Ireland’s only native breed, the Connemara pony boasts a history that dates back to the ancient Celtic tribes (the Celts were known to be skilled horsemen). These delightful equines might also trace their lineage in part to the many Spanish horses shipwrecked on the Irish coast during the sinking of the Spanish Armada in the 16th century.
Because they originally lived on the rocky coast of western Ireland (Connemara is in County Galway, to be exact), these ponies were hardy, surefooted and capable of moving quickly across rough ground. Early Irish farmers caught and tamed the wild ponies, training them to pull plows on the farm or carts into town and also selling the mares’ offspring for much-needed income. Endowed with stamina and adaptability, the Connemara ponies handled these and many other difficult tasks well.
Today’s Connemara is still prized for these same qualities and is gaining popularity as a versatile mount for both children and adults around the world. And no wonder! He is a medium-sized pony that stands an average of 13 to 15 hands, with a kind eye, a medium “pony” head and ears, well-defined cheekbones, sloped shoulders, a muscular back and rounded hindquarters. He is also gentle, trusting and willing — the perfect temperament for child riders — and comes in grey, bay, dun and brown colors, with the occasional raon, chestnut, black or palomino. There is little that this mighty little equine can’t do, but he is known to excel especially in such disciplines as driving, eventing, jumping and endurance. The Connemara has also played an important role in the development of the fine Irish hunter horse.