This year there were 12 breeds competing. The first event is always compulsory skills. Chris rode a nice test, and we all thought she was marked very harshly. Phil drove a superb test with Flicka and had the highest score of the whole event. When the scores were combined, we placed 2nd in the class.
The jumping in the afternoon was “interesting”. There were many upsets with one mule refusing to go anywhere near even the first jump, and a very small girl on a shetland taking a tumble. Ailsa had an excellent round on Fyre and opted for the jeopardy fence. Unfortunately she had a refusal which knocked 100 points from her score. 13 year old Morganne also had a very good round on Rory. There was a mis- understanding about the time allowed for taking the jeopardy fence, and she failed to take this jump. We ended up with 5th ribbon.
The obstacle driving on Friday morning is always a crowd pleaser as they think up such difficult things. Phil and Chris were at a disadvantage with a 4-wheel cart when a nasty back-up was added to the course. Both had good solid rounds, and we placed 5th in this event. I must say that the standard of driving has greatly improved over the last few years as it used to be an accident waiting to happen with untrained animals.
Barrel racing is always late on Friday in the sand ring, with a big crowd sitting in the stands and on the grass bank. Morganne had an excellent run on Rory, and Ailsa and Fyre were fantastic! The top 6 teams go into a run-off and we had our best ever finish with a 2nd. Well done Morganne and Ailsa – your practice paid off!
The trail class on Saturday is always a matter of luck, and is completely unpredictable. At this point the three contending breeds were Morgan, Quarter Horse and us. Unfortunately the normally very quiet and obedient Flicka was having an “off” day and they also missed completing the jeopardy obstacle by one second. Morganne and Rory made up for it with an excellent round which put our team in 6th place when the scores were combined.
The final result was Morgans 1st, Q.H’s 2nd and we were 3rd. Not a bad result at all and we were very close to being 2nd.
The amount of time and effort (not to mention cost) put in by our team members cannot be under- estimated, and they are surely deserving of our thanks. The exposure we receive at this event is fantastic and benefits all our breeders.
American Connemara Pony Society at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games
by Susan McConnell, Chair for the WEG Committee
WEG: The Alltech Experience and Impact
Until 3 years ago, Alltech was a name few people in the horse world knew, even though Alltech owns several brands of horse feed and supplements. Now, thanks to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (September 25 – October 10, 2010) in Lexington, Kentucky, the company has received brand recognition. CEO and founder Dr. Pearce Lyons has already signed a memo of understanding to be the title sponsor of the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.
WEG: By the numbers
The Chronicle of the Horse (November 5, 2010 issue) reported that there were 752 horses and 632 athletes from 58 countries who attended the 16 days of competition at WEG, 507,022 spectators, 62,707 school children and 6,000 volunteers. There were 81 medals awarded in 8 World Championships (reining, driving, dressage, eventing, show jumping, endurance, para-dressage and vaulting). NBC showed 8 hours of TV coverage over three weekends, while Universal Sports Network showed 15 hours live. The WEG’s website coverage received another 1.5 million views. The Kentucky government spent $102 million on improvements to the 1,200 acre Kentucky Horse Park. Alltech spent $10 million for the title sponsorship and another $22 million to ensure financial success. The pre-estimated economic impact of the WEG was $167 million.
These are unprecedented numbers for US horse sports.
In addition to the stadiums for the 8 World Championships, the WEG organizers set aside a large area next to the International Museum of the Horse and the Horse Park’s Visitors Center called the Equine Village and Village Arena (180’ x 200’). Spilling out into the training track and infield were individual tents for breed organizations, sporting organizations, and clinicians from all over the world. Daily, thousands of people were milling about visiting the tents and attending the continuous, free demonstrations, clinics and performances (10:00AM – 6:30PM).
The American Connemara Pony Society was in booth #30 of the Equine Village – ideally located beside the Horse Park Visitor’s Center, and booths for world renown, Irish vet, Brendan Furlong, DVM, the United States Pony Club, Goresbridge Horse Sales (Ire) and the Irish Draught Horse Society (NA).
