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© Diatom Graphics

Extinction by NAIS


Windt im Wald Farm
Geauga County, Northeast Ohio
since 1995

The Welsh Pony

When the Romans invaded Great Britain, they discovered herds of ponies in the hills and valleys of Wales. Some evidence suggests that these Welsh ponies were native to Wales before 1600 BC. Only the hardiest of these ponies survived because they had to leap ravines and climb mountains, there was no shelter from wind, rain, and snow, and because there was not much for them to eat. During the Crusades, knights from the British Isles used Welsh ponies, known as "rouncies" to lead their heavy fighting horses, or "destriers." Welshmen riding Welsh ponies helped Henry Tudor defeat the rivals from his own family so that he could become King Henry VIII in 1485. Nevertheless, once Henry's power as King of England was well established, he thought there were too many Welsh ponies and demanded that any ponies under fifteen hands must be destroyed. Since the tallest Welsh pony of that time period rarely exceeded 14.3 hands, the breed should have gone into extinction. By some miracle the tough, smart Welsh ponies managed to elude Henry VIII's death threat and to flourish.

It is widely recognized that the Welsh pony carries Arabian blood. The Roman invaders who left Great Britain in 410 AD left their Arabian-type horses behind. These horses naturally bred on with the native Welsh ponies to create a tough, versatile little horse that could pull chariots and carts, work in the Welsh coal mines, and become the pampered pets of post-Henry VIII English royalty. As time went on, Welsh breeders crossed their ponies with Thoroughbreds, Hackneys, and Barbary horses to add size, refinement, and a pretty trot.

In 1901 the Welsh Pony and Cob Society, officially known in the Welsh language as Cymedeithas y Merlod a'r Cobiau Cymreig, was founded in 1901.Its original classification was the Welsh Mountain Pony, whose size was designated as 12.2 -13.2 hands. By 1931, there was such a demand for good children's riding ponies that could jump hurdles that the Welsh Pony was added as a second classification. In 1949 the Society changed its regulations on size so that all Welsh ponies were classified as 13.2 hands and under, and any Welsh pony over 13.2 was now classified as a Welsh Cob. There actually developed four classifications: Section A, the Welsh Mountain Pony; Section B, the Welsh Pony; Section C, the Welsh Pony of Cob Type; and Section D, the Welsh Pony Cob. Section A ponies must not exceed 12.2 hands, and Section B cannot exceed 13.2 hands. Section C is for ponies of 13.2 hands or less that carry the blood of the larger Welsh Cob. The Welsh Cob, which must be at least 13.2 hands with no height limitations, is known for its depth of body, prominent forehead and neat, small ears. Of all the sections it is Section D animals, which have enjoyed the most success as hunters, eventers, and driving horses.

The Welsh Pony and Cob have been very useful and valuable to Great Britain, especially during World War II. The British government used Welsh ponies as mounts for the Infantry and as beasts of burden to pull heavy guns and carry equipment. As a result, their popularity dramatically increased as wartime heroes.

In the United States close to 3000 Welsh ponies were registered by 1957, and over the next twenty years, they became the fastest-growing breed of pony in America. Today, over 34,000 registered Welsh ponies exist in the United States. Although there is also a Welsh Part-Bred Registry for ponies of 25% or more registered Welsh blood, there are many wonderful children's ponies that have one Welsh parent but may not be registered at all. It is difficult, therefore, to know just how many Welsh-cross ponies are actually performing in children’s open and schooling shows. It is popular today to produce Thoroughbred-Welsh crosses that become excellent hunter, jumper, and event ponies. Another popular cross is the Welsh-Arabian, which is known to produce riding ponies with more bone for endurance events. It is very clear that the close-up Welsh influence in a pony's pedigree produces very-valued children's mounts that bring great sums of money at well-attended sales across the country. Obviously, these ponies are loved for their soundness, great conditioning, intelligence, and kind temperament. It must be with great sadness that young riders must outgrow their beloved Welsh ponies.

Diane Jones
Windt im Wald Farm

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