Mar 4, 2017

Stallion Selection: The Connemara Stallion

WHAT TO DO

Before we begin this breakdown of the things to consider when choosing a Connemara Stallion to breed your mare to, we first must stress the importance of looking at our mares and/or stallions objectively. There is no such thing as “perfect” in horses or ponies, and it’s critical to be able to acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses in both your mare and any potential  mates.

If  you’ve decided you want to breed a Connemara Pony Foal here are some simple tips to help you make this all important decision.

Decide on a Goal 

While shopping for a Connemara Stallion is perhaps the most exciting part of planning your next match, time spent choosing a Stallion can be even more successful if we first start by defining our breeding goal and critically evaluating our mares.  We need to put equal measure into examining our mares’ conformation and breeding to have the best chance of producing our next Connemara Pure or Part-Bred champion.

Ask yourself these questions: Why do you want to breed a Connemara Pony?  Will this be a future performance horse for yourself, a future broodmare for your Connemara breeding program, or a sales prospect you intend to market?  Each of these is a great reason to breed a Connemara Pony, but establishing your breeding goal will help determine if your mare is  right for the job.

If you’re breeding a performance pony for yourself, start with your mare’s own qualities as a riding horse.  Was she suitable for the sport you compete in?  Did you enjoy riding her?  Did she have enough talent that even if you ended up with an exact replica of her you would be happy?  If the answer to any of these questions is no, then perhaps she is not a good breeding candidate for this endeavor.  Temperament, character, and rideability are all excellent points to consider when evaluating your mares’ strengths for breeding.

If you are a Connemara Pony breeder and would like to produce a new Purebred Connemara filly to add to your broodmare band, then the depth of your mare’s pedigree is essential.  Look at the Connemara Stallions represented, but even more importantly, look at the Connemara Mares throughout her pedigree.  What have they produced and done in sport?  Is there a consistency from one generation  to the next?  Knowledgeable Connemara breeders know it’s these strong producing Connemara Mare families that they can rely on  while upgrading their own Connemara Breeding programs.

Cross breeding with the Connemara Pony seeks to combine the best of both breeds and aims to produce a more robust Pony through “hybrid vigor”.  The Connemara Pony crossed with the Thoroughbred has long been regarded as making a excellent competition horse suitable for the young rider or small adult.  The Connemara Pony contributes its character, heartiness,  rideability and  intelligence – all largely heritable traits- while the Thoroughbred brings additional size, ‘blood’ and athleticism to the cross and enables them to compete successfully in nearly every e discipline. In recent years there has also been increasing interest crossing Warmblood/Sport Horse Mares with the Connemara Pony.  Thus, just as in purebred breeding, understanding the mare’s role in cross-breeding is an undeniably essential part of  Connemara Stallion Selection.

Connemara Sport Horse Summerville Park Pollyana

What makes a top level Connemara Cross from a competitor/rider point of view?

• Blood
• Athleticism
• Intelligence
• Soundness
• Excellent Gaits
• Correct conformation, Uphill Frame
• Jumping ability, technique and scope
• Character/Personality
• Gallop

 

If you are breeding a Connemara or  Connemara Sport Horse for sale, consider the commercial appeal of your Mare and her pedigree.  Does she have a well-recognized pedigree for Sport?  Did she have a ridden career of her own or have siblings or offspring that were successful in your chosen discipline?  Connemara Pony Breeding is an expensive endeavor and your key to success lies in being able to successfully market and sell the offspring. Popular Connemara Stallion names may catch the buyer’s eye, but you can differentiate your foals from the other offspring of a chosen Connemara stallion by the commercial appeal and quality of your mare.

Conformation 

Connemara Pony Mare R Titania, Conformation PhotoConformation is the next area to consider in your evaluation of your mare breeding potential.  The mare is the base line, the foundation of all you’re hoping to breed; you can improve but you cannot change what is already there. From that baseline, you can begin to develop a list of potential Connemara Stallions for your mare. The stallion can help improve or strengthen certain traits, or he can detract from them. It is not a perfect science, but creating a list of what you’d like to improve or keep the same with your mare is a good place to start. What are her strengths and what are her weaker points?  No horse is perfect, but mares with a significant conformational defect are not good breeding candidates. Breeding to a Connemara stallion that is conformationally better than your mare gives your hypothetical offspring a better chance of improving upon the mare.

Avoid selecting a mediocre  Connemara Stallion and expecting your mare’s good points to overshadow his weak points. You might get lucky, but it’s a much better idea to start with the best material possible in the stallion since your mare is the unchanging factor. The conformation of the offspring is expected to be somewhere between that of the sire and the dam.

