Jessie is a two times HOYS Private Drive Champion, three times Royal Welsh winner and has been breeding and showing horses forever and a day. Born into the horse showing world her mother bred Welsh Champions and her father is a harness maker who has always loved the Hackney Horse.
The Hackney Horse (or pony) are on the critically endangered breeds list with approximately 200 breeding mares on the register and less foals being registered each year, possibly as they are required to all be DNA tested to keep the breed true.
The ponies are light of build -, narrow, athletic, resilient and with huge personalities. Hackneys are very clever, they love to learn and are highly trainable. “People seem to think that Hackneys are all mad but if you talk to the right people and choose the right bloodlines they are super versatile ponies who could turn their hand to anything.” Jessie also finds she has few lameness issues with her team despite them working quite hard during the show season, they have a better quality of foot and despite their huge way of moving I have less lameness compared to other breeds”.
The ponies have 3 levels of trot – down, medium and full where their full expression shines.
They are often shod with heavier padded shoes than typical riding ponies but this depends on the individual.
‘Rattlers’ (light weight chains worn around the pastern) or the petal style over reach boots are used as a training aid as the sound helps the ponies learn better rhythm.
The bar which crosses between the shanks of the bit is for safety so that when driving a team the ponies can’t catch each other’s reins and get them stuck.
Showing driving horses:-
There are several different driving styles people can show or compete in. Most of us know about the Driving Trials – or FEI Extreme driving at International level and we may see them at County shows but how are they classed?
There are pleasure vehicles, exercise vehicles, and country vehicles and all can be single or multiple horse carriages and coaches which are multiple.
“Attelage De Tradition” is a new 2 day event for old traditional vehicles. Day 1 features a show where 3 judges award points for presentation of vehicle, horses, driver and groom which includes cleanliness, correct fit, suitability of type. Day 2 includes an 8-10 mile marathon with 5 hazards run over an average speed and horses must trot through the finishing section. After an hours break they then complete a course of cones.
In Hackneys there are Under 13.2 / Over 13.2 / Hackney types & Multiples. At the breed shows there may also be ridden classes, where at County shows the Hackney would enter the rare breeds class.
The Hackney show classes are really exciting to watch and can be seen at most county shows.
The British Driving Society Championships are held annually at Smiths Lawn and showcase all the driving disciples except the FEI.
Sandringham also features both the FEI and Attelage formats among other classes.
If you would like to get into the sport of driving and hackney showing the best place to start is by contacting the British Driving Society or Hackney Horse Society both of whom can direct you to a locally accredited centre or trainer. If you are based in Essex Jessie highly recommends Ashfields Carriages in Essex as the best place to learn how to drive.
I have to say I knew very little about the Hackney breed before meeting Jessie but spending time with Paddy and his friends I’m definitely a big fan!
To keep up to date with what’s happening in the driving world you can read the bi-monthly In Harness featuring Jessie’s Journal.