WEG: Connemara Performers
Over the two weeks of WEG, the ACPS had 14 purebred Connemara ponies giving daily demonstrations in dressage, eventing and driving. There were stallions, geldings and mares – buckskins, greys and bays – ridden by Junior and Senior riders. The ACPS showcased the Connemara Pony as a useful, multi discipline, working pony, plus a pony that can learn “tricks” or jump a picnic table with silverware, plates and glassware! Melanie Trimper of MMT Communications (Pennsylvania) organized green jackets, navy blue and green monogrammed polo shirts, matching saddle pads and ear veils for the demonstrations. The ACPS provided these keeper items for all the riders and drivers. Many thanks to the following Connemara Pony owners and riders/drivers for bringing their ponies from “near and far”:
*Aille Coretca (Massachusetts) Lee Gregory and rider, Kate Alderfer
Conneleigh Raney McMor (Vermont), owner Ted Saggese and rider, Cailin Saggese Grey Haven Padraig MacDaire (Ohio), owner Stephanie Burk and groom, Keith C. Lewis Greystone’s Adirondack A’Herne (New York), owner Cindy Fletcher
Killian (Vermont) owner, Michele Sturm and rider, Michaela Whitty
Loughlin’s Journey (Ohio), owner Martha Slamer and groom, Sarah Slamer
*Patty’s Look At Me (Virginia) owner, Marian McEvilly and groom, Sarah McCrea Ridgetop Windy City (Virginia), owner Karen McIntyre Welch and groom, Christopher Welch Shadey Hill’s Oscea (Kentucky) Debbie Shade and rider, Sarah Kleintop
Stonybrook Belmont (California), owner Lee Webster and helper, Joan Webster
Rosemont’s Irish Abbey (Kentucky) owner, Fonda Eigel and groom, Meg Dumaine
Tricreek Greystone Riley (New York), owner Mary Lou Thall and rider, Kim Grescheck Wildwych Eclipse (California) owner, Lisa Martin and Max Gerdes and rider, Danielle Casalett Windy Hollow Lilia (Kentucky), owner Amy Plavin and rider, Katherine Short
WEG: Demonstrations in the Village Arena
Ireland is blessed with two native equines – horse size and pony size! The Irish Draught is the native Irish horse, and the Connemara Pony is a native Irish pony, named for the West of Ireland where it originated. At WEG, some of the Connemara Pony demonstration times were shared with Irish Draught horses. The demonstrations were ably narrated and commentated by an Irish Draught enthusiast, Fleur Bryan (Kentucky). Using her cheerful Irish accent, Fleur creatively engaged the crowd with relay races between the Irish Draughts and the Connemara Ponies! Lee Webster, Katherine Short, Karen Welch and Chris Knox wrote and rewrote the script for the demonstrations so each pony was included. Chris Knox (Idaho) helped “pass the baton” as the ponies out jumped and out paced the horses – usually! The driving demonstrations showed the horses and ponies beautifully presented, driving between cones and doing pirouettes. There were musical freestyle dressage demonstrations as well as Caprilli, grid jumping and show jumping over higher fences. The crowd cheered loudly and loved every minute, every day! Thanks to Katherine Short, all the ponies and people were well organized in the barn. During the demonstrations, there were volunteers (19 cheerful volunteers over 16 days) going through the stands delivering brochures from the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society (Ireland) plus a promotional, information booklet created by Janice Meyer (Ohio) and Amy Plavin (Vermont) which included paid advertisements and the ACPS Breeders Directory. Fonda Eigel (Kentucky) was “the boots on the ground for the ACPS”.
WEG: Distinguished Visitors
Everyday brought new faces, pony stories, plus national and international dignitaries to the ACPS Booth in the Equine Village. Janice Meyer wisely created a three ring notebook “Guest Book” for people to sign with their name and address or requests for further information. Now, the public relations and promotion committee can communicate with these people. From the web, Janice ordered emerald green plastic wrist bands with the inscription “I (heart) Connemaras” and the web site www.acps.org. It has been a tradition to collect “pins” from countries, breeds, clinicians and disciplines. The ACPS green wrist bands were a huge hit to the visiting public. The wrist bands were light weight, easy to wear and carry, eye catching and “different”. Pat Parelli had wrist bands for the first time, this year, so we were on the cutting edge!
