DID YOU KNOW?
ST. PATRICK'S DAY
 
THE STORY OF
SAINT PATRICK
 
ST PATRICK'S DAY TOASTS
 
HISTORY OF
CONNEMARA MARBLE
 
THE CONNEMARA PONY
 
P.S. I LOVE YOU KYLEMORE
 
BROWN'S GREAT ADVENTURE
 

IRELAND'S ANCIENT EAST
 

LANGUAGES OF IRELAND
 

IRISH JOKE OF THE MONTH

THE CONNEMARA PONY

Spanning the length of the west coast of Ireland, the Wild Atlantic Way is home to a multitude of hidden gems. Particularly alluring is a region known as Connemara. From the soaring Twelve Bens mountain range to the coast’s stunning beaches, this region is an unspoiled and idyllic paradise.

Both nature and animal lovers will be taken with Connemara’s rugged landscapes, wild flora, spectacular views and, of course – its very own unique breed; the Connemara Pony.

This stocky little guy is instantly recognizable, measuring between just 128 and 148cm in height. With a strong back and short muscular legs, it’s perfectly suited to the craggy and untamed terrain of the Connemara landscape. But how did such an unusual breed come about?

Surprisingly, this pony is actually of Scandinavian descent, having been brought to Ireland by the Vikings (who arrived in 795AD). Following that, legend has it that when galleons from the infamous Spanish Armada (who were returning home after unsuccessfully attempting to invade England) unexpectedly ran aground off the Galway coast in 1588, the Andalusian horses on board were set loose. Swimming to shore from the wrecks, they gradually began to breed with the Irish ponies running wild in the mountains.

This refined the Connemara Pony yet again as the Andalusians were famed for their strength, elegance and prowess as war horses. Today’s ponies retain some of those characteristics; they’re strong, compact and handsome.

Indeed, such was their hardiness, they served as the backbone of many Connemara farming families right up until the 1940s and 1950s. Ponies (usually mares, as they could be bred) were led down from the mountains by farmers and tamed. In this pre-tractor era, ponies were used to pull ploughs across the land. They were also fitted with baskets called ‘creels’, and used to transport turf home from the local bog, as well as haul seaweed, which was used to fertilize the often barren land. This hard-working lifestyle contributed further to the ponies’ stamina and adaptability. However, despite this somewhat harsh lineage, the Connemara Pony is also known for its kind and gentle temperament, and was beloved by their farming owners. Indeed, they were also harnessed to a trap, and were known to bring the family to mass each Sunday!

Today, the Connemara Pony continues to thrive, but enjoys a more relaxed lifestyle. Rather than farming labour, it’s popular now for riding and trekking, with lots of equestrian centers along the west coast offering treks through these scenic surrounds on Connemara Ponies. Their size and temperament make them ideal for children’s trekking, though they’re hardy enough to hold adults too, and excel in show-jumping and dressage. There’s also an annual event; the Clifden Connemara Pony Show, where local pony enthusiasts proudly showcase their beautiful specimens. It’s well worth a visit during your Wild Atlantic Way adventure; you’ll find arts and crafts, Irish dancing, and a traditional market on the streets of Clifden.