(Please see inspection documents for instructions / information)
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There have been ponies in Connemara since at least 1399, the date of the first written account. They have been described over the centuries in both glowing and derogatory terms. They were said to dot the hills and be “fleeter than deer”. They were also described as being a “fine hors…..nimble, light, pleasant, and apt to be taught.” There were other descriptions which said they were “scruffy little horses”. No doubt there were both attractive and scruffy ponies in Connemara! By 1900 many breeds had been brought to the West of Ireland with the idea of improving the ponies there. The influx of various breeds, Andalusians, Barbs, Arabs, Hackneys, Welsh Cobs, and draught horses, may or may not have improved the ponies. One thing can be said for sure, many varied types evolved! Whatever the type, however, only the hardiest and surest of foot survived in the harsh conditions of Connemara.
During the great famine in the 1800’s many of the native ponies of Connemara were lost and people began to worry that they would disappear. Thus interest in ways to preserve this valuable breed arose. At a meeting of people who wanted to preserve the best characteristics of the ponies, Father White, who was to become the first President of the Connemara Pony Breeders Society, said, “…the ponies can go anywhere, live anywhere, do not require luxurious food, have remarkable staying power and are a much better value than a bigger horse. On the mountain side, in the valleys or on the hard rocky surface they are equally effective.” A formal organization to standardize and preserve these good characteristics was suggested.
Thus, in 1923 the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society (CPBS), was founded and the first inspections held in 1924. The goal of the CPBS was to develop and document a breed whose approved individuals would reliably reproduce themselves. The purpose of the inspections was to establish a Stud Book which recognized and registered ponies exhibiting the hardiest and most typical characteristics of the native pony of Connemara. The first Stud Book clearly stated the purpose of the CPBS and its inspection program: “The publication of a Connemara Pony Stud book is an attempt to foster and develop, on systemic lines, a native breed which has existed for centuries, the merits of which are recognized not only in Ireland but outside of it. In Connemara….breeding mares work throughout the year; consequently a form of natural selection is continually at work. Awkward, ill-tempered or badly constituted animals are of little or no value to the Connemara farmer…….It will be understood, therefore, that only the very best can be retained for breeding which accounts for the fact that although unsuitable foreign blood has been introduced from time to time, its influence on the permanent breeding stock has been slight….The aim of the Society is to secure by CONTINUED selection and careful fostering a breed of ponies uniform in size and shape, suitable for general utility purposes and which, when bred from under favorable conditions, would be capable of producing high class riding animals.”
At the first inspection, 249 mares and 35 stallions were presented. Only 65 mares and 5 stallions were accepted -- about 25% of the mares and 15% of the stallions. In spite of this low rate of selection, people kept bringing promising ponies to be inspected and those best meeting the breed standard went into the Stud Book. For many years quality ponies of unregistered ancestry were admitted to the CPBS Stud Book, but ponies of registered stock were also inspected. In 1942 it was decided that only mares younger than 15 would be inspected, limiting the numbers somewhat. In 1964, the Stud Book was closed. Only progeny of animals already in the Stud Book were eligible for inspection and only approved animals were registered. From that date forward inspections were carried out every year as part of ongoing educated selection and careful fostering of a breed of ponies capable of performing a variety of useful purposes and successfully carrying their riders in many disciplines.
Connemara ponies were first brought to the United States in the 1950’s, primarily as children’s riding ponies. The American Connemara Pony Society (ACPS) was formed in 1956. Most other countries with imported Irish ponies conducted inspections, and the idea of inspecting ponies for inclusion in a Stud Book in the U.S. was adopted for the first years. Members of the newly formed ACPS acted as Inspectors. But, with a growing population of Connemara ponies, and a vast country, the practice was slowly abandoned so that for many years there were no inspections in our country.
In 1988 an event that would provide the impetus for renewing inspections in the U.S. occurred. The International Committee of Connemara Pony Societies, (ICCPS), was founded during a meeting of Overseas Societies in Clifden, Ireland. The CPBS was given a mandate to draft proposals for a set of International Rules governing all recognized Connemara Pony societies. The initial intent was to comply with European Union regulations, but it was quickly realized that a global organization would benefit the breed world-wide. The objective of this "harmonization" effort was to create an environment throughout the world to encourage continued positive development of this ancient breed without losing sight of its remarkable, hardy, native characteristics. These rules comply with European Union zoo technical legislation, and facilitate the registration and movement of ponies worldwide. Presently, international representatives continue to meet annually in Clifden, Ireland. Although the ACPS became an affiliated member of the ICCPS, interest in becoming an Approved member stimulated an in-depth investigation into the practicalities of inspections (which were a requirement for Approved status) in the United States. In 1990, meetings were initiated to determine the extent of membership interest in ultimately joining the ICCPS. Surveys were sent to members requesting their comments and concerns pertaining to the possibility of establishing an ACPS inspection program. Building upon a great deal of positive feedback, an ACPS Inspection Committee was formed and began working on the development of policies and procedures to use in the inspection of ponies here in America.