The Irish Ambassador, living in Washington DC, His Excellency, Ambassador Michael Collins and his wife, Marie visited our booth. The day they visited was perfect timing so they could meet and chat with the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society, Clifden, Ireland, Chair, Dermot Power, and his wife, Carmel. The two couples had never met but instantly had friends in common. Ambassador Collins chose two ACPS Foundation ties and Mrs. Collins was given a scarf.
Jane Beshear, wife of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Steve Beshear, visited our booth the next day. She was given a scarf, too, and chose a tie for her husband, the Governor. As some people may know, Jane Beshear was the successful rider of Mary Beth Fleming’s gelding, Shammer Sandman, in many eventing competitions.
Niamh Philbin, Secretary for the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society, Clifden, Ireland, flew over to volunteer her help in the booth. The ACPS appreciated her extra hands. Undoubtedly, Niamh has some pleasant memories and stories to share!
Heather Dean Wright of the Ard Stud in Co. Westmeath, Ireland and the seller of the capable eventing stallion, *ArdCeltic Art, to Donna Miller, came to our demonstrations.
Dan James, of “Double Dan” fame began his trick riding career at Sue Clarke’s, Glenormiston Farm in Australia. While growing up at Sue’s, Dan broke her stallion, *Castle Baron (aka “Henry”), to do theatrical tricks on command.
And, Irishman Dr. Pearce Lyons and his wife, Deirdre, were given a tie and scarf from the ACPS.
So many visitors had happy, positive stories to share! The Connemara Pony was known to many Americans, Canadians, and Europeans. It was great to see old friends and make new friends.
WEG: Keep the momentum going
The question now – for US riders, leaders of national organizations and breed affiliates – is what will these numbers mean in the future? It may take many years to know if the increased exposure brings more people as fans, competitors, owners or breeders. It appears that the visibility and overall popularity of horse sports have changed as a result of the Games.
There is nothing like the World Equestrian Games! The Olympics pale compared to these Games. Unlike the Olympics, at the WEG, there are no other sports. The horse is the focus at the World Equestrian Games. The horse brought all those people together. Everyone wanted to see, learn, or talk about “The Horse” – all breeds, all disciplines.
Somewhere back in the caveman days, someone got on the back of a horse. And, the human and the horse have been partners ever since. Depending on its conformation, temperament and athletic ability, the horse has learned to jump (show jumping), pull (driving), slide (reining), go long distances (endurance), move gracefully (vaulting, dressage and para-dressage) or combine most of these attributes (eventing). At the World Equestrian Games, the “Best of the Best”, from all over the world, compete and remind us what a special animal “The Horse” really is. Mark your calendar for 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Don’t miss the next World Equestrian Games. The Connemara Pony should be part of the breed demonstrations showing the world that this pony breed “Can Do It All”.
As overall Chair for the ACPS at WEG, I want to express my gratitude to the people “behind the scenes”. It was my honor to work with so many wonderful people who made the American Connemara Pony Society’s experience at the World Equestrian Games so successful. Generous financial support and colorful brochures from the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society, Clifden, Ireland were greatly appreciated. Numerous donors gave to the “Ride to the WEG”, the brainchild of Joanie Webster (California) and Sally Oxnard (New Hampshire) relying on the generous help of Christie Kelly (California). Donors, benefactors, and exceptional volunteers combined to make the exposure and publicity of the Connemara Pony possible. The booth and demonstrations were informative and well organized. A huge amount of credit should go to the Connemara Pony owners and riders/drivers who made the commitment to follow all the veterinary directives (starting 9 months in advance) and Homeland Security rules; ship long distances; work with people and ponies they had never met; and, then, give entertaining demonstrations! They were great!
And, last but not least, thanks to Irishman, Dr. Pearce Lyons and his company, Alltech, for providing this unique opportunity. Without his vision and commitment, none of this would have happened in Lexington, KY.
