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Connemara Ponies – Everything You Need to Know

By Anne Forsberg


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Ireland is a spectacular place, to say the least. It is considered to be one of countries filled with the most gorgeous natural beauties in the world, and for good reason too.

Everything about it is amazing, the culture, the people and especially its natural landscapes, all combining into what we can only refer to as green heaven on Earth.

With that being said though, we would like to give you a full guide on the only horse breed that is native to Ireland, a horse breed that is constantly praised for its strong work ethic and its friendly demeanor.

We are of course talking about none other than the Connemara pony breed, and if you are interested in finding out more about it then keep on reading, because we will be going through everything there is to know about it.

But before we can get into the modern Connemara ponies and what makes them so special, we should instead provide you with a little bit of a background check on the humble beginnings that this breed has had.

Connemara Ponies Origins

Connemara Ponies Origins
Birchwood Connemara Ponies / facebook.com

The first record of a Connemara pony comes from the eponymous region from County Galway on Ireland’s west coast.

While we don’t know exactly who bred the first Connemara pony, many experts believe that their ancestors were first brought around to Ireland by the Vikings.

Other experts though claim that the actual ancestor of the Connemara pony is the now-extinct Irish Hobby Horse.

This breed was used a lot back in the 13th century as a warhorse, but because they were soon interbred with the Andalusians under the orders of the Spanish Armada, the original gene splice was lost.

This all happened around the 16th century, but the history of the Connemara pony does actually spread even further as around the 18th and 19th centuries, they were interbred with the Arabians, Thoroughbreds and the Hackneys.

Connemara Pony
Photo by JackieLou DL / Pixabay.com

This unfortunately led to the breed becoming a bit too diluted by the early 20th century, which is why in the year 1923 the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society was established.

By the year 1923, they established a studbook which was essentially a barometer meant to depict what a purebred official Connemara pony should look like, with any other members of the same breed not being recognized anymore by them.

Because of this, a lot of breeders decided to try their hand at keeping the official genes intact, bringing their craft with them as they spread the Connemara pony breed all across Britain, North America, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and even all across Europe too.

Goldengrove Connemara Ponies
Goldengrove Connemara Ponies / facebook.com

In order to better sell the breed to everyone, the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society ended up describing the breed as:

  • Compact
  • Well-Balanced
  • Standing on short legs, covering a lot of ground
  • A sturdy head
  • Perfectly developed Crest
  • Neck not too low
  • Good length of rein
  • Strong and muscular shoulders and thighs
  • Powerful and clean limbs
  • Hard and sturdy feet
  • Easy and active movement
  • A good temperament
  • Child-friendly
  • Amazing jumping capacity


Connemara Pony mare and foal
Photo by Simone A. Bertinotti / wikipedia.org

Usually, smaller animals tend to be a bit more easily riled up and that’s a fact. Take for example chihuahuas, they are literally known as little monsters because of their temperament.

But this doesn’t apply to the Connemara ponies, as they are pretty much about as peaceful as they get. This breed is beautiful, and because of its smaller size it has been a fan favorite for children for many years now.

This wouldn’t be possible unless the pony would also be gentle and kind, and luckily that is exactly how we would describe this breed.

They often times long for human affection, they crave it to say the least. On top of that, they are very gentle with every creature, meaning that you can even let your children play around with them because they will rarely if ever be in any danger around this pony breed.


Plus, this breed is also very easy to handle, so even if you don’t have any prior experience with horse raising, you will be more than happy to hear that this breed is never a chore to take care of.

They are very sensible too, so if they end up doing something wrong or if they mess up once you should make sure that you don’t reprimand them too hard because they can easily get their feelings hurt, which can lead to them being depressed or unwilling to listen to you anymore.

One thing that we should mention here is the fact that this breed has also been a very popular choice for adults too. While they are more so catered towards children, adults can still enjoy owning their very own Connemara ponies and they can even ride on them without a problem.