Many, many ideas were considered and incorporated. Forms were written and re-written. Sound inspection policies evolved, utilizing the input of literally dozens of people, meeting dozens of times. A numerical system of judging was suggested, but ultimately rejected. Also suggested was a way to “grade” the ponies into categories of Excellent, Good, and Average, with different color seals suggested for each category. This idea was also rejected as being too divisive. In fact, the guiding principles used by the Inspection Committee were inclusiveness and fairness. Furthermore, it was hoped that by maintaining and working through an Inspection Program, breeders would be encouraged and educated, and the ACPS would better ensure the accurate identification and preservation of the Connemara breed type in America. There were a few ACPS members that worried that Connemara ponies not adhering strictly to the Irish type would not be approved, even though they descended from registered Connemara stock and had been purchased as Connemara ponies. There was also some concern expressed about limiting the gene pool. However, the majority of ACPS members were in favor of the suggested "voluntary" inspection program developed and offered by the Society with its goals of preserving the distinguishing and noteworthy characteristics of the Connemara Pony, its calm demeanor and intelligent, tractable temperament, while adhering to the written breed standard. The first inspections were conducted by the president of the CPBS, Eamonn Hammon and his colleague, Dermot Power. American inspectors acted as team members, learning how the Irish Inspectors evaluated ponies, and sharing ideas of how best to communicate the need for an honest appraisal of breeding stock. The Irish both taught and evaluated the ability of the Americans to inspect their own stock. Irish, or on one occasion, British inspectors were present at yearly inspections, often in conjunction with the ACPS Annual Meeting, until 2003, when a remote meeting site with only a few ponies to be inspected made an overseas inspector impractical.
In 2001, it was decided to establish an ACPS Stud Book listing inspected and approved ponies, separate from the ACPS Registry. This "two-tiered" system thus brought the ACPS closer to meeting all of the criteria for Approved membership status in the ICCPS. By 2004, the ACPS had been holding voluntary inspections for 10 years. A Stud Book composed of only inspected and approved ponies had been established. The ACPS Board of Governors also approved the following policy regarding registrations and inspections: "All purebred Connemara ponies in the United States are eligible to be entered in the ACPS Registry. Purebred Connemara mares and stallions which have been inspected and approved will be entered in the ACPS Stud Book." Thus, the Stud Book is composed of approved, registered stallions and mares, and the Registry accommodates foals before inspection, geldings and non-Stud Book mares and stallions. A very important part of the policy, one that takes into account the large area of the country, and the probability that there will be ponies who can’t practically be inspected, is: “IF AN UNAPPROVED (OR UNINSPECTED) MARE OR STALLION PRODUCES OFFSPRING, THAT OFFSPRING WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR INSPECTION. IF THE OFFSPRING IS APPROVED AT INSPECTION THAT OFFSPRING WOULD THEN BE INCLUDED IN THE STUD BOOK.” Another important provision is that ponies may be officially measured at 2 years of age by a licensed equine veterinarian. At any time, pony owners may then submit with their application for inspection, a signed affidavit of the two-year-old measurement. This provision was added as many ponies are not inspected until they are 3, 4, 5 or older.
In 2004, with these policies established, the ACPS requested Approved status in the ICCPS. In September of 2005, a letter from CPBS President, Tom MacLochlainn, was received, granting the ACPS Approved membership status in the ICCPS.
Thus, individuals who want to have their ponies included in the ACPS Stud Book, assuring that their ponies conform to a world-wide standard, may have their ponies inspected. Ponies bred in countries that are members of the European Union, England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and inspected in those countries prior to export do not need to be reinspected in the United States but they do need to be ACPS registered. Ponies who are not inspected or not approved may still be registered with the ACPS and can be bred. Their offspring are fully eligible for inspection and, if approved, would be included in the Stud Book.
