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Welsh Ponies-The Perfect Family Horse...Uh, Pony
Girls and Horses
Young girls love horses. I was no different as a child. I cannot remember a time that I did not want a horse. I had read all the books, National Velvet, The Black Stallion, My Friend Flicka, Misty Of Chincoteague and so many more. I had learned that a horse was the greatest friend a girl could ever have.
Living in the suburbs on Long Island, I was assured that owning a horse was not a viable option. Therefore I picked the next best option and asked for riding lessons for my 9th birthday present. (The following year I asked for a trip to the Museum of Natural History...I was always more interested in experiences than possessions.) Imagine my pleasure when my wish was granted!
I began taking lessons at a place about an hour away. I have no idea where it was, only that the woman who taught me was a wonderful, loving person. I not only learned how to ride, but on rainy days learned how to care for a horse. I find it amusing now to think my parents paid for me to do chores such as mucking out stalls and brushing the horses. You may find it amusing to know that I loved the chores almost as much as I loved the riding.
This woman had many horses of all types and ages. I did not take private lessons, but took lessons with other children. We all had our favorite horses, and some of mine were the Welsh ponies. Their dispositions were gentle and agreeable, making them a perfect match for a new rider.
Welsh ponies are very versatile and can be ridden by all skill levels. These smart creatures seem to know when you are new, and they take extra care with you. It was as if I was being taught by the horse as much as by the teacher. My love for these beautiful animals took hold and remains with me to this day.
A Short History
Welsh ponies originated in Wales, a small and beautiful country located on the western border of the island of Great Britain. Wales is a country of mountains, valleys and coastline. The weather varies due to the changing geographic conditions. This diversity led to the development of an extremely hardy and intelligent species.
Welsh ponies are said to be originated from the prehistoric Celtic pony. No-one really knows when these ponies came to Wales, but we do know they existed prior to 55BC and the time of the Roman occupation. It seems that Julius Caesar was so impressed by these ponies that he imported them to Rome to use as chariot horses. They were a great favorite of the charioteers for their endurance and their heart.
Over the centuries the Welsh pony has bred with Arabian horses. Dyoll Starlight, considered the father of modern Welsh ponies, had Arabian blood in him. Arabian horses were bred over the years for endurance, intelligence, and friendliness. They are high-spirited, but this trait is tempered by the Welsh of the pony.
The Welsh have used these fine animals to ride, pull plows, and pull wagons. The Welsh coal miners used these ponies in the mines. Welsh ponies have been used by postmen and by the calvary. Today they are mainly kept for pleasure and for show.
In the late 1800's the Welsh pony was imported to the United States. They were renowned for their friendliness and ease of training. In 1957 there were 2,881 Welsh ponies registered in the United State. Over the years this breed has gained popularity, having all the greatest American traits...adaptability, friendliness, endurance and heart. As of 2010 there are more than 45,000 Welsh ponies registered in the United States.
Mac Geyver and Machno Carwyn are both Welsh...
The Difference Between Ponies and Horses
Ponies are generally shorter than horses. Horses measure 14.2 hands (a hand is 4 inches) or taller at the withers (withers is the tallest part of the shoulder located at the base of the neck). But this rule does not always hold true. Arabian horses may be smaller than 14.2 hands and still considered horses. Falabellas are always considered horses even though they only grow to approximately 8.5 hands. Obviously it is more than mere height (or lack of) that makes a pony a pony.
Ponies also differ in appearance from horses. Their heads are smaller, wider. and their eyes are bigger and bolder. Ponies have short and sturdy cannon bones, thicker barrels and necks, a shorter back and thicker and coarser manes, tails and coats.
Ponies are made for strength and endurance. Their bones are denser and stronger than a horse's. I guess you could say it's like comparing a dwarf to an elf. A pony will pull a load twice it's weight, but the largest draft horse can only pull it's own weight's worth.
Ponies seem to be more resistant to extreme weather and diseases than horses. They are also known to be more intelligent. At times their intelligence may make them seem stubborn. Remember that the pony will learn easily, and will train you to their whims when possible.
She Says It All!
A Pony For Everyone
Welsh ponies come in four distinctive classes. Each class retains the classic Welsh characteristics of endurance, intelligence and friendliness. They mainly differ in their height and uses.
There is no other breed of pony or horse today that is suitable for all age groups as the Welsh pony is. From big to small, the Welsh has something for everyone. This pony can be used for pleasure riding, barrels, jumping and more.
Let's look at the four classes and their differences:
Welsh Mountain Pony (Section A)
The Welsh Mountain Pony is ideal for younger children. Growing no more than 12.2 hands they are an ideal first ride for children. Welsh Mountain Ponies are widely loved for their endearing personalities and friendly temperments. This web-site gives excellent advice on how to look for your child's first pony. It seems they know, as I do, that every pony is not for every person. Owning a pony is not a spur of the moment purchase, and one must do their research well.
Welsh Riding Pony (Mountain Pony Section B)
As your child grows and develops as a rider, the Welsh Riding Pony (or Welsh Mountain Pony Section B) will grow with them. These ponies are a little larger than the Section A types, growing to 14.2 hands. The Section B pony possesses a more elegant ride and jumping capabilities. Usually these ponies will have some Thoroughbred or Hackney blood incorporated into their backgrounds. This pony will meet the challenges a slightly older child wants.
Welsh Pony of Cob Type (Welsh Pony Section C)
The title of Welsh Pony of Cob Type is limited to a pony of 13.2 hands or less. Wikipedia states that the Welsh Pony of Cob Type "exemplifies the classic build of the historic cob. It is said that good show cob should have "the head of a lady and the backside of a cook." These ponies are good for jumping and for pulling carriages, being known for their easy temperament and strength.
I think cobs are very cute because of the hair that grows around their hooves. I love this feature in ponies and horses. The "fringe effect" is well known to gain a girl's heart. We all do love long silky hair, don't we?
Welsh Cob (Section D)
The Welsh Cob Section D is a minimun of 13.2 hands and has no upper limits. This "pony" is ideal for adults and children alike. Retaining the easy-going temperament of the other Welsh ponies this type is large enough that an adult does not feel bad riding one. Granted the other ponies are strong enough to be ridden by an adult, the adult may feel strange riding a smaller horse.
These ponies were the destriers of legend. Do you remember King Arthur and his knights? They all had a destrier (or war horse). I'm sure you have read of the special bond between a knight and a destrier, but I bet you never realized that these stallions were Welsh ponies.
Before the advent of the automobile, these ponies were the fastest conveyance for doctors. Many the life was saved due to the speed and endurance of this breed. This section is all that for the experienced rider. But, these animals are gentle enough for an inexperienced rider also.
I Love Welsh Ponies
I hope that you now understand the difference between ponies and horses, and why I so love the Welsh ponies. Yes they can be stubborn, but they are smart enough to learn a new trick if we take the time to teach them. I truly feel these ponies are the best place to start your child's teaching of equestrian skills. They will love and trust these ponies....a feeling that will be unmatched by all but the pony themselves. I have found that these "ponies" form a loving and lasting relationship with "their" people. What can I say? I love Welsh Ponies!