How the Connemara Pony has Changed

This documentary, Connemara and its Ponies, appeared on a friend’s Facebook page last week.  I had a look at it over a nice cuppa Barry’s on Saturday morning and found it to be an absolute gem!  Made by RTE, the national Irish broadcaster, in 1971, it’s a fascinating look at Connemara, its people and its ponies more than forty years ago.

To my eyes, the Connemara breed has changed enormously over the last forty years.  They were much chunkier and coarser looking back in ’71.  Also, there’s the size – the narrator says that the ponies should be 13 to 14 hands (133 – 143cm).  Nowadays, you’ll find a 15 hand (153cm) purebred Connemara without too much difficulty.  The ponies were bred to bring the height up to international pony jumping height (officially 147cm nowadays) in order to increase their value as potential sports ponies, but this has meant that there’s plenty of ponies finishing over height.  This is nice for small adults like me, but what does it mean for the breed overall?

Then there’s the length of back.  The narrator says “compact, with a short back and strong loins” yet I remember reading in the early seventies that a good Connemara should have a long back, so that there was room for two creels of turf plus a rider behind them.  Strong loins were also important – to support the weight of that rider, presumably.  Is it the fact that this video was shot in wide format that makes all of these ponies look significantly long-backed, forty years ago?  Or did they really look like this?

And the hooves – somewhere along the way, the need for a strong, hard hoof became less important.  A weakness has been introduced into the breed and, worse still, overlooked for several generations as it was passed on.  Look up the Connemara Pony Hoof Wall Separation Research blog for more information on this, and for the latest news on research.

Anyway, the video is just under half an hour long.  Click through to the RTE player on the picture below, make yourself a tea or a coffee, grab a few biccies, sit back and enjoy.  As well as the ponies, there’s beautiful scenery and some – um – interesting riding styles…

Click to visit the RTE player

Click to visit the RTE player

It’s available until July 2016, so if you’re visiting this blog after that date, sorry but you missed the boat!

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