Hardy, sporty and good-lookin’, the Connemara Pony is basically our national identity in pony form.
Straight out of Connaught, the Connemara Pony is that windswept grey you see picking its way along a ridge in ads for the tourist board or in the National Geographic looking damp beside wild freckled children.
Here’s what you may not know about this fine beast.
- They bond very strongly to people and each other - Connemara Ponies can recognise a person’s voice after several years spent apart.
- They’re prized for their versatility and excel in many disciplines including endurance riding, hunting and jumping, and dressage.
- The Connemara as an identifiable breed was almost lost to history by the early 20thcentury due to crossbreeding and gentrification – their popularity as a riding pony and the protection of stabling changed the outlook for wild ponies.
- In 1923, the Connemara Pony Breeders Society formed in Clifden as a conservation effort and released a select group back onto the land
- Born black or bay, they lighten with age to their trademark grey colouration.
- Their build is blocky and deep but their fine face and head recall the strong influence of Arabian horses introduced in the 17thIt’s disputed whether they were also bred with the mounts of the Spanish Armada – legend has it an Armada vessel carrying Andalusian horses sank off the coast of Achill in the 16th Century. The strongest swam ashore and did very well for themselves.
- The land and the rain refined the breed, really - wintering out, poor examples die off and in the bogs of Connemara, well, you’d want to have your wits about you
- It could be said that this pony is very rarely also a horse. They’re only small, measuring between 12.2 and 14.2 hands high. At maximum they skim the classification requirements of a full horse.
- A 22 year old Connemara gelding named The Nugget managed to jump 7 feet 2 inches at the London International Horse Show in 1935. Imagine a 60 year old man called Séamus doing that and you’re in the appropriate ballpark of amazement. Séamus is about the height of a car.