All Connemara ponies, domestic or imported, with an ACPS permanent registration are eligible for inspection. Connemara ponies presented for ACPS inspection should conform in type and conformation to the ACPS/ICCPS breed standard. The minimum age for eligible ponies is two-years-old. It is recommended that stallions be at least three-years- old. Owners of mature ponies who measure over 148 cm, or 14.2 ¼ hh, should, if possible, have credible proof of the pony’s height at age two. It is generally accepted that an over height Connemara who is “pony type” in every other way, (conforming to the ICCPS and ACPS breed standard), may have been 14.2 ¼ hh, or under, at age two, and is therefore eligible for inspection.
The ACPS schedules inspections at intervals relative to the Connemara population in the United States. The Inspection Committee plans inspections, usually scheduled for late summer or fall, often in association with regional events. This association with another event is not an absolute criterion. Individuals with ponies to be inspected should contact their Regional Chairs. When a large enough group of ponies are nominated for one location (ten or more), an inspection site is created.
The Inspection Team consists of knowledgeable individuals with particular interest in and ability to recognize Connemara type and correct conformation. All Inspectors have had some formal training in horse conformation and all have received continuing education gained from clinics and discussions with breeders and Inspectors. Many have visited Connemara breeding farms in this country as well as in other countries. Individuals who agree to work as Inspectors in the ACPS Inspection Program receive no compensation, although their travel expenses are paid from the monies generated by the nomination fees. This ensures that any qualified individual may be an Inspector, regardless of his/her financial position. To avoid conflicts of interest, an Inspector may not inspect a pony which he/she has bred or with which he/she has had a substantial association and he/she may not inspect within their own region.
The ACPS Inspection Committee maintains a list of approved Inspectors from which an Inspection Team is composed. Teams consist of 3-4 individuals who are rotated frequently so that the same combination of individuals rarely inspect repeatedly in the same configuration.
Applications to become part of the inspection program are accepted throughout the year. Any interested person may submit an application or recommend a candidate for the program. The procedure consists of an application and letters of recommendation. The Inspection Committee then reviews applications from prospective Inspector Candidates, (IC’s) and, if accepted into the program, they begin an apprentice program. After a period of training, mentoring, practice and peer review, the IC must demonstrate the ability to evaluate Connemara ponies in the setting of an Inspection Tour. The IC may request an evaluation for full Inspector status at any time. There is no deadline or limit to the length of time before an IC can be approved as an Inspector.
Each pony to be inspected must first be nominated using an official ACPS Nomination Form. After nomination, the pony must be examined by a licensed equine veterinarian to rule out genetic defects and, if the pony has not been previously measured, it must also be measured by the veterinarian. The veterinary examination form MUST be submitted with your nomination packet or brought with the pony to its inspection site. Please keep in mind that a pony may be measured and have its height recorded as soon as it turns two-years-old. It would, then, not have to be re-measured at the time of its nomination for inspection. It would still need to be examined for the specified genetic defects listed on the veterinary form.
In 2005, a Premium Mare Program was initiated to reward mares of exceptional quality and type. Premium Status is awarded to mares who are 8 years old or older and have had at least one purebred foal and who earn marks of Excellent or Very Good in ALL categories listed on the Inspection Report Form: type, temperament, conformation, and movement. Premium Status is attainable at a mare’s first inspection, if the mare is 8 or older and has had a purebred foal. However, if a candidate for Premium Status was inspected and approved before they were 8 or before the initiation of the Premium mare program, the owner may pay a $100.00 fee for re-inspection. The regular ACPS Nomination Form may be used to nominate a previously-inspected mare for Premium Status.
In 2007 a Premium Stallion category was also initiated. The requirements are similar to a Premium mare – 8 years old or older and have sired at least one purebred foal plus receive marks of Excellent or Very Good in ALL categories listed on the Inspection Report Form: type, temperament, conformation, and movement. As with the mares, a stallion may be awarded a Premium on his first inspection or he may be re-inspected by paying the $100.00 fee.
It is suggested that ponies nominated for inspection be presented in a well-groomed, workman-like manner, and in their “natural” state, (i.e., no horse show clipping; face hairs and feathers should not be shaved). No braiding of manes and tails is recommended; however, if the owner wishes to pull the mane, or braid, or if a mature pony is “groomed” in compliance with a discipline in which it is performing, there is no penalty. A pony may be presented in either a bridle or a halter.