THE MOUNTAIN LAD LINE
A REPORT FROM DONNA DUCKWORTH IN THE USA
In 1980 it was thought that the Mountain Lad stallion line, one of three major Connemara stallion lines, was in grave danger. The situation was thought to be so dire that some extraordinary measures to save the line were taken. In the US, May Medley in Georgia started to breed her son of Mon Tully Man (Tully Lad X Tooreen Pet [by Tooreen Laddie]), who she had been keeping with a gelding in her backyard for many years. Montully Son, the stallion, is a great grandson of Mountain Lad through his grandsire Tully Lad. May had been told by Caroline Nesbitt that he was the last of the Mountain Lad line. Montully Son was out of a daughter of Marconi, Marconi’s Stormy Rebel. May also bought a daughter of Jiminy Cricket, another son of Tully Lad, so she could line breed from the Mountain Lad line. This pony, Aillte Mhuire, had had one daughter by Custusha’s Cashel Rock, Courtney’s April Frolic, before coming to Georgia where she produced many offspring. Courtney’s April Frolic is the dam of the winner of the ACPS Clifden Trophy for the Purebred Connemara in the USEF Pony Hunter divisions who receives the most points in USEF sponsored competition, Balmullo’s Azalea who is shown as Ooh La La.
Aillte Muhire’s progeny by Montully Son were also highly successful. Tullymor’s April Fool was a beautiful and productive mare whose son, Balmullo’s Beacon (Tullymor’s April Fool X Aladdin), owned by Vanessa Morgan, was a successful eventer and prolific sire for Foothill’s Farm in Tennessee. May also bred Montully Son to many other what she called “old-fashioned” Connemaras, those that she could find with no Little Heaven blood in their pedigree. This program was in many ways extraordinarily successful with Tullymor ponies, including many stallions, now in every corner of the US, where they successfully compete in driving, eventing and dressage.
While all this was happening in the US, in England, a special consortium was formed to save the aged stallion Thunderbolt from the knackers. Thunderbolt was by Thunder, another son of Tully Lad and out of Irene Grey, who was a granddaughter of the Irish Draft, May Boy. This program has also produced ponies that are found far and wide. In Europe Chiltern Thunderburst (Thunderbolt x Chiltern Cameo) and his son, Rory Rasputin (Chiltern Thunderburst x Van de Aronbosch Donna) are very popular sires in Denmark and The Netherlands, respectively. In England there is Spinway Comet (Thunderbolt x Spinway Cailin) who is a many-times winner in hand. In the US, there is a son and a grandson of Thunderbolt in California. The son, Lasrachai, is out of Lovely Marcella (by Rebel Wind). The grandson is Sydserff Avalon (Cocum Camelot [by Thunderbolt] X Ballydonagh Misterina [by Kirtling Brigadoon]). There is another grandson in Indiana, Landsdown Willow’s Harbor Boy (*Chiltern Colm X Sillbridge Miranda [by Thunderbolt]). *Callowfeenish Thunder, Sam Davis’ famous gelding, Tor, was a Thunderbolt son imported to the US as a stallion and sired at least one pony in Virginia, Aluinn Torrence, before being gelded.
In 1983 in Ireland Tully Grey (Tully Lad X Cait Nu Dhuibhir) was bred to Abbeyleix Bluebird (Coosheen Finn X Blue Moon), starting a third major branch of the Mountain Lad line, the “Hazy” pony line, perhaps the most prolific of all the branches. The result of this cross, Dale Haze, has sons and grandsons throughout Europe and the US through the stallions Hazy Dawn, Moy Hazy Cove and later, Hazy Match. Fernville Matchmaker (Hazy Match X Ross Castle Moya [by Abbeyleix Owen]) was imported to the US two years ago and has gotten his first mare in foal.
Now the Mountain Lad genes are spread throughout the world and it is hard to find a Connemara pedigree without Mountain Lad in it somewhere. The importation of Frederiksminde Hazy Cavalier (Hazy Dawn X Frederiksminde Christina) to Australia assures that the line will continue to increase! Sue Clark of the Glenormiston stud in Australia says that Cavalier has filled out a lot since he arrived. Sue also said, “Unfortunately his dam Frederiksminde Christina died recently at the age of 25 so he is the last of this (Christina) line. His sire Hazy Dawn is also in his 20’s but will hopefully continue to breed for a few more years.
