Legend has it that when the Spanish Armada sank off the Connemara coast in the 16th Century, the horses swam ashore and bred with the native ponies, running wild in the mountains. Surefooted and hardy, they learned to live on the tough vegetation and survive the hardships of their habitat, where a misplaced step could send a pony crashing to its death. In actual fact, while there may be some truth in the Armada legend, the Connemara's ancestors lived in Ireland for thousands of years. What is certain though, is that Thoroughbred and Arabian blood was introduced in the 1700s.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the purity of the Connemara was threatened by the random cross-breeding with other breeds of horses. Also, many Connemaras were being kept in stables and hence inferior examples survived. In the 1920s a group of owners chose a dozen quality ponies and turned them into the wilds, to live and reproduce. Those that survived had excellent qualities, and they preserved the stamina and purity of the breed.
The Connemara Pony Breeder's Society in Clifden, Co. Galway, was formed in 1923, with their first task being to inspect and register the breed stock. Further, it was decided to hold a pony show in the district, which has today developed to become the Clifden Show, with several hundred participating Connemaras from all over Ireland. In the sixties, the stud book was closed, making only ponies with registred parents eligible for registration. At the same time, the risk of inbreeding depression was rising. Thouroughbreds and Arabian stallions were allowed to cover nominated Connemara mares. The offspring were inspected, and among them were two stallions which came to found new stallion lines; hence the Connemara as we know it today.
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