The Inspection Team will begin by observing the pony standing still and will use the inspection worksheet to evaluate type, temperament and conformation. The handler will then be asked to walk and trot the pony on a straight line to and from a particular spot, and/or to trot in a large circle. Stallions and all ponies presented for premium will also be observed “at liberty” in a fenced arena, field or other safely-fenced space.
Following a pattern set by the Inspection Team, the pony handler walks beside the animal, briskly walking away from, and back to, the Inspectors. When halting to “stand” the pony for its evaluation, the pony is placed in a balanced and alert stance, ideally, with four legs independently visible to the Inspectors. The handler must not block the Inspectors’ view more than momentarily. The dress code for handlers should be well fitting sport or riding attire with shoes that allow for moving the pony easily.
Upon satisfactory inspection, the pony’s ACPS permanent registration certificate will be embossed with a seal, designating that the pony has been inspected and approved by the ACPS. If the owner has previously agreed, the results will be disclosed to spectators and the pony’s good points briefly discussed. This is meant to be an educational opportunity for the owner and observers.
Pony owners considering inspection should feel free to call the Inspection nomination facilitator for clarification of any confusing issues. Most, but not all, presented ponies are found to conform to the standards and are approved. Evaluation of stallions is more stringent than for mares and geldings. Please note that if a pony cannot be safely handled, the pony will not be inspected.
The Site Manager and organizing group at a particular inspection site are responsible for the details of the inspection at that site. Gloria LaCroix will work with the site manager to organize inspection sites. She can be reached at 636-675-0674. Site requirements include: a safe location for the Inspectors to evaluate ponies and adequate stabling for visiting ponies, if necessary. The evaluation site should be a flat, hard surface large enough to walk and trot. Ideally, the chosen site should be no smaller than 55 feet in diameter. Facilities for the evaluation site and for the stabling of ponies should be convenient to each other and located within a reasonable distance for all participants. The cost of facility use and how to pay for it, should be discussed, agreed upon and covered by the organizers of the site.
The Inspection team makes a schedule of inspection times and provides this to the Site Manager and the owners of nominated ponies, taking into account requests from pony owners. It is advisable to allow 30 minutes per mare, and 45 minutes for inspection of a stallion. Every Site Manager needs to organize his/her site and allow adequate time so that the inspection will run smoothly. Perfection is not expected. Much depends on how many ponies are scheduled for any given site. Large numbers of ponies to be presented will require more planning because of scheduling, providing ample stabling and trailer parking, etc. A workable plan to ensure a safe day for all, and a successful inspection includes the recruitment of adequate help. For example, it is difficult to present several of your own ponies and be the Site Manager without help. See this as an opportunity to introduce Connemara ponies to new, interested, helpful people.
Stallion prospects should in most cases be three years or older to allow for inspectors to see a mature male. Mares and geldings should be at least two years old or older to allow inspectors to, again, see a mature pony.
Height: The minimum height at inspection is 128 cms (12.2 ½ hands) and the maximum height at inspection is 148 cms (14.2 ¼ hands). CN* Allowances will be made for mature Connemara ponies, however, any pony measuring 15 hands or over should be presented with a signed veterinarian statement indicating the under maximum height of the pony at age two.
Colors: Grey, black, bay, brown, dun (buckskin), roan, chestnut, blue eyed cream and palomino.
Type: Rugged and sturdy, body compact and deep through the heart, with well sprung rib cage and broad chest. Well balanced riding type with good depth and substance and good heart room, standing on short legs, covering a lot of ground. Well balanced overall appearance.
Head: Balanced in proportion to the body, with good width between large kindly eyes. Pony ears, well-defined cheekbones, jaw relatively deep but not coarse.
Front: Head well set onto neck. Chest should not be overdeveloped. Neck not set on too low. Good length of rein. Well-defined withers, good sloping shoulder; forelegs straight, with no deviation of cannon bones.
Body: Should be deep, with strong back, some length permissible but should be well-ribbed up with strong loins.
Limbs: Good length and strength in forearm, well-defined knees and short cannons, with dense, flat bone measuring 18 cms (7.08 inches) to over 21 cms (8.26 inches); pasterns of good slope and medium length, feet hard, strong and well formed.
Hindquarters: Strong and muscular with some length, well-developed second thigh (gaskin) and strong low-set hocks, properly aligned.
Movement: Straight and true, free shoulder, of a quality that is free, light and elastic, with no winging, paddling or other deviations.
Inspector Comments range from “Excellent” to “Not to Standard”. To be Approved, mares and geldings must receive marks Sufficient and above. To be Approved, stallions must receive marks Good and above.