The Fell Pony Museum: 14th Century
The Fell Pony Museum
Chaucer :: Monks :: Wool trade :: Rakkers


Fell pony trottingNorth country farmers are recorded in the 13th and 14th centuries as specialised in the breeding and training of ponies which they sold to wealthy townsmen and gentry as suitable mounts for long journeys. A significant feature of these ponies was their economical long striding action, comfortable to ride for long distances as well as relatively fast. They are referred to in wills, records and inventories of the time as "rakkers" or "raks", a term used loosely to refer to riding animals of different types which moved at speed with each foot hitting the ground separately in turn. Some modern gaited horses such as American Saddlebreds are still described as doing a fast or slow "Rack" or "Singlefoot".

This does not necessarily imply that all the Fell-type ponies were gaited, but that some of them were included in a group of animals that were comfortable to ride. In the north a "rakker" was an "easy-moving animal". ( ref)


In the 12th Century, moneys paid for stock by the King were recorded in an annual Great Roll of the Exchequer: from which we know that in 1193/94/95, a foal was valued at 1 shilling, a brood mare at 5 shillings and a team of 8 oxen at £1 (2s and 6d each).

By the start of the 13th C a mare (breed unspecified) was worth 1 mark (13 s 4d) and a "palfrey" or comfortable pacing saddle horse 2 marks (£1 6s 8d). (ref)

We also know how much horseshoes cost, and that they were nailed on for use: when King John's treasury paid the bills for Lancaster Castle in 1209/1210, amongst the items were "1,900 horse shoes and nails at ½d each". (It seems probable that the cost was for "a shoe and its nails" as one item.)


Later writers reveal that the gaited horse was still valued for comfort up to the 17th Century although it was becoming rarer. Gervase Markham, perhaps best known in the horse world for his "Discource of Horsmanshippe: How to chuse, ride, traine, and diet, both hunting-horses and running horses", followed it in 1605 with a treatise on "How to trayne and teach horses to amble". (ref)



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Last updated 23 May, 2021 .
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