I have had the incredible delight of riding a Connemara Pony through the Irish National Forest and it is not an exaggeration to say it really is one of the most beautiful places to ride in the world. The Irish have a full and rich history when it comes to horses, with six native breeds. Here is a little bit about each of these breeds who are lucky enough to get to call Ireland home. Own one? Share a picture in the comments!
#1 - Connemara Pony
The Connemara pony hails from the area for which it’s named, the rugged and wildly beautiful west coast of Ireland. They are known for stamina, strength and sure-footedness, all things they need in order to survive in their native land. Farmers would have but one pony, and she (they preferred mares so they could sell the offspring) would do everything – from pulling the plow or cart to carrying a rider – that was required. The breed became “official” with the formation of the Connemara Pony Stud Book in 1929. (theconnemarapony.ie)
#2 - Irish Draught
The Irish Draught is not a large draft breed as the name implies. They are actually fairly fine boned and athletic, making them great for all-around use on the Irish Farm. Developed from the Irish Hobby horse, the Irish Draught is the national horse breed of Ireland. (www.idhba.ie)
#3 - Gypsy Vanner
Known by many names including Gypsy, Gypsy Cob, Irish Cob or even Tinker Horse, this is one of the most recognized horse breeds. The Drum Horse is very similar in appearance, but larger in size. The breed has a colorful history. The Gypsies of Ireland and the United Kingdom were dedicated to carefully developing the perfect caravan horse with lots of feather and color. It is because of them, that we call get to enjoy this stunning creature today. (vanners.org) http://vanners.org/history/
#4 - Kerry Bog Pony
The Kerry Bog Pony originated from the mountains and moorlands of the county Kerry in southwestern Ireland. Although mostly a feral horse at first, they came to be used for hauling peat out of the bogs. They are known for a gentle disposition and for being a versatile breed. Interestingly, The Kerry Bog Pony site claims that this pony and the Hobby horse are one in the same. The name “hobby”, being the local name for the horse. (kerrybogpony.ie)
#5 - Irish Sport Horse
The Irish Sport Horse (sometimes referred to as an Irish Hunter) is the result of breeding an Irish Draught to another breed, usually a Thoroughbred or a European Warmblood. The cross results in an athletic, fast horse with the sensibility of the Draught. They are used for everything from transportation to working the land, and are very popular competition horses.
#6 – Irish Hobby
The Irish Hobby Horse is an extinct breed of horse that is believed to be one of the ancestors for the Irish Draught, Connemara Pony and possibly the same horse as Kerry Bog, as mentioned above (in that case, they are not extinct!). The breed was similar to the Garrano and Sorraia horses of Northern Spain and Portugal (www.idhba.ie). According to the Irish Draught Horse Breed Association, the Thoroughbred itself may owe it’s speed to this little pony, whose name in Gaelic “obann” means “swift” or “fast.”
Which one of these Irish horse breeds is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!