Deirdre Geoghegan and her family have been breeding and producing Connemara ponies for three generations in Oughterard, Co. Galway. Bridge Boy is one of the notable names to have come out of the Canrower yard. While an unbroken gelding, known as ‘Darcy’, produced by Deirdre and her sister turned out to be a dressage star.
Mark Geoghegan, Deirdre’s grandfather, was renowned for his breaking skills and as a great judge of a pony. He was a Connemara Pony Breeders Society (CPBS) stallion custodian for many years and used to ride Canon Ball, the first Connemara stallion in the CPBS stud book.
Her father, Paddy Geoghegan, bred many notable Connemara ponies in his time. Artic Moon (Carna Dun x Canrower Lass) went on to be Pat Lyne’s foundation mare, on whom the Chiltern Connemara Pony stud was established in 1964.
Silver Lining, (Carna Dun x Canrower Lass) a full sister to Artic Moon, won the Supreme Champion at the Ponies of Britain for the Gordon Watsons; a huge achievement for a Connemara pony.
The famous Connemara stallion, Bridge Boy (Tooreen Ross x Irene) was also bred by Paddy Geoghegan. Bridge Boy was Champion Stallion at the CPBS show in 1963, 1965, 1967 and 1969, and was awarded the Royal Dublin Society silver medal on all four occasions; they still hold pride of place at Canrower, Deirdre added.
Bridge Boy’s progeny are still competing and winning in the show ring today. One of his most famous grandsons, Currachmore Cashel, out of the Bridge Boy mare, Tolka Bridge, was Supreme Champion Stallion at Clifden in 2009 and an RDS winner in 2005. His grandson, Earl of Newbridge, was a Clifden stallion class winner also.
Another grandson, Ard Conneely by Bridge Boy stallion, Ard Bridge Times, was Supreme Champion of the 1992 CPBS show and was later sold to Europe.
Mark and Paddy Geoghegan sold Connemara ponies all over the world. Deirdre recalled visiting a Bridge Boy mare while in Australia called Boffin Heron. She belonged to the Storey family who bred Connemara ponies in South Australia.
Bridge Boy and Mark Geoghegan
“Connemara ponies have always been part of my life,” Deirdre said. From a very young age she was competing at shows with the family’s ponies. Deirdre was a finalist in the first All Ireland Ridden Championships in 1983 on the homebred Canrower Rebecca by Bridge Boy.
Deirdre also owned and produced Canrower Liath (Garryhinch Prince x Glen Lady), three-times-winner of the Under 16 Ridden class in Clifden and Ridden Champion in 1995, along with winning the gelding class that same year.
Deirdre is a listed Connemara Pony Breeders Society ridden judge and has judged at shows around the country. She has had the privilege of being invited to judge at Clifden on two occasions. “Two wonderful experiences,” Deirdre commented.
Deirde’s sister, Joan, is also involved in breeding Connemara ponies. Her mare, Beckingdale, was a winner at Clifden on two occasions and Reserve Confined Champion in 2011. She was also an RDS winner.
Canrower Connemara Ponies
Named after the Oughterard townland in which the farm is located, Paddy Geoghegan established Canrower Connemara Ponies in the early 1950s. Deirdre has continued the Canrower name, managing the yard and the 40ac farm with the help of her husband, Pat O’Sullivan.
“Our goal is to breed intelligent sound ponies, who are well-mannered with a good temperament and with both confirmation and movement to enable them to perform to a high level.
“Ponies that can prove themselves in any show ring, whether it be showjumping, working hunter or dressage,” Deirdre explained.
In 2016, Deirdre joined an equine knowledge transfer discussion group in Galway, facilitated by Wendy Conlon from Teagasc. “With 17 other members, it’s a great way of meeting like-minded breeders. By visiting studs, vet clinics and group discussions, it has given me great insight, knowledge and ideas to bring home and put into practice,” Deirdre said.
The dressage Connemara pony
Five years ago, Deirdre and Joan found ‘Darcy’. In a pen of five other ponies, Carn Verdon Boy (Ferdia x Carn Lady Ash) caught their eye; a five-year-old unbroken gelding, who hadn’t been sold at the Clifden sales a few weeks earlier.
The sisters quickly saw his potential. “His balanced floating movement, natural presence and quickness to learn made us realise that this gelding was very special,” Deirdre explained.
They had hoped to show Carn Verdon Boy at the Connemara Pony Show in Clifden that summer but on entering they discovered that his dam was a Class 3 mare, which automatically disqualified him from competing.
Not giving up, the Geoghegans then went about asking her owner, Michael Dempsey, to allow them to produce his dam, Carn Lady Ash, for the CPBS inspections that Autumn. This would classify Carn Verdon Boy as Class 1 and allow him to be entered in the show the following year.
Deirdre and Joan achieved what they set out to do and Carn Lady Ash received her Class 1 status that September with top marks.
Deirdre and Joan then went about schooling Darcy and their hard work and perseverance was rewarded in 2014 with numerous wins and prizes, and the coveted red rosette at the Connemara Pony Show being the icing on the cake.
In November 2015, Carn Verdon Boy joined forces with Alana Cazabon, European Pony Dressage Championship rider and a Hickstead dressage winner, along with her trainer/grandmother Judy Cazabon from Cleggan Beach Riding Centre, Connemara.
