Holistic Overview | 3 Remarkable Pony Breeds Originating from Scotland Ireland and Norway

The equine gene pool in Europe is vast and variable and even more so across the world. There exist remarkable Connemaradiversity between pony breeds from small to great, white through to black, etc.

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Today we will be looking at three unique horse breeds from Scotland, Ireland, and Norway.

These include:

  • Highland pony breed,
  • Connemara pony breed,
  • and the Fjord (Westlands) respectively.

The Highland Pony Breed

The Highland Pony breed is a horse breed native to Scotland. It is one of the largest of the mountain and moorland pony breeds of the British Isles. Its pedigree dates back to the 1880s.

It was used as a workhorse in the Scottish mainland and islands, but today is used for driving, trekking, and general riding. They are hardy and tough, they rarely require shoeing, and are economical to keep.

Origin: Scotland

Height: Garron: About 14.2hh. Western Isles: 12.2-14.2hh. 

Color: Usually varying shades of dun with dorsal stripe, often with black points or silver hairs in tail and mane. Also gray, chestnut (sometimes with blond mane and tail), bay, black. 

Character: Intelligent, responsive, and very docile. It is a sensitive pony, giving its trust generously to a good owner but tending to be wary of strangers and easily soured by bad treatment. 

Physique of the Highland pony breed

The highland pony breed is distinguishable into two types with respect to their physique.

Highland Pony Breed Physique
The physique of Highland Pony Breed

These include:

  • The Western Isles type
  • And the  Garron, or Mainland, variety. 

The Garron | Bigger and Stronger Pony Breed

The Garron is bigger and stronger than the Islands type. It is a powerful, well-made animal with a short, deep head with open nostrils has bright and intelligent eyes and short ears.

It has a strong stance demonstrated by its head well-carried on a strong, cresty neck of medium length; shoulders powerful, chest and girth deep and roomy. 

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Furthermore, it has a Back short, with well-sprung ribs and strong loins, hindquarters full and powerful. 

Legs are short, hard, and strong, with plenty of bone, and thick feathers at the fetlock joint. Hard, broad hooves. 

Long thick tail, well set on, and plentiful mane. Action is straight and free and well-balanced, though it has a tendency to be “on the forehand”. 

It is a sturdy, hardy pony, and very sure-footed.

The Western Isles type of Pony Breed

The Western Isles type is further grouped into two divisions according to height (those 12.2-13.2hh and 13.2-14.2hh), which is a smaller and finer-limbed version of the Garron.

Main Advantages of the Highland Pony Breed

The Highland pony is traditionally associated with deer stalking because of the unique advantages it has over other equine types.

  • The highland pony breed is sure-footed enough to carry a deer’s carcass on the steep and slippery slopes of the Scottish glens.
  • It is so docile and trusting that a hunter can fire a gun from its back.

The Need for a Strong Working Pony brought the Highland Equine Type to Existance

Of the two types of Highlander, the Garron is the type with which the name Highland Pony is most generally associated.

It is simply a scaled-up version of the Western Isles type, developed during the last century in response to the need for a strong working pony that had the weight to pull or carry a big load. 

Highland ponies contain Arab blood; also some French blood and a bit of Clydesdale is thought to have contributed to the Garron. 

The smaller Western Isles type an excellent children’s riding pony, while the bigger Garron- in the past the crofter’s pony of all work as well as the stalker’s friend-today makes a first-class trekking pony.

The Connemara Pony Breed | Origin Specifics and Characteristics

The Connemara Pony is a pony breed that originated from Ireland. They are known for their athleticism, versatility, and good disposition.

The breed makes excellent show ponies. They are also called in the Irish dialect as Capaillín Chonamara.

Origin: Ireland – Connaught Province.

Height: 13-14hh.

Color: The Connemara Pony, Originally dun with a dorsal stripe and black points are now more commonly gray; also black, brown, bay. 

Character: The Connemara Pony is Intelligent, tractable, and exceptionally kind. Excellent children’s riding pony. 

Physique of the Connemara Pony

The Connemara Pony has a very good stance characterized by an alert head, well-carried; good, medium-length neck on strong, sloping shoulders. Deep girth, long, compact body with strong, often sloping, hindquarters. 

