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Connemara Pony Society marks ‘Long walk to London’

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Martin Nee, Cashel, Connemara with 2011 Junior Champion – Doonreaghan Marty (Stallion) getting some exercise in the wilds of Connemara ahead of the Conemara Pony Festival which will take place at The Showgrounds, Clifden, on Thursday and Friday next. Pic: Andrew Downes

Connemara Pony Society marks ‘Long walk to London’


Anton McNulty

As the world descends on London for the 2012 Olympics, one hundred years ago a Connemara man, Michael O’Malley made a similar journey to Olympia in London where he introduced the world to the Connemara Pony.
Michael O’Malley left Rosmuck in Connemara 100 years ago with two Connemara Ponies and made the long journey to London where he introduced the unique breed to the world. In recognising O’Malley’s contribution to the Connemara Pony and the centenary of his journey, the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society erected a commemorative plaque in Rosmuck in his memory.
The erection of the plaque will coincide with the Connemara Pony Festival which takes place in Clifden for a week from Sunday August 5 to Sunday, August 12. A native of Rosmuc, O’Malley took great pride in the native Connemara Pony and following its deterioration due to the introduction of unsuitable sires, he urged that steps he taken to revive the old breed.
His journey to London and his subsequent appeals helped raise the profile of the native Pony and in 1923 he helped form the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society.
The festival opened on Sunday night with a celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Show Queen competition with the winners and runners-up from the previous years invited to take part in the competition.
The highlight of the week’s festival will be the 89th annual Connemara Pony Show, hosted by the Connemara Pony Society which will take place on Thursday, August 9 and Friday, August 10 at The Showgrounds, Clifden,
Thursday is traditionally a family day out and there will be something to entertain young and old. The top Connemara ponies from all over Ireland will travel to compete in twenty-four in-hand classes and ten in-hand classes.. A dog show, domestic arts show and Irish dancing will also take place on the grounds.
Following on the success of last year’s inaugural best-dressed lady competition, this competition will once again take place at the show, judged by celebrity judge Gillian Quinn. The best-dressed lady will receive a €500 voucher sponsored by Carraig Donn, the runner-up will receive a weekend away in the fabulous Delphi Mountain Resort and third place will receive a piece of jewellery sponsored by The Celtic Shop in Clifden.
The Performance Show takes place on Friday and there will be a huge range of Performance Classes happening. The highlight of the day will be the Manor Connemara Ponies High Performance Class boasting a prize fund of €3000. There will also be working hunter classes, a puissance competition and a parade of champions.
A catalogue sale of Connemara Ponies will be held on Saturday, August 11 and Sunday, August 12 in Clifden Mart with 520 lots on offer and the sale commences at 10am each day.
For more details on the Connemara Pony Festival please visit www.cpbs.ie.

Legend of the Connemara Pony
The harsh landscape of Connemara where the breed first became recognised as a distinct type, gave rise to a pony breed of hardy, strong individuals. However,  the origins of the Pony are unknown but much speculation exists about how they came to the west. There is an opinion they developed from Scandinavian ponies that the Vikings first brought to Ireland. Another source was likely the Irish Hobby, a now-extinct breed established prior to the 13th century. Legend, however, says that galleons from the Spanish Armada ran aground in 1588, and the Andalusians on board were set loose. The Spanish horses bred with the native stock, refining the local ponies.
Whatever their origin, today, Connemara Ponies are bred worldwide in Ireland and Britain, as well as on the European continent, North America, Australasia and South Africa.