Monday, January 26, 2015

Horse Breeds: Kerry Bog Pony

Though the exact origins of the Kerry Bog Pony are a bit of a mystery. But it is likely this hardy pony is a descendant of the Celdone ponies used by the Celtic settlers in northern Spain. As trade expanded across Europe, these ponies ended up in Ireland where they tended to roam free. Like many other Irish horses, they were used as pack and cavalry animals in the early 19th century. By the late 19th and early 20th century they were being used to haul peat from the bogs in Kerry, which is where the modern name of Kerry Bog Pony comes from.

The problem with this is that the horses were taken off the moors where they bred and put in stalls all alone. This meant there wasn't much in the way of breeding happening. For the Kerry Bog Pony the end was very near. In fact, by the 1980s they were very nearly extinct. Lucky for the Kerry Bog, John Mulvihill of County Kerry in Ireland decided to intervene. He gathered a small herd of ponies and began breeding them, keeping records all the while. He even gave them their modern name. With the help of a few other enthusiasts he formed the Kerry Bog Pony Society.

Despite all his efforts, it wasn't until 1995 that a breed standard was written by Timothy Clifford. Even after that standard was written it was another ten years before it was adopted by the Kerry Bog Pony Co-Operative Society Ireland. Once this standard was accepted, a studbook could also be established. At least the Kerry Bog Pony had a fighting chance. Its longevity was assured when it was imported into the United States. The breeding in America is overseen by the American Kerry Bog Pony Association, which ensures the European standards are strictly adhered to.

Since this breed evolved on the harsh moors of Ireland, it is a hardy breed with a sturdy body. Its compact body gives it good balance and its small head gives it a sweet appearance. The coat is long and dense, allowing the pony to survive the cold and damp so common to Ireland in the winter. Most ponies are bay or brown, but chestnut, dun, and gray are also acceptable.

Used today for riding and harness work, the Kerry Bog Pony isn't seen all that often outside of Ireland. Its sweet disposition and hardy nature makes it the perfect pony for children, however, so its worth taking a look at this cute little breed.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Horse Breeds: Kathiawari

Like many breeds, the Kathiawari is named for its place of origin. This sturdy breed was first found on the Kathiawari peninsula in western India and though we don't know exactly how it got there, it's probably a mix of Arabian and other desert breeds. Their ancestors probably wandered in from other parts of India, but we'll never really know for sure.

There is some confusion between the Marwari and the Kathiawari. They're sometimes even considered the same breed, but the Kathiawari is stockier and has finer facial features than the Marwari. Crosses between the two breeds are common, but they're not the same horse. The are indeed separate breeds.

This breed is on the smaller side as horses go, standing no more than 14.2 hands high. The Kathiawari is a sturdy little horse that is far stronger than it seems. Like the Marwari, it has the classic tipped-in ears, though the Kathiawari's are just a little shorter and a little more curved. They also have a less 'Roman' appearance than its sister breed.

Most colors and many patterns are acceptable. The Kathiawari can be found in all solid colors with the exception of black (who knows why). Almost all variations of cream, including cremello and palomino, are common in the Kathiawari. Probably the most unexpected (and most interesting) pattern you might find in this breed is pinto. A pinto horse of this side is just really cute.

The Kathiawari was mostly used as a utility horse on the farm, but they were also used for riding, driving, and even carrying mounted police officers. Most of these uses continue today. For more information on this cute little breed, visit The Indigenous Horse Society of India.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Horse Breeds: Irish Draught Horse

There are two breeds truly native to Ireland, and the Irish Draught Horse is one of them. Because this breed has been around for so long, it's really not clear where the Irish Draught Horse originally came from. One theory is that Thoroughbred stallions were put to Irish mares, and those mares were a curious mix of whatever horses swam ashore after shipwrecks and the stock brought over by Anglo-Norman invaders. It is likely that from these horses a strong workhorse was developed, though we'll probably never know for sure. This workhorse would eventually become the Irish Draught Horse.

Originally, the Irish Draught Horse was probably a farm horse used for just about any farm job that needed a horse. They pulled ploughs, served as mounts, and carried loads wherever necessary. Today it is more common to see crossbreeds such as the Irish Draught Sport Horse (the Irish Draught Horse crossed with a Thoroughbred), the Irish Hunter, and other mixes competing and winning in show jumping and eventing competitions around the world.

Standing from 15.1 to 16.3 hands high, the Irish Draught Horse is a powerful breed that is strong and bold. Its movements are commanding and sure, its jump nearly perfect, and its nature kind and intelligent. These traits combine to produce a horse that is easy to train and excels in many areas. Just about any color is acceptable in this noble breed.

Though this horse is found throughout the world, many horsemen can go their entire lives without actually seeing an Irish Draught Horse (though they are likely to see the Sport or Hunter varieties at competitions). Today the Irish Draught Horse Society of North America is one of several associations trying to preserve and protect this rare breed.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Horse Breeds: Icelandic Horse

The Icelandic Horse is an ancient breed, so we cannot be truly certain of its origin. It was probably brought to Iceland by the Vikings in either the 9th or 10th century, but we can't know this for sure. This noble breed has many characteristics in common with the Mongolian Horse, but so little is known about its ancestry that it is impossible to say if these horses have a common ancestor.


Regardless of where the horse originally came from, the Icelandic Horse has spent the better part of a millennium isolated from other horse breeds. This has resulted in a pure horse with a hardy constitution. They were, and are, prized in Iceland for their well-rounded abilities and were used as both workhorses and for transportation. Today, this sweet horse is used for sheepherding, transportation, and competition.