Conformation is also reflected in the characteristics of each breed. Conformation of the parents, whether good or bad, is likely to be transmitted to the offspring, with desirable or undesirable results. In purebred Connemara Pony breeding, if the sire and dam each have trademark characteristics (conformation) of the breed they represent (Connemara Pony), then the offspring will most likely be representative of the breed.” The stallion, therefore, should be strong in those points in which the mare is relatively weak. After all this evaluation, I’d suggest picking two or three things that you most want to improve on your mare.  Use those specific traits to guide your Connemara Stallion selection.

 

Offspring and Pedigree 

Connemara Dressage Foal, Chesnut

The best indicator of a good stallion isn’t what he does, but what his offspring do – that is what you are going to get. Try to talk to some of the owners of the Connemara stallion’s offspring to find out about their character, rideability, and how hard or easy they were to train. If possible, look at the dam of the offspring you like – is she a similar type to your mare?  Notice that it is more important to know how the stallion’s get have been doing in that field than how the stallion himself has done. Of course, sometimes the stallion isn’t old enough to have two or three crops of offspring with performance records. Then you will have to base your decision on the records of the Connemara stallion himself and the get of his full- or half-siblings. In such cases, though, the stud fee should be lower than that of a stallion which has several crops in the field and whose get have done exceptionally well in competition. If the stallion’s get have yet to perform, you must give extra consideration to the grandsires and granddams. Beyond that, although their names can look wonderful on the pedigree, third- and fourth-generation progenitors seldom have made much contribution to the prospective sire.

An exception to this guideline might occur if a substantial amount of inbreeding is involved, which is practiced to “fix” certain desirable traits and thus greatly increase the odds that those traits also will be present in the offspring. Because horses often possess some genes that are suppressed by the influence of others, full siblings can be entirely different from each other in certain traits and almost identical in others. This is due to one foal inheriting the dominant gene and the other inheriting the suppressed (recessive) gene. Unfortunately, there is no way for a breeder to know which alleles the horse will receive before breeding. Here the law of averages holds. That law says that the chances of getting the combination of genes you want is much greater if the sire’s offspring and the offspring of the sire’s siblings and half-siblings have the characteristics you want.

 

WHAT NOT TO DO

Choosing Based on Color Do not use a stallion that is marketed on the basis of its color or the exotic colors of its progeny.

Connemara Ponies are not a color breed, selecting a stallion purely based on its color is generally a weak approach. The other characteristics, like conformation and temperament, that a stallion will pass on to his offspring should be given more weight in a breeding decision than the potential color output. A horse’s coat color will not affect his performance ability, while poor construction  will will affect Train-ability and Future Soundness.

Do not use a stallion whose damline has not produced excellent riding  or breeding types.

Excellence is not determined by breeding titles (Premium broodmare in Ireland or the US, or State Premium mare in Germany, etc.) or high scores in foal or mare shows or inspections or success in lead rein classes. Excellence is determined by the goal that is driving the breeding program: producing horses that have excelled in sport in one or more disciplines. An additional indicator of excellence is that the stallion’s damline has produced other approved stallions and mares. If the stallion you are considering does not descend from an excellent damline, do not use him in your breeding program.

Overlooking Potential Hereditary Issues

When choosing a breeding stallion, remember that there are a variety of traits that may be passed on to a foal. Faults not always evident by visual examination of the parents can often be predicted by studying a six-generation pedigree. In other words, hidden characteristics not seen by the naked eye can sometimes be identified. Remember there are conditions that may or may not be readily apparent from your research. Conditions such as Congenital Cataracts, Sweetitch, Over or Undershot Jaw, Upward Fixating Patella, Dorsal Displacement of the Soft Palate, Curbs, OCD, DJD, Heart Defects, Flat Feet and more are all known to exist in the Connemara Pony .  The strategy of good breeders should be to avoid repetition of the same weaknesses via both parents. Reputable breeders examine their own mares health as well as ask for family health history while making their final Connemara  Stallion selections. Do your research beforehand to familiarize yourself with potential issues that may affect any breed of horse or family.

This article serves as a generic list of things to consider when choosing the right Connemara Stallion for your mare. Depending on which discipline you are aiming for, there will be countless more items to consider . Scope for the jumpers, style for the hunters, suspension for dressage, the list goes on and on and many times it comes down to personal preference. For research, going to nearby shows and seeing what is winning and succeeding will help guide your choices. Speak with experienced breeders and professionals in the sport, especially if you’ll be looking to sell the foal.

You can look at a horse and know what he/she seems to be; you can study the pedigree and know what the horse ought to be; but only the offspring can tell you what horse really is.

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