A True All-Rounder
We know from the Forest Law of Canute, proclaimed in Winchester in 1016, that there were ponies in the forest at that time. After the Norman Conquest, William Rufus (1087-1100) made the New Forest a royal hunting ground, preserving the deer and also consolidating the Rights of Common Pasture for those occupying forest lands.
The first recorded attempt to up-grade the stock was made in 1208, when 18 Welsh mares were introduced. However, the most distinguished outside influence on the New Forest Ponies was that of the Thoroughbred , Marske, even though the long-term effect of his stay in the forest area may be debatable. Marske came to the forest in 1765, after the dispersal of the studs belonging to HRH The Duke of Cumberland. Like all the Thoroughbreds of the time he would not have stood more than 1.47 m (14.2 hh).
He had no success on the racecourse, but he was the sire of Eclipse, arguably the greatest racehorse of all time. Eclipse established his reputation in his first racing season in 1769, and Marske was immediately rescued from obscurity to stand at stud in Yorkshire.
The people living in the forest may have practiced some form of selective breeding in the following years, but by the 19th century the stock had degenerated to a point where it was necessary to take positive action. In 1852 Queen Victoria lent the Arab stallion Zorah, but in four years he covered only 112 selected mares. The deterioration of the New Forest Ponies continued as a result of in-breeding within the herds. A stallion premium scheme was set up, and in 1889 Queen Victoria lent two more stallions, the Arab Abeyan and the Barb Yirrassan. They had more influence, particularly through a son of Abeyan out of a Welsh mare.
It is possible to detect some of the various contributing elements in the New Forest; for instance, the heads can still be rather horse-like. There remains a definite variation in height: forest-bred ponies may be as small as 1.22-1.27 m (12-12.2 hh), but the stud-bred Forester can reach 1.47 m (14.2 hh).
Nonetheless, the environmental influence is apparent. While conformational weaknesses are still evident in the forest-bred ponies, they are largely offset by very good riding shoulders. The Forester is naturally sure-footed. It has a longer stride than most other native ponies, and is notable for the easy smoothness of its canter, a characteristic encouraged by the terrain of the forest and not nearly so apparent in the other native British breeds. The breed society, which produced its own stud book in 1960, is the New Forest Breeding and Cattle Society. It permits any coat colour except piebald, skewbald, and blue-eyed cream. ( Lähde mypets.net).