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The Connemara Pony has over time, been upgraded by a variety of breeds, and the end product is probably the most brilliant performance pony available. Absolutely Irish in origin, the Connemara has won prizes and hearts world wide.
The Connemara Pony takes its name from the wild part of Ireland to the west of Loughts Corrib and Mask. It is the sole indigenous equine of Ireland and is one of the most beautiful of the Mountain and moorland breeds. The home of the Conemara is that part of Ireland known as Connaught, bounded in the south by Galway Bay and to the west by the Atlantic. In this wild, beautiful region of mountains, bogs and stony outcrops the hardy pony has developed in a climate which, while harsh in winter, is tempered a little by the Gulf Stream, which enables rushes, herbs, reeds and grasses to appear early in the year.
In spite of the overall poorness of the land, there are vital quantities of phosphate which enrich the herbage and contribute significantly to the strength of the ponies bones and muscles. For those that live nearer the coast, there is access to the iodine and other minerals in the seaweed, which they eat with relish.
The precise origins of the Connemara Pony are not fully known, but the Irish Hobby was the forefunner of the Connemara Pony, and the Hobby was a hardy, agile pony that like the Galloway played a part in the evolution of the Thoroughbred. The Hobby was a result of crosses, about 400 year ago with Barbs, Arabs and Andalusioan or Spanish blood from horses brought in by merchants trading between Galway and the Iberian Peninsula.
Later in the nineteenth century, estate owners in Connemara imported Arabs which bred with the native ponies and stamped on them the Arab characteristics that are still apparent in the modern breed.
At the end of the nineteenth century, government breeding schemes brought in Welsh Cobs, Thoroughbreds, Roadsters and even the Clydesdale, to cross with local stock in an attempt to improve.
The establishment of the stud book enabled selective breeding to restore the pony to its previous quality. The end result is undeniably spectacular. The Connemara Pony Breeders Society was formed in 1923 and the English Connemara Society in 1947. The first stallion to be entered in the Connemara stud book was Cannon Ball, foaled in 1904. Cannon Ball won the Farmers race at Oughterard for 16 years in succession! Two other stallions who had great influence on breed development were Rebel ( foaled in 1922) and Golden Gleam (foaled in 1932).
In Galway, the Connemara was used for every sort of farm task as well as being employed as a pack animal to carry seaweed, potatoes, peat and corn. Of the old type Connemara, a Royal Commission report in 1897 stated that the pony was capable of living where all but wild ponies would starve and was characterized as strong and hard as mules, fertile and free from hereditary disease, concluding that their extinction would be a national loss.
Agility as well as hardiness is a product of the Connemaras environment. Those foaled among the rocky slopes and boggy valleys develop from birth a sure-footedness that stand them in good stead when ridden across any kind of rough, trappy country.
The Connemara Pony is fast, courageous, sensible and is also a remarkable jumper. Its natural environment has given the Connemara hardiness, endurance and its special character.
The Connemara stands between 13 and 14/2 hands, with coat colors in gray, dun, black, bay, brown and occasionally roan or chestnut. Piebalds and skewbalds are not accepted by the breed society.
The head of the Connemara Pony is small and neat, revealing the influence of oriental blood. Despite a background involving many breeds, the breeding pattern has produced a pony of fixed type. Furthermore, the versatile Connemara pony can be ridden by adults as well as children; it is a supremely tractable animal.
The conformation is one of elegance, combined with substance, good proportions throughout and true riding action. The compact body is notable for its depth. Good riding shoulders result in a marked natural proclivity for jumping, which is the hallmark of the modern pony whose wiry type shows a great deal of Barb and/or Arabian blood.
The Connemara pony combines the strength and hardiness of the mountain pony with the quickness, agility and beauty of the Arabian.
A well proportioned front is a feature of the breed, and the length of rein in the neck is exceptional. A bone measurement of between 7 and 8 inches in the foreleg is not unusual and as with all native breeds, the hooves are excellent and the Connemara Pony is sure footed to a degree.
This is an ideal competition mount and has been exported extensively to Europe where they are now bred in considerable numbers. Regarded as the ideal competition mount for young people, as well as adults, they are also subject to rigorous performance testing in Germany. Connemaras are a great natural jumper but they going kindly in harness also. They are greatly popular in Britain, and have become firmly established in the United States, Europe and Australia.
When crossed with Thoroughbreds, Connemaras produce some exceedingly high quality, successful performance animals. such as winners of the King George V Gold Cup, Olympic dressage and Three-Day Eventing.