Talbotstown & Amelia Eyles Earn Top Honors On VA Junior Field Master Chase
By Lauren R. Giannini
If you haven’t run across the name Eyles or Ridgetop Connemaras, now at Greenwood Farm in Middlebrook, VA, here’s a little tale about a family whose involvement in the horse world continues to promote the versatility of these incredible equine athletes. At the Upperville Horse Show, progeny of Aladdin’s Denver and Landgate Bluebeard won classes and the Connemara championship. They really do ‘do it all’ – including harvesting first place in the Junior Field Master Chase on the 2008 Virginia Point-to-point circuit.
As soon as Amelia Eyles was old enough, she started riding a pony at her grandparents’ Top of the Ridge Farm, just outside Winchester, VA. She was just five or so – genetically programmed from birth to get bitten by the bug. It got her father Billy Eyles back in the saddle after a hiatus of about 20 years. He missed riding and hunting and wanted to share what he loved about growing up with his parents (Marynell and Walter) with Amelia, Isabella and Allegra. Billy’s wife Karen goes on occasional trail rides and happily admits that she’s a great support crew at competitions.
Amelia and Talbotstown made their triumphant debut last October at the International Gold Cup Races held on the Great Meadow course in The Plains, VA. Three ponies ran with the horses for a field of 11 starters. Isabella and Ridgetop Moya ran second to her older sister in the pony division, and Tinsel, as Talbotstown is affectionately called, finished sixth overall, first of the ponies.
In 2008 Amelia and Tinsel did five Junior Chases. They won at their home hunt, Blue Ridge in early March, and ran second at Orange County at the end of the month. They won the next two weekends at Old Dominion and at Loudoun.
“My mother told me to be safe and smart,” recalls Amelia, who positioned her pony well during each race so that he had some run left after the final fence and the race to the finish line. “She told me not to try to keep up with the horses the whole time. Tinsel needed more condition for the Field Masters Chases than he needed for hunting, so we galloped around the field at home and up hills.”
She also gave her pony a few days off after a race. But it wasn’t just equine fitness. Amelia participates in school sports, including track, and also rides her pony.
“Amelia trained that pony and they were both fit,” says Karen. “They did great and the junior chases were well done. All the people, Gregg Ryan and everybody did a great job. They had it safe and all together. Rob Banner at The Chronicle of the Horse was all about making it fun and safe for the Virginia riders. They’re the next crop of foxhunters.”
Needless to say, with Dad, Amelia and Isabella competing in chases this season, Allegra (10) is chomping at the bit, so to speak, because she wants to get in on the fun.
“I think that twelve is a good age to start – if you have the right pony and the ability,” says Karen. “I think my family will be involved again next year. I was nervous in an excited way, but they were well mounted. That’s so important – to have the right pony or horse. They have to be good out hunting.”
That’s the whole premise to the Field Master Chases, senior and junior. You must qualify your horses in the hunt field and get written documentation in order to compete. Riders follow the field master over a flagged course of hunting type fences and, after the last jump, anywhere from 50 to 100 yards from the finish line, the “field” is let loose to race home.
“Talbotstown does it all well – he keeps up with the field, jumps well, and I think he’s as well-behaved as the others, if not better,” says Amelia. “The most important thing to remember is to have fun – and make sure your pony is in shape so they can make it all the way around the course.”
At the Virginia Gold Cup races, a field of five ponies and horses followed Gregg Ryan, top amateur steeplechase jockey and also Master of Foxhounds with Snickersville (Middleburg, VA) around the famed Great Meadow course, modified for the Junior Virginia Gold Cup Field Masters Chase Championship.
In a hotly contested finish, Tinsel and Amelia placed second in the pony division, besting Isabella and Moya in third. Overall, Talbotstown and his rider earned enough points to claim top honors and the Junior Virginia Gold Cup. Even with all the hoopla of trophies and being the cover girl for the May issue of Middleburg Life, Amelia stays well grounded.
