The weather may not have been the best, but the 96th Connemara Pony Breeders’ Show, held over three days at The Showgrounds in Clifden last month, will be remembered for lots of good reasons. 

European, American and Australian visitors were noticeable in the crowd. Some of these, representing 13 of the 16 International Committee for Connemara Pony Societies member countries, attended the ICCPS AGM which is held in Clifden prior to the show each year, One delegate, Connemara breeder Courtney Mullen, travelled solo all the way from South Island, New Zealand. 

Generously sponsored by Horse Sport Ireland, Galway Crystal and the Station House Hotel, as well as the many local businesses which unfailingly support the show each year, entries were up to a record 530, and gate receipts were up.

Among the first classes on the Wednesday was the Family Working Hunter with local rider Clodagh O’Toole taking the red ribbon on Olivia Staunton’s Clonhanard Lily. Success for Ireland in the International Performance Working Hunter, a competition now firmly established in the calendar, with teams from Ireland, Scotland and England, had many competitors direct from the RDS the previous week, and included Alicia Devlin-Byrne, Talitha Diamond, Caoimhe Curran and Rachel Aiken representing home. 

The Green Hunter competition for 4 yr olds, having had two of its qualifiers cancelled, may not have had the quality hoped for in the final, but this certainly did not take from Jackie Hockley’s Carankilly MacGuire (s. Westside Mirah, d. Clossbawn Head Lass) worthy place in first. First in the 3 yr old loose jumping final was Fintan Cosgrove’s dun Moonlight Magic (s. Moonlight Silver Shadow, d. Roan Hannah), and in the 4 yr old mare performance class the Robert Fallon’s bay Cashelbay Annabelle (s. Cashelbay Rocket, d. Ginger Meg).

All classes had a high percentage turnout of entries so it was no surprise that the competitions on Thursday didn’t wind up until late – the judges did not have an easy time with the high standard and increased numbers to evaluate, though on occasion side line opinion was heard to differ! The return of the split younger mare classes proved to be a popular decision made by the show committee with just under 40 entries in total over the three classes; similarly the 10 to 15 yr older mares with foal at foot (won by  Patrick Kearn’s Loughmor Suzy, s. Linsfort Barney, d. Hazy Rebel), separated this year from the older mares without foal at foot (won by
Padraic Hynes’ Canal Lady, s. Frederiksminde Hazy Match, d. Canal Linnett) were both well supported. The Junior Championship went to Peter O’Toole’s three year old colt Castle Marksman (s. Glencarrig Knight, d. Castle Melody) with Grace Murphy’s and William McMahon’s Glencarrig Princess Ella (s. Glencarrig Knight, d. Glencarrig Princess) two-year old in reserve. 

Four year old and over stallion winner was the ever popular Manor Duke (s. Currachmore Cashel, d. Banks Vanilla) owned by Noel Noonan, and ably shown by Joe Burke. Champion foal on the day was Sean Cooney’s Loughmore Johnny (s. Brock Lodge Buster, d. Wyncroft Hero) and
Reserve was Joe McCann’s Camellia Shadow (s. Hannah’s Only Dun, d. Celtic Moy Streams). The increasingly popular Young Handler’s showing class saw Lindsey Higgins and Canrawer Evening Hilly (s. Earl of Clonriff, d. Glencarrig Maude) top of the line.

Special tributes made on Thursday remembered former CPBS Secretary the late Phil MacDermott, Susan McConnell, Secretary of the American Connemara Pony Society who passed away from cancer earlier this year. A a special granite plaque, acknowledging the 96 former stallion custodians since the foundation of the CPBS in 1923, was unveiled. Society President Jim Mullaney presented well known breeders
Jimmy Canavan and Jarlath Grogan with Hall of Fame Awards and a special presentation was made to the mare Magic Molly and her beautiful twin foals, a colt and a filly (s. Coral Misty’s Bobby)  who paraded ‘as if to the manner born’! Let’s hope we see them return to the ring to compete someday.

Ponies to look out for in the future are yearling colt winner Kingstown Dantheman (s. Slackport Prince, d. Kingstown Dana) and Rathkeely Lady Holly (s. Lough Melvin Gorteen, d. Knockacarron Lady) winner of the yearling filly class. Thursday’s grand finale, the
Supreme Championship, was awarded to Katie Curran’s worthy Glencarrig Princess Katie (s. Glencarrig Knight, d. Glencarrig Princess), bred by Gearoid Curran and winner of the registered mare 4 and 5 year old class. 

Winner of the 16 yr and over mare class and Reserve Supreme was Fiona and Tomas Grimes’ attractive true to type Lishin Star (s. Glencarrig Prince, d. Dunlewey Lisheen Liath) at 17 years. Lisheen Star’s granddaughter, Copperbeech Polly  (s. Menlough Owen, d. Carrowkeel Star) also secured a win for the Grimes as breeders and owners in the six to seven year old mares.

Ring One held up well on Friday for the working hunter competitions and the popular High Performance Final where honours went to Riona Finn of Athenry and Carrowmore Rebel (s. Dexter Leam Pondi, d. Tulira Neelia). Agharanny Minstrel (s. Castleside JJ, d. Silver Mint) ridden by Edwina O’Connor took the Working Hunter title.

Last class was the Puissance, with Alicia Devlin-Byrne on veteran Blackwood Fernando (s. Ferdia, d. Dancing Queen) clearing 145 cm. 

Those staying over for the sales were treated to the spectacle of all winners from the three days parading through Clifden town on Friday evening, a tradition, which like the ever popular Domestic Arts, Irish Dancing and Dog Show, contributes hugely to making the CPBS Annual Pony Show such a special occasion. 

The Show Committee and stewards  under the chairmanship of Pat Geoghegan are to be commended for running an action-packed show. 

Judges Pascal Crawford, Padraig Flanagan, Frank Joyce, Dudley Nee, Gerry Gibbons, Pat Lynch, Fr. Christy McCormack, Patricia Stirling and Ruth McGovern Ring, Patricia Stirling and Rachel Mulgrew certainly stood up to their job. Together with course builder Tony Ennis – who devised and erected with his team well thought out and challenging routes – they gave both competitors and spectators alike an enjoyable three days of sport despite the poor weather.

Pictured: Champion Foal: Sean Cooney (Co Offaly) owner and breeder of Loughmore Johnny with Pat Lynch (judge), William Heavin and Gerry Gibbons (judge)