Standing from 12 to 14 hands high, the Icelandic Horse can come in practically any color or pattern except for the spotted patterns. The hooves tend to be feathered and some horses have a slight beard on the chin, but only in the winter. These traits are common in breeds that have developed in cooler climes independently of other horses.


The most defining trait of the Icelandic Horse is the distinctive gait. Like most breeds, it can trot and canter, but it also has a more unusual gait called the tolt. This gait, which is similar to a rack, involves a four-beat gait with a high-stepping movement. The tolt is smooth and beautiful and can range in speed from a walk to a gallop. Many Icelandic Horses move with a flying gait, which is a two-beat gait where both legs on the same side move as one. Like the told, this gait is lovely to behold.


With its sweet face and cheery disposition, the Icelandic Horse is a fun and expressive companion. For more information on this unique breed, see The United States Icelandic Horse Congress.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Horse Breeds: Highland Pony

Of all the breeds of pony native to Great Britain, the Highland Pony is both the largest and the strongest. This surefooted little horse hails from the north of Scotland, one of only two breeds to truly originate in this area. The Highland Pony evolved naturally, with very little input from humans. It was shaped entirely by the harsh environment so characteristic of northern Scotland. This resulted in a strong breed with few natural flaws.


The Highland Pony was prized by farmers (also called crofters) in Scotland as an all-purpose horse. It could haul the plow one day and bring home a hunter's kill the next. Able to haul up to 200 pounds of deadweight, this larger pony was a favorite as a pack animal and trail horse. Today the Highland Pony is popular as a family pony, especially for young children.


Standing from 13 to 14.2 hands high, the Highland Pony is typically a dull dun in color. Other acceptable colors include black, brown, chestnut, and even gray. Most ponies have a flaxen mane and tail, especially the darker coat colors.


Because of its natural origins, this breed usually sports some primitive markings. This can include a dorsal stripe, zebra patterning on the legs, and feathering at the base of the legs. There may also be a short beard on the chin.


With a muscled neck and a broad forehead, these little horses have a strong and muscular appearance. They are popular for pulling smaller carts and are great with children and other animals. They also make an appearance in the show ring, particularly in driving and other sporting events. Today, The Highland Pony Society is the society most concerned with the breeding and preservation of this strong pony.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Horse Breeds: Hanoverian

Most warmblood breeds are named after their region of origin, and the Hanoverian is no exception. This majestic breed originates in Lower Saxony, which is now part of northern Germany but was once the kingdom of Hannover. Hence the name.


The Hanoverian, however, isn't an ancient breed. In 1714, King George I of England (who was the original elector of Hannover) decided to send several English Thoroughbreds to Hannover in an attempt to refine the native stock in that region. His son (George II) wanted to supply the military with top cavalry mounts and create the perfect working horse for the local farms. To do so, he created a state stud at Celle in 1735. At first, he used black Holsteiners, but eventually Thoroughbreds were added to the breeding program. And thus the Hanoverian was born.


The original station in Celle is still the center of the Hanoverian breeding program. Many of the best examples of this prime eventing breed come straight from Celle, and all true Hanoverians can trace their lineage back to this first stallion station.


The Hanoverian can stand between 15.3 to 17 hands high. Acceptable colors include bay, black, brown, chestnut, and gray. The Hanoverian is purely a sporting horse, so the conformation of the haunches is of the upmost importance. For this reason, horses that do not conform to the established standards are not bred. In fact, they are typically sterilized to avoid accidental breedings.


This breed has powerful hindquarters, but also possesses the grace necessary to compete in dressage. They can really move, typically covering ground with a spring in their step. The movement is full of grace, power, and impulsion, giving them an aptitude for jumping. They can also be used for farm work or employed as trail horses. In short, they are versatile enough to suit most purposes and beautiful enough to attract just about anyone.


Many of these stunning horses can be found competing and winning in dressage, jumping, eventing, and combined driving. They're even seen in the hunter ring. Today, the American Hanoverian Association is primarily involved in their breeding and conservation in North America.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Horse Breeds: Haflinger

The true origins of the Haflinger horse are a little murky, but they may have been present in the southern Tyrolean Mountains of Austria and northern Italy since medieval times. Perhaps even longer, though independent evidence of this is hard to come by. At any rate, this horse breed is named for the village of Hafling in the Tyrolean Mountains where they served as farm horses. This stocky breed has always been a general purpose horse, so its uses on farms was almost limitless.


The breed has been kept fairly pure throughout the centuries, with only one known outcrossing having occurred during the recorded breeding of Haflinger horses. This outcrossing happened in the 1800s when the stallion Folie was bred to a Haflinger mare. Folie's sire was half Arabian, making Folie only mostly Haflinger (he was one-quarter Arabian). All other recorded breedings have been pure.


All Haflingers have a similar appearance. Chestnut, whether light or dark, is the only acceptable color. The mane and tail are always white (or very near to white). White markings, particularly on the face, underbelly, and legs, are common. Standing from 13.2 to 15 hands high, the Haflinger horse is a sturdy but elegant medium-sized breed. They are also athletic enough for farm or other work.


Today the Haflinger is used primarily for riding and driving, though there are still some used for farm work in the Tyrolean Mountains. They are no longer confined to Austria and Italy, but can be found around the world.