The fact that they are so sensible and intelligent can lead to them getting attached to their owners too and vice versa, so don’t be shocked to hear that your horse will follow you around everywhere as they try to spend as much time with you as possible.


Connemara Pony Uses
British Connemara Pony Society / facebook.com

We mentioned previously that these ponies are considered to be universally acclaimed, but we didn’t go all that deep into what actually makes them so good in the first place.

We definitely need to talk a bit about their natural jumping prowess, because they are amongst the best pony breeds in the world at it.

They have very strong legs that can propel them upwards enough to hop over most obstacles, and because of how small they are, they can easily get a lot of momentum as they do their best to ignore the laws of gravity for the next few seconds.

Their rectangular frame also suits them a lot, allowing them to be perfect for dressage events. On top of that, because of how athletic they are, they can be used in pretty much any sort of competition whatsoever.

They are especially great when you realize the fact that they are still ponies, which are not exactly known for their speed and strength.

The Connemara ponies though are often time the highlight of the event as they can be seen competing in show jumping, dressage, driving, side saddling, working hunter showing and pretty much anything else you could think of.

They can serve as competitive powerhouses for sure, but at the same time they can also be used as riding ponies for children if you want to teach them young how to ride a horse.

Trail rides are always made better by the Connemara ponies, and not only that but they can also handle beach trekking with ease if you want them too.

Overall, the Connemara pony appears to be somewhat of a jack of all trades, being able to do everything that you could ever ask from them and more.

Size as an Advantage

Connemara Size

We should preface this by saying that the Connemara pony is by far one of the larger pony breeds out there, with the average pony being as tall as 12.2hh to 15.2hh.

For the most part though, you can expect your pony to reach the size of 14hh to 14.2hh, and if they don’t then that means that your Connemara pony doesn’t meet the breed standards of the Connemara Pony Breeder Society.

While there is no exact age that you can expect them to become their largest during, they do mature around five years of age or so, so you can definitely start to see them reach their maximum potential height around this time frame.

Interestingly enough though, if you take good care of your Connemara pony you can expect them to live all the way into their 30s, which means that if you do happen to get your hands on one, you need to make sure that you actually treat them with the proper amount of respect they deserve.

They will be with you for a very long time, and if you want them to be there for as long as possible you will need to get them through their routine checkup so they don’t end up passing away prematurely from an avoidable affliction.

As far as the general color of the Connemara pony is concerned, you can expect your horse to almost always be dun or grey, but you can also come across bay, brown, palomino, roan, black and chestnut colors too.


Connemara Use

Despite the fact that they are not exactly the largest horses around, the Connemara ponies have been used very proficiently over the years as working horses around the farm.

They were actually the main helpers that farming families would have around their farmhouses in the past, pretty much using them for any sort of labor whatsoever.

They would work all day long, taking care of every task that was handed to them due to their strong and sturdy builds and their capacity to work tirelessly for long periods of time.

The main tasks that were usually undertaken by the Connemara ponies were the following:

  • Land plowing – as mentioned previously, this breed is a lot stronger than it seems, so it’s no wonder that it was often times used to plow the tough and rocky lands since back in the 18th century
  • Cart pulling – not only were they strong, but they were also very dependable due to how sturdy their builds are, so it’s not surprising that they would be able to pull their weight around with ease too
  • Transportation – they are just large enough to be used to help carry the family around, and they were often times considered to be holy because families would go to their mass on Sunday riding them
  • Racing – while they are not the fastest breed out there by quite a longshot, they can still close the distance due to their ability to keep on going past exhaustion
  • Local shows – these horses are just stunning to look at, and that’s a fact. As such it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they are also great for shows
  • Hunting – being smaller and sturdier also means that these ponies could move around the forests without making all that much noise, which in turn led to them also being very proficient at hunting and gathering resources from the wild

Health and Risk Factors

Connemara Health
Photo by Susan McAleer / Pixabay.com

For the most part, the Connemara pony breed is known for being very healthy and hardy, although they can also be prone to laminitis and obesity if not fed a proper nutritious diet.

