In 1992, Donegal Connemara pony breeders decided to co-operate with each other, primarily with the purpose of marketing their stock for sale. They formed Donegal Connemara Pony Breeders Group, with Clive Evans (owner of the highly acclaimed Bruckless House and Connemara Pony Stud Farm) as group co-ordinator.
Working in conjunction with - and having the full support of - the Connemara Pony Breeders` Society, Clifden, who assisted in regular breeding seminars in the County. The Donegal Group was available to assist anyone with queries or problems which had a specific Donegal application, and served as a focus of interest for breeding in the area, attracting members from neighbouring counties in Ireland.
In March 2000, the Donegal Connemara Pony Breeders Group expanded, with an aim to promote the interests of Connemara breeders in Donegal and the neighbouring counties of Derry and Tyrone, becoming the Derry, Donegal & Tyrone Connemara Pony Breeders Group.
The Derry, Donegal, Tyrone Connemara Pony Breeders are a group of over thirty members - all with a common interest...the Connemara Pony (the little horse with the big heart).
Connemara Ponies have been bred and used in the northwest for generations. In the last ten years, breeders have formed a Group for the advertising of their animals in an attempt to face the demands of the requirements of today`s market forces. This is a slow process especially in face of the much longer traditions in Connemara itself as the centre of breeding and production. However, some marks are being made.
Currently there are some 30 breeders of the Connemara Pony working out of Ireland`s northwest in Counties Donegal, Derry and Tyrone. They operate a website at www.connemaraponybreeders.com giving details of the Group including a Sales List. For the past ten years they have promoted their stock through participation in the Clifden Show with modestly good results, and organised well-supported classes for the Connemara in the large agricultural show in the Finn Valley here in the centre of Donegal. A number of other Shows in the area now feature the Connemara Pony prominently in their catalogues of classes. One of our local breeders, Joe McGlinchey, is presently a member of the Council of the Connemara Pony Breeders` Society at Clifden.
For many years, the breeding of the pony was in the hands of the few who had available a limited small number of Approved stallions. The list of stallions today is much improved, boosted in 1984 by the introduction by the Connemara Pony Breeders` Society of the pony Ashfield Alex (S711) presently in England with Pam Clingan. He came to Bruckless Stud and joined the only other stallion in the county at that time, Drumclounish Teige (S676). Now the selection is much wider: more care is being taken over pedigrees and the production of young stock has improved greatly. Fresh mares have been imported into the region in recent times adding to and improving the reservoir of genes available. A list of the stallions in the area is attached as Appendix A.
To select one stallion of special note may well be a subjective choice but Granard Storm S737 was with us since 1988, owned by James Jones, Carlow, until local breeders Clive Evans and Ivan Stewart bought him after the passing of Jimmy in 2001. Granard Storm covered many mares and sired many a good pony. At the count in 2002, he was credited with more than 70 registered foals: unfortunately many colts he produced were gelded without having been registered at all. They passed into oblivion except a significant number earned their names, all unregistered in the Connemara world, as performance ponies in the showjumping field and hunter trials. Additionally, many of his progeny have been registered with Dressage Ireland. Some of his progeny have gone abroad to feature in other countries: Ashfield Carna G1325 has become a prominent performer in the USA, whilst the progeny of Loftsome Sandstorm ECPS/S100 (bred by Eamonn Callaghan, Ballylar, Co. Donegal) featured in this year`s ECPS show at Moreton Morell, Warwickshire, in the in-hand classes. Granard Storm`s half-bred progeny are also making their mark - Bruckless Tina IHR 2223503 is currently doing very well in the dressage arena in Northern Ireland. Sadly, the stallion failed during 2001 and was put down in the Spring of 2002: he was 24 years old. He sired several progeny in 2002 for Ivan Stewart and his very last foal is a filly by Robin`s Gift M8781 born in Bruckless in July this year.
Also at Morten Morell, local breeder Robert Watters produced his stallion Black Dandy S920, taking 2nd place in the in-hand class for senior stallions, and 4th place in the showjumping competition against a very strong field. This stallion, by Tulira Barney S776, that is standing in this county, was bred by William McGaughey also of Co. Donegal. The stallion Dunlewey Sonny Jim S690, owned by Kieran Guinness of this county, was represented by a daughter in the Hunter Trials class in the same Show, whilst Tulira Barney S776 had additional progeny in several of the Show`s classes. Clive Evans of Bruckless, a listed CPBS Judge, assisted in the judging of their Supreme Championship.
In the USA, the Donegal Bowl of Waterford Crystal, presented by the Bruckless Stud in 2001, was competed for at the ACPS Region III Show, at Middleburg in Virginia, in July this year. It was won by the young mare, Blueberry, by Landgate Bluebeard.
From Denmark, a group of twelve breeders is expected to visit the region in August this year, en route to the Clifden Show on the 15th of the month. They are visiting Pauline McLaren, Secretary of the local Group, and also the Bruckless Stud where it is intended that they meet as many Connemara ponies as possible in the time available - a list of Bruckless ponies is at Appendix B.
The breeding of the Connemara Pony is very much alive in these parts. The use of them in performance work is also established no more than at the Deanes` Equestrian Centre, Bruckless, where half a dozen purebred Connemaras can be found any day in one or other of the arenas performing in dressage competitions, showjumping, or acting as teacher-ponies to the inexperienced.
Our motto is BUY A CONNEMARA: USE A CONNEMARA. THE CONNEMARA IS A PEOPLE-PONY.