“The best race of the season was at Blue Ridge, because my dad was there [competing] and the jumps were higher and that was fun,” admits Amelia.
It’s a family affair from start to finish, and the girls ride to hounds with their father. Their grandfather Walter comes up for a day of sport with his progeny and to visit his hunting pals at Blue Ridge. Billy hunts four days a week whenever he can (his business partner is into golf and they accommodate each other’s seasonal interests). Like his own father, Billy takes his children hunting: Amelia and Isabella with Blue Ridge on Saturdays and Allegra with the MOC Beagles on Sunday. He’d like to persuade their grandmother to hunt with them more often.
“It’s more of what I grew up with, and the horse world provides opportunities for us to be involved and have fun,” says Billy. “I’ve hunted the last two and a half years with Blue Ridge. I grew up with MOC Beagles and when I went away to college, I got away from it. At this point, I feel as if I missed about 15 years.”
The whole Eyles family is taking advantage of every opportunity to make up for Billy’s lost time – and having a blast. This summer they’ll do some trail riding and horse shows, the girls will attend Pony Club and camps, but most of all they’ll have fun on horseback.
After all, their Connemaras can do it all. For more information, visit www.naptp.com
by Chris Knox
Especially today, when the sport horse and sport pony are getting so much attention, it is important that we showcase our wonderful Connemaras as the great performance animals they are. As breeders begin to realize the large market for competitive and athletic ponies they see that performance geldings can comprise a desirable portion of their production goals. In years past mares were in the greatest demand as they were marketed primarily for their ability to produce offspring. Geldings were often held in lower esteem and priced more modestly. Nowadays it is recognized that the ultimate ‘end user’ of the ponies we produce is more often a junior or amateur adult rider looking for a competitive or recreational riding animal, rather than a fellow breeder looking to add to his herd of bloodstock. Connemaras enjoy a positive image worldwide as being kind, tractable and enjoyable companions who also possess the athletic ability to compete successfully in myriad disciplines.
In an effort to encourage and reward the use of Connemaras and halfbred Connemaras, the American Connemara Pony Society has an extensive awards program. This awards program not only recognizes Connemaras which are shown in hand and under saddle at breed shows, but also rewards Connemaras performing on the larger stage of national and international open competition.
There are several subdivisions within the ACPS awards system. Each is tailored to bring attention to the talents of the Connemara breed and to reward owners and riders of Connemaras for showcasing the breed heritage of their animal. Connemaras can and do compete successfully in all disciplines and against horses and ponies often bred specifically for one particular discipline. The ACPS is trying to do its part in exposing this great secret and let the world know Connemaras are not only great pleasure animals and companions for juniors and amateur adults, but can also compete and win in any company!
ACPS Hall of Fame Awards
These are lifetime awards based on the distinguished career of the pony in producing offspring or in the competitive arena. They include the following trophies:
Tooreen Laddie Trophy
Awarded to an outstanding stallion that has had a positive influence on the breed
Presented to a broodmare that has had a positive influence on the breed
An Tostal Trophy
Awarded in recognition of outstanding achievement, both competitive and non-competitive, of a purebred stallion
Presented to a mare of gelding that has had a career of outstanding competitive performance Tre Awain Halfbred
Awarded in recognition of a career of outstanding achievements of a halfbred Connemara
US Equestrian Federation Awards
These awards are presented at the annual Horse of the Year awards banquet of the US Equestrian Federation, which is the governing body of all horse sports in the U.S.
USEF Clifden Trophy
Awarded to the top ranking purebred Connemara in the USEF Pony Hunter divisions
USEF McKenna Trophy
Awarded to the purebred or halfbred Connemara with the most points in USEF recognized Events at Preliminary (Novice in England), Intermediate and/or Advanced Level
In its National Award program, the ACPS teams with national organizations which track points in their particular disciplines, such as the US Eventing Association, the US Dressage Federation, the North American Trail Ride Conference and the US Equestrian Federation for its hunter and jumper disciplines. Awards are given to the highest placing purebred and halfbred Connemaras in the nation. In eventing all levels are awarded including Beginner Novice (a 2’6” introductory level in the US), Novice, Training, Preliminary (equivalent to Novice in the UK), Intermediate and Advanced.
