“A once in a lifetime mare” Click on photo to enlarge. (Two New Photos added Jan 13th )
Village Laura (Thunderbolt – Village Star) was bought as a yearling by Connemara pony breeder Padraig Hynes from fellow breeder and friend Henry O’Toole.
Padraig had noticed the yearling whenever he passed her field on the way into Clifden and liked her look and her ‘step’ in particular. Henry was the owner of Village Star, his Castle stud foundation mare and one of the last of Paddy King’s Village ponies. Village Laura was one of Star’s early foals.
Laura had a lot to live up to in the Show ring as her dam, Village Star, her grandam, Village Belle and great-grandam Village Swallow were all Clifden winners in their day. Laura’s grandsire Killyreagh Kim, was a prolific winner too, and Clifden Champion. Laura’s own breeding is mainly native Connemara although the Irish Draught May Boy does feature in her pedigree.
Village Laura took the Clifden Supreme herself in 2007 and was to go one better than her forebears by – incredibly – taking the Dublin RDS Connemara Championship three years running, in 1987, ’88 and ’89. She won her classes at Clifden both as a two and a three year old and on a number of other occasions, and was also a Reserve Champion. Padraig says she was a model pony in every way, “an amazing mare to show, always alert, confident and full of presence”. Laura had a superb temperament and was “a once in a lifetime mare, intelligent, never tired, never sick” During the showing season she was out in the fields around the house or on the hills where she liked to graze; she was never rugged-up and was stabled only at night.
The Glenloughan Valley in the townland of Ballinafad is an area of great natural beauty surrounded by the peaks of the Beana Beola or Twelve Pins. Ben Gabhair (mountain of the goats) rises gently behind the Hynes farm-house and the nearby Glenloughan river runs into Derryclare Lake. Here on about 800 acres of picturesque mountain land Padraig and his wife Mary breed sheep and Connemara ponies, as did his father and grandfather before him. In fact his father Tom Hynes had won a class in Clifden in 1948 with his working- pony Grey Granite (Rebel) while Padraig’s grandfather, Francis O’Brien collected a red rosette when he took his mare Moss Rose to the very first Connemara Pony Show in Roundstone in 1924 !! So good ponies have long been a tradition in Canal Stage.
Village Laura had her first foal at eight years of age and went on to produce eleven more, among them were four stallions sons. The first Canal Laurinston by Callowfeenish Mairtin, has had a glittering performance career in the U.S. Three stallion sons of Laura, Canal Calypso (Monaghanstown Fionn), Canal Féilim (Léag) and Canal Laura’s Boy (Libero Justice), remain in Ireland. Many of Laura’s progeny such as Canal Laura’s Lad (Abbeyleix Owen), and Canal Lady Laura (Garryhinch Finn) are with owners outside Ireland, doing well in the breeding stakes or in the Show ring.
The Hynes’s have around 20 ponies at the moment and they include some of Village Laura’s family. At home there is one daughter and one grandaughter who have been Clifden winners. That daughter is Canal Linnet (Monaghanstown Fionn), while the grandaughter, Canal Linda (Boden Park Finnard– Canal Loretta) was awarded the red rosette at both Clifden and Dublin as a 2yr. old in 2001. Among the grandaughters Padraig says that one, Canal Laura, looks just like her famous grandam. So look out for a Laura lookalike at Shows in the near future !!
Going back a few years, Padraig has shown many ponies since the early 1970’s – one of his early winning ponies was Rambling Home,a Champion at Clifden in 1975 – but he and Mary had a special affection for Village Laura. She had her last foal, Canal Linnet,at 22 years and settled into a peaceful retirement until age eventually caught up with her and she had to be put to sleep. After 27 years she will be much missed by her devoted owners and her many admirers.
Ps. You can see some of the Village ponies in my Jan.’09 Pages in the sidebar under ‘Archive’. The photo of the older Laura with foal is from the Station House Museum postcard collection. The win at Dublin pic. is by Equestrian Photographic Services