The most interesting thing about the Pony of the Decade poll was that two of the oustanding showjumping ponies of our time came out on top. There is no doubting the excellence and consistency of both Darkie and Dexter over the last ten years. Moreover, they have achieved their great success against all comers from every country in Europe and from all breeds.
The have both brought the focus of attention to the innate athleticism and jumping ability of certain strains of Connemara Pony which combines the intelligence and ‘fifth leg’ of the pony with the scope of the thoroughbred. We must not forget, of course, Ballyowen Maybelle Molly whose stunning string of successes in 2009, culminating in the Moorselle gold medal win, made her a winner of our earlier ‘Pony of the Year‘ poll.
Because of the international arena in which they operate, the successful showjumpers have inestimable marketing potential for the breed, which is something that the in-hand champions can never match, however much we admire their grace and beauty.
The poll also reflects a changing trend in the connemara world, where the performance animal is being respected more and more and is challenging the former pre-eminince of the in-hand favourites. People are increasingly looking for performance potential and taking an interest in the specific lines that have proven success.
Regrettably, as Dan O Brien informed us, we did not include Templebready Fear Buí. This stallion has distinguished himself by producing top class performance progeny and specifically so when put over thoroughbred mares. This is yet another way of marketing the native breed and none does it better than Fear Buí. The latest issue of the American Connemara is devoted to ‘Saluting Half-bred Connemaras‘ and Marynell Eyles has a very informative article on their success in America. The half-bred sector is a hugely important one.
The other ponies featured in the Poll fall into various categories. Currachmore Cashel (who had such a dream year in ’09), Glencarraig Prince and Hazy Match represent the stallions who are so popular in Ireland with breeders who give priority to the in-hand circuit. Mares like Coral Misty, April Rose, and Castle Urchin represent the matriarchs who have had great success throughout their lives on that same circuit. April Star and Jennifer Rose are great broodmares whose progeny proclaim their excellence. Then, if the poll were conducted in Australia or America, ponies like Castle Baron and Alladin’s Denver would surely have had a bigger impact.
Long before the CPBS was founded, Cannonball won acclaim for his excellence as a racing pony. Farmers bred their mares to him for pace and dash and reflected glory. Looks did not come into it. It was only with the Inspections, that began in 1924, that the look of a pony or its conformation became more important than its temperament and its ability to do a job. When the working farm ponies left the scene mid-century, conformation and the in-hand shows became the only criteria. Now, as we approach ninety years of the Society’s life, what the ponies can do is once again becoming the yardstick for success. So, having Darkie and Dexter top of the pile sounds just right! Well done to them both. It’s been fun.