The US Dressage Federation has a cooperative program with many US breed associations which it calls the All Breeds awards. Owners or riders must declare their horse as a particular breed and provide proof of registration with the designated breed association. Points at all levels of dressage from training level through grand prix are tracked throughout the country and tabulated in categories of open, amateur and junior rider. The ACPS rewards Connemaras and halfbreds in all categories. Winners are showcased at the USDF Annual convention. A list of Connemara winners and their photos also appear in the USDF Dressage Connections magazine, bringing more recognition to our wonderful breed.
The ACPS National Awards program has led to an increased interest on the part of owners and riders in making sure their Connemara is fully ACPS registered. Oft times riders in national, open, discipline based competitions are unaware or uninterested in the breeding of their equine partner. Providing awards based on breed association registration can help breeders track their produce and insure the breed gets the recognition it deserves in a larger competitive arena.
The ACPS Achievement Awards program provides a way to recognize Connemaras who are used in a variety of competitive and non competitive endeavors. Points are accumulated yearly based on show performance or regular service to the rider as a mount for Pony Club, foxhunting, etc. When an animal reaches the required number of points over a period of time, perhaps years, it is awarded a bronze, silver, or gold medallion in that discipline. If a pony reaches the gold medallion level of points in five different disciplines it is awarded the coveted ACPS Golden Shamrock. This program is particularly popular with owners and riders whose pony may not be winning at the highest levels, but puts in a workmanlike performance time and again in its discipline. Points are awarded in eventing for each completion and in dressage based on the percentage score earned, rather than the ribbons won. It also rewards the pony who may be passed from child to child in Pony Club or who has served as a reliable foxhunting mount for many years. For more information on the ACPS Achievement Awards program, or any of the ACPS awards programs, please visit the ACPS website at www.acps.org
There are three additional programs within the ACPS Awards system which help promote the use of Connemaras. Through the ACPS junior and adult scholarship program individuals write an essay on how they use their Connemara and why they deserve to be awarded a monetary prize which may be applied to further training for themselves or their pony. The Connemara of the Year award is presented to an animal which in some notable way, within a given year, brings positive recognition to the breed. The ACPS also offers a program to show managers of open competitions by which they can award lovely championship ribbons to the highest placing purebred and/or halfbred Connemara. This serves to draw attention to the breed by giving the Connemara name recognition at the awards ceremony of a large competition in which many breeds and crossbred horses are represented.
The ACPS is doing all it can to let the world know Connemaras are competitive in all disciplines and at all levels. Not only can you win with a Connemara, you are sharing that win with the best equine friend you could ever have!
Connemara therapy pony makes a visit to the nursing home
By Vickie J. Maris, Savannah’s human
Serendipity’s Savannah (Sire – Oak Hills Country Song; Dam – Oak Hills Maggie) represented the Connemara breed proudly when she served as a therapy pony in St. Anthony’s Healthcare Center on Dec. 11, 2007, Lafayette, Ind. Therapy pony is just one of many roles that Savannah has served for Dawn of Promise Farm where she has lived since her yearling year.
She is now 13 years old, has produced four foals by Kerrymor Madison, competed successfully in combined tests, USDF dressage shows at training level, jumper classes, and has been the favorite lesson pony of many of my young riding students. But all of this seemed to pale in comparison when she stepped through the back dock entrance of a nursing home onto tile floors most ponies would consider slick, and followed me through the hallways to visit the residents.
The day was cold and rainy and seemed to me to be an Irish blessing of the event about to unfold. I had wrapped Savannah’s hooves in Vetrap® and a little duct tape to keep her from slipping. Her first potential obstacles were the shouts of the kitchen workers who stepped out in the hall to discard things in the trash only to scream when they saw a “real horse” in their hallway.
