Connemara Pony Horses
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About Connemara Pony HorsesAbout Connemara Pony Horses

Photo Credit: Wild Atlantic Way


Connemara Ponies are Ireland's native pony originally from Galway.rnTheir popularity is extensive worldwide. They are a historic breed that is consideredrnto be sure footed and hardy. Connemara ponies have a calm temperament, stayingrnpower, intelligence, soundness, and athleticism. They are considered to be a wonderfulrnmodern riding mount for children and adults alike.

rnrnThe exact originsrnof Connemara Ponies are difficult to decipher and are immersed in myth and fable.  The general consensus is that the history of thernbreed started with the arrival of the Celts in Ireland. The Celts traveled acrossrnNorthern Europe, through England, Scotland, and Wales, arriving eventually on thernWest Coast of Ireland over 2,500 years ago. , Battle was a fundamental componentrnof Celtic custom and in this they relied heavily on their hardy ponies, using themrnin pairs to draw battle chariots. When the Celts arrived in Ireland they broughtrnwith them herds of these dun ponies, taking up residence in the district known todayrnas Connemara. It was here that their ponies crossed, in due course, with the indigenousrnbreed and found a sanctuary of their continuance and development, which remainedrnuninterrupted for sixteen centuries.

rnrnrnrnThroughout thernyears herds of ponies roamed the hills of West Connaught. The harsh conditions gavernrise to an active, sure-footed and clever breed. In such an environment weaklingsrnfail and only the toughest survive to reproduce. Evolving in such a climate bestowedrnon the breed attributes of extreme hardiness, strength, and endurance. Accountsrnexist of Spanish blood being introduced into the breed, though the particulars ofrnhow and when this transpired are uncertain.

rnrnrnrnA popular legendrnrecounts that when the ships of the Spanish Armada were wrecked off the West Coastrnof Ireland in 1588, Andalusian stallions scrambled ashore and mixed with herds ofrnConnemara Ponies running wild in the hills. It is believed that Spanish Barb andrnAndalusian horses were also imported at this time and several of these horses werernsaid to have found their way to Connemara and crossed with the native pony breed.

rnrnrnrnMore recently,rnin the 18th and 19th century, Connemara Ponies increasingly began to resemble Arabrnhorses. It is understood that several estate owners in Connemara imported Arab horses,rnwhich in due course crossed with the native ponies. In the 1820's and 1830's Connemararnwas a densely populated region with farmers endeavoring to eke out an existencernon small pieces of land. Farming the land of the West Coast of Ireland was a difficultrnundertaking and was almost impossible without the assistance of a good work pony.rnThe work of the ponies varied throughout the year. They were often seen scouringrnthe hillside laden with seaweed, seed corn, potatoes, turf, oats, or barley. Theyrnconveyed produce to the market and returning from the market each pony generallyrncarried at least two men.

rnrnrnrnMares were requiredrnto produce a foal annually, which would be sold at six to eight months, providingrnmuch needed income for a household, sustaining them through the bleak winter months.rnIn the summer and autumn the ponies were often seen trudging along, all but buriedrnin a huge pile of hay or oats, each with a puzzled foal bringing up the rear. Itrnwas apparent that the ponies of the West of Ireland were obliged to do the workrnof pack horses and to be strong, agile, and tireless. When a pony was incapablernof carrying out the chores demanded of it, it was replaced by one that could. Givenrnthe nature of the work the Connemara Pony was expected to perform and the wild conditions in which they developed, the breed evolved to be both strong and resilientrnin constitution.

rnrnrnrnIn the middlernof the 19th century both the number of ponies and the quality of the breed wererngreatly diminished. Many ponies had been exported to England for use in coal pits;rnhowever the main reason for the decline in the breed was the condition to whichrnthe country was reduced in the time of the great famine. The onset of the faminernin Ireland in 1845 had a massive effect on the pony population, changing the staternof the breed drastically within a few short years. Farmers were impoverished byrnthe failure of the potato crop and were forced to sell their mares. Oppression,rnstarvation, and disease gripped the country. Many of the small farmers that ownedrnponies were evicted from their farms, fled the country, or died. Famine and emigrationrndevastated the population of Connemara.

rnrnrnrnWhen times improved,rntowards the end of the century, farmers did not have the means to buy new poniesrnand replaced them. Over the years a number of people endeavored to make the plightrnof the Connemara Pony known to both the breeders and the general public. Amidstrngrowing concern for the deterioration of the breed a meeting was held in Oughterard,rnCo. Galway in December 1923, which ultimately lead to the formation of the ConnemararnPony Breeders’ Society. The newly formed breed society made quick progress, securingrnfunding and setting up inspections. By 1939 the foundation stock had been secured,rnbreeders had become more mindful about the animals from which they bred and thernquality of Connemara Ponies being produced had improved markedly.

rnrnConcern beganrnto grow that the Connemara Pony's gene pool was becoming too narrow and that freshrnblood should be introduced. Between 1940 and 1960 a limited number of half-bredsrnsired by Thoroughbred, Irish Draught and Arab stallions were registered as ConnemararnPonies. In 1964 the Connemara Pony Stud Book was closed and subsequently only poniesrnwith both a sire and a dam registered as Connemara Ponies can enter the Studbook.rnTowards the middle of the 20th century farming became increasingly mechanized andrnthe role that the Connemara Pony had secured for centuries as a working pony beganrnto disappear. Fortunately the demise of the Connemara Pony as a working animal didrnnot preempt a massive reduction in population size.

rnrnrnrnAn export marketrndeveloped for the breed in the 1940's with buyers from England and the United Statesrnbecoming increasingly interested in the native breed. In the 1980's the number ofrnpeople taking up riding as a leisure sport increased, and a new market opened uprnfor the Connemara Pony. Within a few decades the role of the Connemara Pony quicklyrnchanged from that of the working animal on a small farm to that of the versatilernsporting pony.

rnrnConnemararnPonies are infamous for their great stamina and versatility. They are capable ofrncarrying an adult in the hunt field, yet gentle enough for a young child, fearlessrnas a showjumper, yet suitable and steady as a driving pony. These attributes makernthe Connemara Pony an ideal riding, hunting and performance animal and have enabledrnthem to establish a secure position in the riding industry. Today there are approximatelyrn2,000 foals born per year in Ireland and they are now recognized throughout thernworld as a top class performance pony.

rnrnSource: IrishrnHorse Gateway (www.irishhorsegateway.ie)

Connemara Pony Horses Associations


Canadian Livestock Records Corporation - http://www.clrc.ca


The Performance Horse Registry The Performance Horse Registry - www.usef.org


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