John McLoughlin has probably attended and enjoyed more Connemara Pony Shows, than any other breeder in Connemara. Since the nineteen fifties when he bagged his first Clifden red rosette with the first pony he bought himself, John has been a quietly charismatic presence at Summer Shows, with or without his own prize-winning mares, for the best part of sixty years.
Driving from his home in Derryherbert near Letterfrack to distant Shows such as Oughterard (a round trip of about 80 miles) in the early days, was an adventure he took in his stride. Three to three-and- a half hours it took to drive his tractor and trailer alone, with a mare or two with foals, along narrow, superbly scenic but bumpy roads and then home again after the Show. Cheerful and uncomplaining, John remained unmarried and cared for his elderly parents and Show Day was always a favourite social occasion, and the fun of winning was an extra bonus.
One of his prolific winners was the 1982 born mare Milford Wren (Sarsfield-Mervyn Wren). Carrying Carna Bobby in both sides of her pedigree and also the Arab blood of Clonkehan Auratum, she was bred by Tom and Elizabeth Ormsby near Tuam, Co.Galway. In 1994 Milford Wren won her Mare Class at Dublin and took Reserve Championship there.
Her 1996 foal by Abbeyleix Owen became the prize-winning Gentle Wren and took Red rosettes at Clifden and Dublin also. In the annals of Clifden Show John McLoughlin’s name is a constant as his ponies won their Classes on many occasions. But he holds one day as special: that was when his home-bred Gentle Wren (Abbeyleix Owen-Milford Wren) won her 3yr. old filly Class, followed by the Junior Championship and went on to become the Clifden Reserve Supreme Champion overall and Reserve Connemara based Champion. – a day of pure joy. Gentle Wren is currently in foal to Glencarrig Patrick.
Her foal, by Currachmore Cashel was just 3 days old when visited by Niamh’s Weblog. She had been stable-born as John’s outdoor grazing where his mares always foal was just too wet this year to leave them out, and the pretty filly foal was just finding her way in bright sunlight around the garden. Mare and foal are now out and doing well. And Gentle Kate has the good looks and kind temperament characteristic of the Gentle breed of ponies.
The McLoughlin family always kept a working pony, but times were hard and they did not breed foals as there was no time for this luxury when a daily round of work was the norm for the resident mare. John’s father had bought a mare which they named Gentle Polly in 1935 so when he later decided to have his own prefix he choose to use the ‘Gentle’ title. The studbook today carries over 40 of John’s ‘Gentle’ breeding, and the name is respected in pony circles internationally. He has 7 mares and a filly at present.
John has had a recent hip operation and has back problems but smiles as he remembers he has had “wonderful days with ponies” and he is looking forward to the coming showing season.