Bartley O’Sullivan Lecture Elite Auction Click Here
The annual Bartley O’Sullivan Lecture, the 6th in the series, was well attended at the Station House Theatre in Clifden on Saturday night. Overseas visitors in particular came to hear Henry O’Toole, breeder of the Castle ponies and a frequent winner at Clifden Show, give his opinions and ideas on the past and future of the Connemara pony while some were hoping to pick up some showing – tips from the maestro.
Henry spoke of the type of working pony popular in Connemara in the not too distant past, which was expected to have, above all, four good legs and the strength to pull loads of sand from the strand or building stones or turf for the house. Many of these same mares also had the presence and stamina to win at the local Shows or at Races, when the foal would often be locked in the shed for the day. It was interesting to view the old films and videos of the ponies and owners of former days and Henry feels strongly that the late 1990’s and early 2000’s were the years of the best ponies, a time which saw Village Boy at the pinnacle of his career. The legs of these ponies were better and they possessed strong forearms, short cannons and hard flat bone. They were more correct than many of today’s specimens. He believes the stallion inspections are not strict enough at present and offset knees in the pony are becoming more common.
With an experts keen eye for symmetry and balance in a pony Henry spoke long and well on all aspects of conformation, and advised breeders to identify what market they needed to breed for. He had brought Janus, a grandson of Marble to Ireland in ’07 as he believed that he would bring a strong sloping shoulder and freedom of movement to his Castle mares and to other mares he covered. Breeding for jumping alone could mean the loss of type in ponies of the future And he stressed that breeders should breed for good conformation and movement. Most of the present-day top performance ponies all had Clifden winners just one generation back. True to type brood mares are especially important and need to be top- class. Breeders should always aspire to breed the best and if conformation is correct the resulting progeny can perform well in any discipline.
Dressage for younger people – Vida Tansey
Six Dressage students turned up with their ponies for Vida Tansey’s Workshop for young people under the age of eighteen on the Saturday afternoon of the 2014 Spring Festival Weekend. All were at varying levels of schooling proficiency as were their ponies and all seemed to gain in capability as they practised.
Vida is such a highly experienced Dressage teacher that she could spot faults or small problems immediately and these were dealt with by telling each child where and how she could improve. When her instruction was acted on, you could see the rider’s work bearing fruit, as their pony’s movement, flexibility and way of going was seen to improve thanks to the many tips and expert guidance given by their teacher. Vida explained that helping the pony to move correctly from their back end will lead not only to an improved outline and smoother movement but also contribute to the pony leading a long and healthier lifestyle as less pressure was placed on limbs and muscles as the pony learned to carry itself in a more balanced way.
The group consisted of Caitriona and Caoimhe Curran, Sadhbh O’Toole, Catherine Gorton and Talitha Diamond – all on Connemara ponies. Alana Cazabon Sullivan rode Blackwood Dancer – by Ferdia – Dancing Queen, with the group.
Alana and Dancer having just recently travelled to England to qualify, and were then selected to join the Dressage Ireland Pony Team for this year’s European Championships in July. These annual Championships are usually run in mainland Europe but are coming to Millstreet in Co. Cork this July. We wish Alana every good wish for the Europeans. This is a three generational effort with coaching from both her mother Siobhan and grandmother Judy. The winning pair also gave a beautiful display of Dressage to Music on Sunday during a break in the Stallion Parade.
Western Riding Display, Sunday
Walk, trot. jog, lope, are all slow-moving gaits which makes Western riding suited to riders of all ages and especially to Senior riders. This was only a fraction of the knowledge imparted by the well-informed commentator during the Western Riding Display on Sunday, as riders Susanne Hehle and Allesia Stocca rode their way effortlessly through the various gaits and tricky movements needed in bygone times by the American stock horses in their everyday work with cattle. They displayed the superb training of their horses – one was a half-bred Connemara – by riding mainly on a loose rein, using lots of neck reining and leg guidance when necessary. Much of the horse’s training is psychological rather than physical and a well trained animal can almost work on it’s own without the need for constant contact from the rider. A variety of classes are run for Western Riding fans at American Shows. The mild and sunny day was perfect for families. Musicians played, dancers danced and the miniature train headed off for tours around town with happy children on board. For books see http://www.marne.ie