Farm Ireland

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Elite sales expected to bring a price boost for Connemara pony

LEAP OF FAITH: The success of Connemara ponies like Sillogue Darkie, above, ridden by Michael Duffy, at the European Championships, has proven the ability of Ireland’s native pony to reach the top level of international competition and driven demand for performance Connemaras. Photo: Horse Sport Ireland.
LEAP OF FAITH: The success of Connemara ponies like Sillogue Darkie, above, ridden by Michael Duffy, at the European Championships, has proven the ability of Ireland’s native pony to reach the top level of international competition and driven demand for performance Connemaras. Photo: Horse Sport Ireland.
Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Connemara pony breeders have become the latest group of breeders to recognise the potential benefits of developing niche outlets for their animals.

The volunteer-led Connemara Pony Elite Sales Group (CPESG) has just announced details of an elite sale for performance-bred Connemara ponies in early 2014.

The move comes as breeders across Ireland begin to reap real financial rewards of improved marketing and targeted elite sales across all disciplines of equestrian sport.

Research by Teagasc equine specialist Declan McArdle found that the average foal price at the 2013 auction sales of sport horses in 2013 was €1,577/hd, while the average foal price at the 'elite' foal sales in Cavan and Goresbridge was €5,239/hd.

He also found that the average price for three-year-old sport horses last year at elite sales was €3,031/hd, compared to an average of €2,460/hd when the elite sales were excluded from the analysis.

Connemara Pony Elite Sales Group chairman Michael Flanagan explained why the group embarked on developing the Exhibition Sale idea in early 2013.

"The idea came about because of the bad prices and bad market for performance ponies In Ireland in general," he said.

"We saw Connemara ponies being sold at Goresbridge and elsewhere for €1,500-2,000 and within a few months we would hear they had been sold on again to Scotland, England or elsewhere at prices of €8,000, €10,000 and maybe €12,000. With this sale, we want to bridge that gap and develop the market here for elite performance ponies at home.

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"A friend of mine had a group of Italians over in Ireland searching for real top competition ponies and they eventually found only two ponies. They paid €22,000 for one and €25,000 for another," he remarked. "There are international buyers out there who are constantly searching for the next European champion and we want to facilitate that with our sale."

Mr Flanagan added that the group also has plans in the pipeline for elite performance foal sales later in 2014.

The Connemara Exhibition Sale, which will take place on March 28, will be the opening event of the Connemara Pony Breeders Society (CPBS) annual spring festival.

There will be two selection days ahead of the sale, to be held in Athlone Equestrian Centre, Co Westmeath on Sunday, February 23 and Sunday, March 2.

The ponies will be assessed on their performance ability by a well-respected panel of assessors that will include Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) showjumping coach Ian Fearon, team pony showjumping chef d'equipe Tom Slattery and top showjumping coach Jack Doyle.


"These judges know exactly what it takes for a pony to get to top level competition and they have no allegiance to any breeder, owners, producer or rider," said Mr Flanagan.

"The ponies they select may not be true to type in the traditional sense, but they will be top athletic sports ponies that will have the ability to go all the way."

To be selected for the sale, the ponies can compete in any of the four disciplines of riding, showjumping, working hunter or eventing.

The disciplines will be further sub-divided into height categories of 128cm, 138cm and 148cm and over in height for showjumping and working hunter ponies of 138cm to 153cm in height.

The cross-country/eventing division will cater for ponies up to 148cm in height and ponies entering in the flat ridden section must be four years or older.

In order to show off their ponies to best advantage, riders can select from a number of different course styles, ranging from a typical showjumping course, a cross-country track, a flat ring or a jump-cross course that will include a mixture of show jumps and natural fences.

The ponies will also be divided broadly into three age groups, as follows, to ensure a fair and balanced competition:

* Three-year-old future performance ponies, loose jumping fences up to 1m in height;

* Four-year-old performance ponies jumping over fences from 70cm to 90cm in height;

* Five-year-old and over performance ponies jumping over fences from 90cm in height;

* Four-year-old and over riding ponies.

Working hunter ponies will be asked to jump fences and perform simple school exercises so that the judges can assess each aspect of their performance.

Drawing inspiration from the Traditional Irish Horse Association's recent Hunter Show and Go event and the Go for Gold sale, all ponies exhibited at the selection days will have photographs and videos taken by Tadhg Ryan of Scarteen, Limerick.

For ponies selected for the Exhibition sale, these images will be used in the catalogue, but all images and videos will be made available to all competitors, for their own promotional use, regardless of the selection outcome.

Connemara Pony Elite Sales Group chairman Michael Flanagan said the group hoped to qualify approximately 60 ponies for the Exhibition Sale on March 28.

"The sale will officially launch the Connemara Pony Breeders Society's annual Spring Festival, and will be opened by Professor Pat Wall, chairperson of Horse Sport Ireland, and Ms Marian Harkin (MEP) at Duffy's Equestrian Centre, Clare-galway," he explained.

"Those ponies that have been selected for sale will be showcased on site at Duffy's. This will be followed by a video auction that evening, run by Connemara Pony Sales Company on behalf of the CPESG, in the Ardilaun Hotel, Galway city," he added.

For more information on the Connemara Pony Elite Sales Group, go to You can also stay up to date on the Facebook page

Expert panel set for ITBA seminar

The Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association (ITBA) has put together a comprehensive panel of Irish and international experts to address breeders at its annual seminar in the Heritage Hotel, Killenard, Co Laois this Thursday, January 30.

Aimed at appealing to people working in all facets of the thoroughbred breeding and racing industries, the seminar, called 'The Way Forward', will be broken into three sessions.

Session 1, entitled 'Optimising Finances on your Stud Farm' will examine all areas of financial management and any opportunities available to breeders to improve their management.

Chaired by ITBA vice chairman Derek Iceton, the panellists will include tax consultant Declan McEvoy from IFAC, Michael Fahy of Rathbarry Stud and David O'Connell, managing director, OCAE Consultants Ltd.

Session 2 will concentrate on modern veterinary advances in mare reproduction, with a particular emphasis on getting and keeping your mare in foal.

Well-known equine vets Andrea Ryan from Kilcash Veterinary Clinic and Mark MacRedmond of Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital will be joined by vet Tom Riddle from the world renowned Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, Lexington, Kentucky. Former ITBA chairman Joe Hernon will chair this session.

The secure funding of the Irish racing and breeding industries is essential in order to maintain the country's position as a world leader and Session 3 "Navigating the Future for Irish Breeding and Racing" promises to stimulate frank discussion.

The audience will receive a presentation on the reasons for a fair share for racing from Elizabeth Headon of Murray Consultants and the session, chaired by ITBA President John O'Connor of Ballylinch Stud, will include leading industry personnel.

ITBA manager Shane O'Dwyer said he was expecting a very big crowd for the annual seminar.

"The ITBA is committed to providing a service to Irish breeders and this free seminar is an opportunity for breeders to have their say. The day is a chance for Irish Breeders to interact with industry experts and keep abreast with ongoing developments in our industry," said Mr O'Dwyer.

Registration will commence at 2.15pm and a subsidised fork supper will be provided for those in attendance.

For further information please contact ITBA HQ on 045 877543 or

Irish Independent