia, and India, where it had a significant impact on the development of racing and breeding programs in those countries.
Today, the Thoroughbred remains the top breed for horse racing worldwide. Their influence extends beyond the racetrack, with Thoroughbreds making their mark in disciplines such as show jumping, eventing, and dressage. The breed is celebrated for its elegance, athleticism, and competitive spirit, due to centuries of selective breeding and racing heritage. The English Thoroughbred stands as a testament to the passion, skill, and dedication of breeders, trainers, and jockeys who have contributed to its incredible history.
The classic carriage horse.
- Height: 14.2-16.2 hands
- Coat Colours: Solid colours. Bay, black & chestnut.
- Temperament: Friendly, docile, trainable.
The Hackney horse, known for its elegance, high-stepping action, and impressive carriage abilities, dates back to 18th-century England. The breed’s development began in the East Anglian region, where they crossed thoroughbreds with the Norfolk Trotter, aiming to produce a horse suitable for various driving purposes.
By the mid-19th century, the Hackney had become a sought-after breed for carriage driving. Its showy trot, animated movement, and refined appearance made it a favorite among fashionable carriage drivers, as well as a symbol of status and prestige. Hackneys were known for their ability to pull carriages at impressive speeds while maintaining an elegant and controlled demeanor. Although cars became more popular, Hackneys became less popular.
Today, the Hackney horse continues to captivate enthusiasts with its striking appearance, animated movement, and versatility in various driving disciplines. However, they are declining and they are on the Rare Breed Societys Watchlist. While the breed’s primary focus remains on carriage driving, Hackneys also excel in the show ring, as pleasure riding horses, and in other equestrian pursuits. The Hackney horse stands as a testament to the history of elegant carriage horses and remains a living testament to the rich heritage of driving horses in England.
Carriage horses for the Royal Family.
- Height: 16-16.2 hands
- Coat Colours: Bay with black legs, mane & tail.
- Temperament: Well mannered, trainable & sensible.
The Cleveland Bay horse is known for its strength, athleticism, and versatility. The breed’s origins can be traced to the Cleveland area of North Yorkshire, England, from which it takes its name. It’s heritage can be traced to a mix of native & imported horses, such as the Chapman horse, Barb and Andalusian. Over time, selective breeding efforts were focused on producing a sturdy, powerful, and versatile horse suitable. It gained popularity among British nobility and landed gentry, becoming favored as a carriage horse due to its elegance, stylish movement, and ability to pull heavy loads.
During the early 20th century, the decline of the need for working horses, meant that the Cleveland Bay population declined in numbers. However, the breed’s survival was largely due to the dedication of breed enthusiasts and organizations, such as the Cleveland Bay Horse Society, established in 1884, which worked diligently to preserve the breed’s heritage and promote its strengths. Queen Elizabeth II also played a huge role in preserving the breed.
Today, the Cleveland Bay horse remains an important part of England’s equine heritage. Although still considered a rare breed, efforts to preserve and promote the Cleveland Bay continue. It is valued for its versatility, excelling in various equestrian disciplines, including dressage, eventing, driving, and hunting. The Cleveland Bay horse stands as a testament to the enduring qualities of strength, elegance, and adaptability that have made it a cherished part of England’s equine history.