We should also mention here how this breed can end up with a genetic disease known as the Hoof Wall Separation Disease. This is where the corners of the hoof wall separate around, making it very painful for the pony to step on its foot anymore.

The ponies can still tough it out and live through this disease, but let’s just say that you shouldn’t put any more stress on their soles regardless at this point, since they’ll barely be able to handle their own weight, let alone yours too.

For the most part, the solution to this is often times to put the poor horse out of its misery so that it doesn’t suffer any longer for no reason.

You will be happy to hear though that for the most part, in order for your pony to have this genetic disease they need to have both of their parents as carriers, otherwise you should be in the green.

There have been attempts made by the Society to actually make it illegal to keep them alive after you realize that they do have this disease as a breeder.

Your job should always be to make sure that you prolong the breed’s success rate, and by letting them live through this affliction you are pretty much condemning them to a life of pain which they will also carry on to their offspring later on down the line.


Castle Connemara Ponies
Castle Connemara Ponies / facebook.com

Back in the early 1900s, while the breed itself wasn’t unheard of, it was definitely nowhere near as popular as it is today.

In fact, you would rarely if ever find anyone that actually had an up-to-standard Connemara pony in their stead.

Nowadays however, the Connemara pony’s full potential has been discovered, and as such they’ve been spread all around the globe, to the point where they should be available no matter where you live.

They are most popular around Ireland for sure, since this is where they originated from, but they can also be found in the following countries:

  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Finland
  • Denmark
  • Italy
  • Switzerland
  • New Zealand
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • France
  • South Africa
  • America
  • Canada
  • Austria
  • Australia
Hayes’s Connemara Ponies
Hayes’s Connemara Ponies / facebook.com

The reason as to why we put Australia all the way at the bottom of that list is because they actually didn’t even have any Connemara ponies around until 1963.

This is when Dr. Fred Wiltshire decided to import the very first one of its kind into the country, breaking records and almost immediately garnering a lot of attention towards this breed.

Because of this simple act, you can now find a ton of breeders all across Australia that actively work their hardest to make sure that their ponies get to live a good and healthy life.

The Annual International Connemara Pony Show

Annual International Connemara Pony Show
Photo by Elisa Pitkänen / unsplash.com

That’s right, you read that correctly, you can actually witness the greatest display of Connemara ponies you’ll ever see by visiting Clifden Co. Galway Ireland.

This event takes place in August every year, and during its runtime you can actually see what can only be described as the cutest and most entertaining show you’ll ever see.

While that may sound like an exaggeration, we can definitely say that it was well worth the time and money for us, especially if you plan on actually buying a pony for yourself.

Just keep a close eye on which of the horses you want and when they do get auctioned off you can try your luck and see if you can get your hands on it.

The whole show is quite lengthy too, so don’t feel discouraged if you can’t win any of the auctions immediately. There are over 20 different classes being showcased here, so you will have more than enough time and opportunities to get one to accompany you home.


Connemara Ponies
Photo by Xavier von Erlach / unsplash.com

The beautiful Connemara pony is definitely one of the most unique looking horses we’ve ever seen. It is not as small as all the other ponies out there, but it’s also nowhere near as large as the Thoroughbreds for example.

Instead, it is its very own breed, one that has its own physical and emotional characteristics that you need to look into before actually buying one for yourself.

They make for perfect children’s pets and they can teach your child how to ride from an early age, but they can also serve you in a plethora of events if you want them to.

Needless to say, this is a universally acclaimed breed for a reason, and one of our personal favorites without a doubt too.

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About Anne Forsberg

Anne has been riding since she was only 5 years old and she's been obsessed with horses ever since. An avid horsewoman now, she loves horses and this sport more than anything else, sharing stories and info that she hopes will be helpful and meaningful to anyone who's on their path to become a better horse owner, a better rider and why not, a better person. Learn more about Seriously Equestrian's Editorial Process.

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