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Connemara Pony Breed appearance
The physique of the Connemara Pony Breed

Its legs are short and hard, with good bones. Hard feet. Action-free and comfortable. Sure-footed and hardy, the Connemara is also an excellent jumper.

The Evolution of the Connemara Equine Type Pony

The Connemara is an ancient breed, probably of the same basic family as the Western Isles type of Highland pony.

It has run wild in the mountains of the Irish west coast from beyond the memory of the man and was interbred quite considerably with Spanish jennets imported as a result of the wreck of the Spanish Armada in 1588. 

More recently Arab blood has been introduced, and latterly Arabs and Thoroughbreds have been bred to Connemara mares and the offspring registered as Connemara; so that the breed has changed quite considerably and it is questionable how many “Connemara” ponies of today deserve the name. 

Certainly dun, once the typical color of the Connemara, is becoming very scarce. Until recent times the Connemara has been a multi-purpose pony, used to carry peat and turf, in harness, and for riding. 

New Crossebreeds from the CONNEMARA Pony Breed

Outcrosses of connemara pony breed have regularly produced good stock – it has almost certainly contributed to the famous Irish hunter, and crosses with Thoroughbred stallions have produced showjumpers of great ability.

Notably, the international showjumper Dundrum (by the Thoroughbred stallion Little Heaven out of a Connemara mare) who, although only 14.3hh, could clear seven feet.

How to keep a Connemara Pony Breed at its Best

Like all native ponies, the Connemara retains its type best when fed on poor keep. This makes it difficult for breeders though with lush pasture to maintain the original pony character and restrict their ponies’ height to the maximum of 14.2hh permitted by the English Connemara Pony Society. 

It seems generally agreed that Connemaras of the best hard, wiry type stands not much more than 13.2hh.

Fjord (Westlands) Horse Breed | Characteristis and Origin Overview

The Fjord horse or Norwegian Fjord Horse is a relatively small but very strong horse breed from the mountainous regions of western Norway. It is an agile breed of light draught horse build.

It is also called in the Norwegianian dialect as fjordhest.

Origin: Norway. 

Height: 13-14.2hh.

Color: All shades of dun, characteristically cream or yellow, with a dorsal stripe and often stripes on forelegs and thighs. Mane and tail are black and silver, the central ridge of the mane being dark and the outside hairs light-colored.

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Character: Hardworking, tireless, gentle, sociable, and self-willed. 

Physique of the FJORD Horse Pony Breed

Unlike the previous equine types we have talked about, the Fjord horse breed has a smallish, well-shaped head with a broad forehead, wideset eyes, and small ears. 

Its mane is upright, characteristically cut on a crescent about 4in high at the center, on a short, thick neck that merges into the shoulder without many definitions at the point of join and into the back with almost no visible withers. 

Fjord (Westland) Pony Breed
Fjord (Westland) Pony Breed

The body is immensely powerful and muscular with a long back and rounded hindquarters. Short, sturdy legs with feathers on the heels, sloping equine pasterns, and hard, long feet. Sure-footed and extremely hardy.

Evolution of the Fjord Pony Breed

The Fjord pony is one of the few breeds to have kept its identity recognizably throughout the centuries. It has changed little from the horse the Vikings bred and used for horse fights and is still bred all over its ancestral Norwegian homeland. 

It flourishes throughout the other Scandinavian countries and is especially popular in Denmark, to which it has been exported in quantity during the last century.

It is a stoutly-built, primitive sort of pony, fond of company, and with a great deal of charm in its appearance and personality.

It is indispensable in high mountain areas that are too steep or too cold for the tractor or the lorry, and because of this, it seems likely to endure as a working pony. 

It will pull a plough or a cart, will pack a load on rugged mountain paths, or serve as a pleasant, weight-carrying riding pony, and additionally, it is frugal and cheaply fed, indifferent to cold, and endlessly hardworking.

Each of these equine types has its own unique set of features that make it suitable for a set of uses. With this in mind, it will be best to know the use cases you intend to work with before getting any type of pony breed for yourself.

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