Within five months the duo had progressed from regional shows to winning the Novice Championship and Reserve Elementary Championship at Dressage Ireland National Winter Final Championships.
Carn Verdon Boy out-did some very talented warmblood horses that had been competing for years and received the highest placed Connemara pony at the finals. Due to their achievements the CPBS invited Carn Verdon Boy and Alana to perform their dressage routine at the 2016 CPBS show in Clifden.
Carn Verdon Boy and Alana Cazabon
In February 2017, Alana’s training took her to Stal Hexagan, a top dressage yard in Holland, and it was decided that Darcy would join her.
At the 2017 Netherlands International Connemara Pony Show, the duo danced to ‘Galway Girl’ for their Medium Freestyle performance and were announced the winners, with a very impressive score of 78% - a personal best.
Most recently, Carn Verdon Boy and Alana Cazabon performed their musical display at the Dublin Horse Show. They were part of the Dressage Ireland team consisting of Irish Dressage Olympian, Heike Holstein, and three other top-level riders.
“It was a wonderful experience; one which I am really proud of. We had picked Carn Verdon Boy out of a pen only five short years ago and he is now performing at the most prestigious show in Ireland,” Deirdre said.
Darcy and Alana will also be performing on the Thursday of the CPBS show this year, which Deirdre is looking forward to immensely. They will also be attending the Dressage Ireland Championship this autumn, having gained qualifying scores of 68% and 69% in Advanced Medium level.
Carn Verdon Boy’s sire, Ferdia, has produced many other successful sons and daughters in showing, showjumping and dressage. His famous son, Blackwood Fernando, **has surmounted the WH and showing scenes with his hundreds of wins.
While his full brother, Blackwood Dancer, has also competed at the European Dressage Championship for Ireland with Alana Cazabon.
Deirdre purchased a mare by Ferdia last year called Tavanagh Ellabella and plans to breed from her next season.
Carn Lady Ash
When the opportunity to purchase the dam of Carn Verdon Boy arose, Deirdre couldn’t pass it up and Carn Lady Ash joined the Geoghegans at Canrower Connemara Ponies.
The Connemara mare has a great pedigree, Deirdre explained. Her sire, Robe Earl, has bred both in-hand and ridden winners, as well as many successful showjumping progeny. Her granddam is by Westside Mirah, who needs no introduction as one of the elite showjumping Connemara sires.
The following summer, after her arrival, Deirdre and Joan got a big surprise when Carn Lady Ash gave birth to a colt foal. Unfortunately, Canrower Mister Dempsey, now a four-year-old gelding, has an unknown sire.
Deirdre even tried to trace his parentage through DNA testing but to no avail. He has, however, turned into a promising grey 148 cm pony, Deirdre commented, recently broken and showing nice potential with a friendly attitude and good willingness to learn.
Carn Lady Ash
This year, Carn Lady Ash had a colt foal by one of the world’s most respected Connemara stallions, Dexter Leam Pondi. “He has inherited his dam’s beautiful temperament and lovely nature,” Deirdre said.
Carn Lady Ash is also the dam of two-year-old gelding, Canrower Drom Tommie, by Silver Shadow - renowned Grade A International Showjumper Connemara stallion. The gelding’s half-sister, Cul Ban Mistress, won a silver medal at the European Championships in 2017.
This year Deirdre sourced semen from Denmark to cover Carn Lady Ash, from Connemara stallion, Wirtsmuhle Delaney’s, who is out of a Laerkens Cascade Dawn dam.
This stallion has proved himself in the dressage arena in Europe and his daughter, Skærgårdens Delicious Love, won the HOYS Mountain and Moorland Championships in 2017.
With Carn Lady Ash having bred a very successful dressage pony herself in Carn Verdon Boy, Deirdre is hoping this cross will produce a foal with a bright future in the dressage arena.
Discussing her selection of sires, Deirdre said: “I like to use top-performance stallions with a proven track record, having competed themselves and their progeny also proving themselves to be top athletes.”
Deirdre also noted the increased popularity of Connemara ponies in dressage in recent years and the Galway breeder believes there is a growing market in this area.
At Canrower Connemara Ponies, Deirdre always hopes and tries her best to place young stock in knowledgeable performance homes where they will be brought on to reach their full potential.
Some stand-out young ponies at Canrower presently include:
Canrower Silver Belle: two-year-old filly by renowned Grade A International Showjumper Connemara stallion Silver Shadow. The filly is out of their mare, Sonoma, who has also bred a Class 1 stallion by Earl of Newbridge (a grandson of Bridge Boy). Sonoma also had a son compete successfully in England at BE100 level.
Canrower Drom Tommie: two-year-old gelding also by Silver Shadow and out of Carn Lady Ash. He is a half-brother to Carn Verdon Boy and is showing the similar balanced movement as his dressage brother.
Canrower Evening Hilly: four-year-old filly by homebred stallion, Earl of Clonriff (Sonoma x Earl of Newbridge) and out of Glencarrig Maude by Castlestrange Fionn. The four-year-old is just starting her schooling and next year Deirdre hopes that she will be competing in the 4/5 year ridden classes at shows around the country.
Sonoma and Earl of Clonriff