The Connemara Pony
Ireland's Only Native Pony Breed
Photo of Domo Cavallo Praize courtesy of Glenorrmiston Stud
An article written for the July 2006 issue of RIDE Magazine.
It’s quite simple really. I openly admit it. I adore Connemara ponies!
My first fleeting experience with Ireland’s only native pony breed, was almost twenty five years ago. I was a working student on a small farm in Vermont. Up the road lived a "wild white pony imported from Ireland." My teenage imagination was captured. Five years ago, my interest reemerged when I met the imported stallion *Village Prince at Royal Connemaras in Clayton, California. He was handsome, uncomplicated, talented, and full of personality. His owner let me ride him. It was love at first sight.
The Connemara Pony originated on the rugged western coast of Ireland, but is now prevalent throughout that country, the British Isles, and in fact most of Europe, the United States and Australia. While the breed is thought to have developed from Celtic war mounts crossed with Spanish Barb and Andalusian horses, it is truly a reflection of its environment; the moors, bogs and harsh rocky land of the Connemara region.
How does one best describe a Connemara Pony? Many individuals are quite surprised when they learn a particular "horse" is actually a Connemara "pony". The official breed description given by the American Connemara Pony Society (ACPS) states that ponies can range in height from 13 hands to over 15 hands and will usually be grey, bay, brown, or dun in color. They are known for their gentle, willing, and sensible dispositions.
In type and conformation the Connemara is distinctive. They should be sturdy with a compact body and deep chest. A Connemara will always greet you with large, kind eyes and expressive, pony ears. They should possess a laid back shoulder with a strong and muscular back and well rounded, deep hindquarters. Connemaras are known for their hard feet, large well defined joints and ample, flat bone. Their action should be straight and true with free movement from the shoulder covering substantial ground.
The Connemara has a natural talent for success in a wide variety of disciplines. They are often known for their incredible jumping talent. Stroller, a 14.1 hand Connemara cross, competed on the British Olympic team and in the early 1900's, two 15 hand Connemaras, Dundrum and Conner the Nugget, cleared 7'2" Pussiance walls and won hundreds of jumping awards. The Eventing prowess of the Connemara is demonstrated by the famous stallion Hideaway’s Erin Go Bragh a champion in his own right who has gone on to sire many competitive event horses. In Dressage, many will remember Lendon Grey’s upper level success with the half Connemaras Seldom Seen and Last Seen. Connemara ponies excel equally in driving, show rings, and as a great child’s pony and friend.
This year is especially exciting for Connemaras in America. The ACPS celebrates its fiftieth anniversary with a festival in Virginia on August 2 - 4. In addition, the recognition of the ACPS by the Connemara Pony Breeders Society (CPBS) in Ireland, represents years of effort by Connemara enthusiasts in the United States. This recognition opens up a number of new avenues for breeders, including the ability to export American bred ponies.
In California , Region X of the ACPS has a number of breeders and enthusiasts with fine quality ponies who participate in the annual West Coast Connemara Show. This year’s show will be held on July 8th at Star Vaughn Equestrian in Elk Grove, California. In addition, 2006 brings a exciting opportunity for Connemaras to compete against other ponies in Mountain & Moorland classes. The Welsh Pony and Cob Association of California has graciously added these "M & M" classes to their show on September 2 - 4 at Brookside Equestrian also in Elk Grove. Mountain and Moorland is a term used to describe the group of native British pony breeds including the Welsh, Connemara, Shetland, Dales, Dartmoor, Fell, Highland, Exmoor, and New Forest. Mountain and Moorland competitions are very popular in Britain but rare in the United States.
Personally, I have found the Connemara to be the perfect "horse" for my family. They are safe and sane enough for both myself (a self proclaimed old lady rider) and my two young daughters (self proclaimed out of control pony lovers). Our ponies can go from Pony Club meeting, to trail ride, to competition - taking it all in stride. They have personality galore and talent enough to perform. Frankly speaking, they’re just plain fun to be around!
Explore the world of the Connemara Pony - you will be pleasantly surprised.
For more information on the Connemara Pony or the ACPS , visit www.acps.org
Email Comments or Questions: Kathryn@freeraynhill.com