Horse Breeds – Letter E

exmoor ponies

East Bulgarian

The East Bulgarian is a light riding and draft horse, usually chestnut, bay or black. They have originated since 1900 from Thoroughbred and English Halfbred crossed with Anglo-Arab, Arab and Bulgarian Native horses.


All modern-day light horse breeds have descended from the noble desert-bred Arabian horse, who traces its lineage back at least 3,500 years to the deserts of the Middle East and ancient Persia. Ancient civilizations and cultures all have stories that tell of the role their valued horses played in their daily lives. Perhaps most fascinating of these are the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt, which reveal the Egyptians with their desert horses as early as 1580 B.C. Even King Solomon,” …had horses brought out of Egypt.” And he had “…forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots and twelve thousand horsemen.” Indeed, the heritage of the Egyptian Arabian evokes images of classic beauty and heroic gallantry. It is easy to understand why they have been admired and sought after by Kings, Pharaohs, and mankind in general throughout the ages.

Between 1895 and the mid-1980s, some of the best Egyptian Arabians bred in the Land of the Nile were exported to the United States. Those individuals and their ancestors form the Egyptian Arabian bloodlines in North America today.

The Egyptian Arabian horse has been valued as an extremely productive source of the classic refinement for which the Arabian breed is well-known. These horses combine a Historic legacy and beauty with the ability and temperament to excel in areas from Halter to dressage, to endurance, to beloved family companion. Although numbering less than 3% of the hundreds of thousands of registered Arabians, Egyptian Arabians continue to command a disproportionately large number of ribbons, honors, and hearts. These horses are the finest pure bred animal of all horses to be found.

I hope in your lifetime you get to experience the shear beauty and majesty of the Egyptian.


Eriskay ponies are the last surviving remnants of the original native ponies of the Western Isles of Scotland. They have ancient Celtic and Norse connections and Eriskays have been proven by measurement to be of similar proportions to those found on ancient Pictish stones throughout the North and West of Scotland.

In some ways the ponies were subject to human in addition to natural selection. The ponies had evolved to survive on meager food supplies, with coats, ears and tails well adapted to coping with a harsh, wet and windy climate. Eriskays were then subject to the forces of living in a society where women and children did most of the work while the men were at sea. Poor temperaments could not be tolerated. Only those ponies happy to live in close proximity with their handlers, those willing to be trained and work hard, were retained. Unsuitable specimens were culled. Over the centuries, the Eriskay ponies evolved into the hardy, versatile, people friendly characters we recognise today. Very much a people horse.

On many of the islands increasing mobility and farming pressures led to larger ponies becoming fashionable. Norwegian Fijords, Arabs, Clydesdales and others were introduced to “improve” the native stocks and produce larger, stronger animals. On the remote island of Eriskay in the Western Isles, however, due to difficulties with access, other breeds were not introduced, leaving a stock of pure bred ponies which had declined to a around 20 animals, due to mechanisation, by the early 1970s.

It was at this time that a dedicated group of people comprising a local priest, doctor, vet, scientist and crofters, got together and decided to save the ponies whose numbers were dangerously low. Through their hard work and the establishment of breeding groups throughout the British Isles, numbers have risen steadily and now there are around 300 Eriskays in the world.

Obviously, the breed is still seriously threatened and are listed by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust as critical, but with 12 pure bred stallions and a record 25 foals born last year, the future is looking a little brighter.


Estonian Native

The Estonian Native is one of the few breeds which has retained the features of the native northern horse and were not significantly influenced by crossing with other breeds. It played an important role in the formation of the Obva (now extinct) and Vyatka breeds. The breed has also been used with the Hackney in the formation of the Tori breed and with Ardennes in forming the Estonian Draft.

The Estonian first penetrated Russia via Novgorod as early as the 14th and 15th centuries due to its good working qualities and high adaptability. As agriculture developed and demand for working horses grew, simultaneously with pure breeding the native horses were crossed with larger breeds. Reliable information on the improvement stages of the Estonian dates back to the origins of the Tori stud in 1856. The stud was engaged in pure breeding of native horses and crossing them with light harness and saddle breeds. The best crossbred mares were subsequently used to develop the Tori. The first pure breeding stage yielded good results; the purebred stallion Vansikasa, distinguished by extraordinary strength and pulling endurance, was produced. He won many prizes in tests at Paris, Riga and Moscow exhibitions in the native horses group. His daughters were foundation mares of the Tori.

The modern Estonian is not large in size; the head is well proportioned, has a wide forehead and is sometimes somewhat coarse; the neck is on the short side or medium in length and fleshy; the withers are low and wide; the loin is well muscled; the croup is average in length and has a normal slope. The chest is very wide and deep; the legs are short, properly set and distinguished by firmness and cleanness. The hoofs are extremely solid. The animal is undemanding; it has extraordinary endurance and quite good action. It has a willing disposition.

Exmoor Pony

The first wild ponies came to Britain between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago, walking across a swampy plain that was later to become the English Channel. They became widespread throughout Britain and were very successful, living alongside Mammoths and preyed upon by saber-toothed tigers, wolves and bears. Their presence in Britain ebbed and flowed with the advances and retreats of many ice ages.

These equine colonisers provided an important resource for Stone Age hunters when they came to Britain; hunting reduced numbers significantly. Climate changes in the Mesolithic period brought a drastic change with trees covering lowland areas. The open grazing habitat of the ponies became available only on the mountains and hills of Britain, and the pony populations consequently became restricted to these.

When the English Channel formed (5,000 – 8,000 years ago) this equine population became isolated on the British Isles with no possible further contact with continental populations in the future other than through man’s interference. The British Hill Pony continued to be an attractive prey for hunters, and some scientists theorize that they were hunted to extinction and re-introduced by Celts. Other scientists believe they remained in reduced numbers on the isolated uplands.

When man became a farmer and settled the lowland areas, dividing the land into fields and agricultural holdings, these populations of British Hill ponies became isolated from each other and their destinies followed different paths. This resulted in the nine recognized native breeds of pony in Britain today. In each area, human interference led to the mixing of different genetic ingredients to produce distinctive breeds. As an example, Roman mercenaries introduced Friesian horses to the north of England which blended with British Hill ponies to produce the Fell pony.

Until 1818, most of the open expanse of Exmoor was designated a “Royal Forest”. This was not tree covered but “Forest” in this sense meant a hunting ground. A Warden worked for the Crown and managed Exmoor as an upland grazing expanse where farmers from its fringes could graze their stock (ponies, sheep and cattle) upon payment of fees. The Warden alone ran the stallions which it is recorded were of the original native type.

In 1818 the Royal Forest was sold to John Knight, an industrialist who believed he could tame Exmoor and make it a more productive agricultural system. He considered that whatever nature had created he could improve upon, including the ponies.

The outgoing Warden, Sir Thomas Acland, took thirty of the true Exmoor ponies which had run on the forest to his own estate; other local farmers who had worked with him bought up small numbers of ponies at the 1818 dispersal sale and began their own breeding herds. Knight and a few others experimented and produced ponies which could not thrive living out in Exmoor’s harsh winters. Acland and his colleagues became perhaps some of the first “conservationists”, breeding the Exmoor ponies true to type.


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