As many of you may have heard by now, a Puissance competition will be held at the Showgrounds in Clifden on Friday 21st August as part of the Pony Festival. This is the first time a Puissance competition has been held during the festival, despite its undoubted attraction to spectators, and its novelty will be coupled with a generous fund of €1500 for prizes.
The competition is open to registered Connemara Ponies aged 4 years and over, to be ridden by a rider who has attained their 12th birthday on 1st January 2009. The CPBS report that ‘The focus of the day is on performance ponies and will also feature Working Hunter classes with a prize fund of €2000, a musical ride, dressage and driving. Working Hunter Classes commence at 10.00am and there are classes to suit all levels of riders and ponies.’
The competition normally involves a maximum of five rounds – opening round followed by four jump-offs (not against the clock). The first round consists of four to six large single obstacles including the puissance wall, the starting height of which can vary. For the jump-offs, in which the fences are raised for each round, there are only two obstacles — a spread fence and the wall — although an optional practice fence is often included also. It is the norm in Horse Jumping circles that, in the event of equality after the fifth round, riders share first prize.
The puissance wall has often become taller than 7 feet. The record for the High Jump is held by Chilean Colonel Alberto Larraguibel Morales, achieving one of the longest-running unbroken sport records in history (60 years as of 2009.)Then Captain Alberto Larraguibel Morales broke the record at 8 ft. 1¼ in. (2.47 m), riding Huaso (ex “Faithfull”), at the Official International Event at Viña del Mar, Chile on February 5, 1949. The Committee of Records ratified this record on May 28, 1949 and stated that a height of at least 2.49 metres must be cleared to beat it. Wonderfully, a video of the actual jump survives on good ol’ YouTube.
In Puissance proper, German rider Franke Sloothaak achieved the world record in 1991 when he jumped 7ft 10 inches on Leonardo. You can view it here (unbelievable! The actual record is achieved about 8 minutes into the video). While the noble Leonardo was no Connemara Pony, some of the breed have scaled the heights of Puissance greatness in the past: Tommy Wade’s 15 hand Connemara gelding Dundrum became Supreme Champion at the Wembley HOYS when he set a record by clearing a 7’2″ puissance wall. In 1961 he was regarded as show jumper of the century when he won five major events at the Dublin Horse Show, the first time in history that so many awards were won by the same rider, and he did it with the same horse! He was International Jumping Champion from 1959 – 1963.
Only one of two horses to jump a clear round in the entire 1968 Olympics was a 14.1 half bred Connemara , Stroller. Stroller competed in the Olympic games as a member of the British Team ridden by Marium Coakes. They won the silver medal behind the gold medal winners Snowbound and Bill Steinkraus.
We look forward to seeing the competitors of this new competition, and wish everyone involved the best of luck! For further details and entry forms please contact the CPBS, The Showgrounds, Clifden, Co. Galway on 095 21863.