Savvy has experienced many shouts of delight in her day since she is most often used for the very tiny riders of ages 3 – 5. Little did I know that those exuberant children were preparing her for days of pet therapy with senior citizens!
My late father, Jim Maris, had been living at St. Anthony’s during the fall and was the first to meet us in the hallway that day. He was anxiously awaiting our arrival with my mom, Lucille. Savannah gave him several kisses of greeting and we set out on our tour. Dad was rolling along behind serving as Savannah’s personal PR person. The staff of the nursing home were incredibly accommodating and helpful. The activities director, who had arranged the event, carried the muck bucket and shovel – just in case. The nurses and assistants checked with residents to ask if they’d like a visit from a pony and then helped accommodate all who were excited to meet Savannah. One lovely woman who was about to turn 105 expressed, “Ooohhh! Savannah, you are the best present I’ve ever had! I’ve never touched a real horse until today!” Another woman openly wept with joy. She couldn’t speak, but we all sensed that Savannah was making her day! I later learned that she had grown up on a horse farm. Her tears of joy were the most reaction the staff had seen from her since she had arrived.
Ponies are equipped with such wonderful intuition and Savannah was using every bit of hers to determine if she needed to kiss someone on the cheek or stand quietly while a resident tried to negotiate getting a hand out to pet her. Some residents did not have the coordination to stroke her gently, so she patiently tolerated anyone who grabbed her halter, nostril, ear, and on a couple occasions, tail, while I was looking towards her head.
I knew from Savannah’s outing to represent Connemaras at the Hoosier Horse Fair, that she was not one to worry about crowds and equipment. This was a good thing, as she was approached several times by people in wheelchairs or on walkers and was even surrounded on one occasion by about four residents in wheelchairs before we could get everyone rolled back a bit. She never flinched at wheelchairs, never flicked an ear at alarms going off or at the screeches of delight from residents and staff. In true pony style, she did try to taste the fake Christmas tree at one of the nurse’s stations.
Savannah brought tears to my own eyes as she adjusted the height of her head and her level of activity for each resident depending on their ability and interest. She watched carefully where she placed her feet and would glance behind before I would turn her 180 degrees to head back towards someone calling out for her. She even went into resident rooms to greet those who were bedridden. This required that she enter the doorway and pass the restroom where the hallway was just slightly wider than her well-fed Connemara frame. She would stand quietly at the foot of a resident’s bed and wait for them to reach for her. That seemed to be her clue as to which of the two residents had requested her (and it was sometimes both). So she would then stretch her neck up from the foot of the bed and hold herself in a somewhat awkward position to be petted and loved on or shown a stuffed animal. When the visit was over, she, at my request, would quietly back out of the room, one careful step at a time. My mom told me later that she just couldn’t believe it all and that she wanted to share motherly words of caution, but stopped herself. “As I watched you and Savannah working together, I knew that it was a moment I didn’t need to interrupt. That connection between the two of you is amazing. I could tell that if something wasn’t going to be right, Savannah would have told you and you would have listened.”
Savannah’s unflappable demeanor was perfect for this environment. I always have thought Connemaras were the perfect pony, but dear Savannah, has once again confirmed it! In addition to her good-natured Irish genes, I was grateful for the natural horsemanship training I’ve received alongside Savannah from Megan Doyle and Sherry Beuttner plus the myriad of goofy activities that Savannah and I have done in the past that prepared us for this. One example is the day I arranged for her to be on display in the local feed store promoting a pony program I had going on at the time.
I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to share Savannah with my Dad and the other residents of St. Anthony’s. Dad’s health took a turn for the worse only four days later and he was moved to the hospital. He went to be with the Lord on Jan. 9, 2008. In his last month, Dad, Mom and I had the joy of being able to talk and laugh about Savannah’s visit to St. Anthony’s and how she surprised and brought joy to so many people. When Dad died, he had his bride of 65 years keeping watch at his bedside and two photos on his bed table. One was a photo of Savannah.
I look forward to facilitating Savannah’s ability to share joy in nursing homes in the future. I have started reading my book from the Delta Society to prepare the two of us for certification in pet assisted therapy.