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Coleg Sir Gar, Carmarthen, Educational Visit

The Welsh Pony and Cob Society conducted an Educational Visit to Coleg Sir Gar, Pibwrlwyd Campus, Carmarthen on 23rdFebruary. Students from the three years of the Equine Studies and Animal Care courses attended. The purpose of the visit was to show the versatility of the Welsh breeds and demonstrate how they can literally cater for persons from “the cradle to the grave”. Having previously been used as the main means of transport for hill farmers, as war mounts in times of battle, for pulling carriages and carts and ploughing the fields, today the Welsh breeds are used for pleasure, leisure and in competition, where they excel in all disciplines and spheres across the world.

The first session on the “History of Welsh Ponies and Cobs” talk, illustrated by over a hundred  photographs, was given by the WPCS Publicity Officer, Dr Wynne Davies, M.B.E. Starting with illustrations  of dark-coloured Section A Welsh mountain ponies on the Welsh hills in the 19thcentury, this was followed by the influence of the grey Dyoll Starlight at the turn of the century, then Coed Coch Glyndwr in the ‘30’s, Clan Pip in the 60’s, the half-brothers Penual Mark and Pendock Legend in the 80’s and more recently, Blackhill Picalo and Cwmhendy Buster. Examples of the extreme divergence of types was illustrated by the consecutive 1955 and 1956 Royal Welsh Show champions Coed Coch Siaradus and Brierwood Honey. When one realises that there were over 1,000 ponies living on each one of the thirty or so hills and commons managed by the WPCS premium scheme after the 1908 Commons Act of Parliament, it is amazing that a demand was found for all of them. The average price of £15 received for each one exported around 1910 may not seem very much but, to put it into perspective, the annual Agricultural wage was then £37 and this is now £20,000!

When riding started to become popular with children in the 1930’s, the WPCS decided to introduce Section B of the Welsh Stud Book to cater for them. This was achieved by allowing the registration of the progeny of Oriental sires on registered Welsh mares, Craven Cyrus (foaled in 1927 by the Arab King Cyrus) and Tanybwlch Berwyn (foaled in 1925 by the Barb Sahara). This was followed by up-grading of foundation stock mares, through three generations of pure Welsh top-crosses to eventually become fully registered such as the four influential sires foaled in 1959, Solway Master Bronze, Brockwell Cobweb, Downland Dauphin and Chirk Crogan along with his full-brother Chirk Caradog foaled in 1958. Section B Welsh ponies have achieved much fame since those days, such as Crystal Vision winner of the £1,000 Supreme Pony championship at the 2011 Horse Of The Year Show, which was purchased on the 2010 Fayre Oaks Sale.

Welsh Ponies of Cob-type, currently Section C of the WSB have been around in large numbers since well before the start of the WPCS in 1901. There was great demand for them as harness ponies delivering milk and newspapers in the large English cities. After the second war their numbers dwindled to only two stallions and five mares but their popularity and usefulness has led to the current annual registration figures of around 1,000 with 300 – 400 competing in hand at the Royal Welsh, with many more under saddle and in harness.

The Welsh Cob was described in the Laws of Hywel Dda in 930 A.D. and also in the poetry of Tudur Aled and Guto’r Glyn in the 15thand 16thcenturies. Tap-root sires of the 19thcentury were True Briton (foaled in 1830), Trotting Comet (foaled in 1836) and Cymro Llwyd (foaled in 1850). Again their popularity has produced an annual registration of around 3,000 foals, with 500 – 600 entered in hand at the Royal Welsh. One has only to witness the in-hand stallion classes at the Royal Welsh to appreciate the excitement which they can engender. The ridden and harness competitions generate equal fervour.

Welsh part-bred horses and ponies are animals which have 12.5% of registered Welsh cob or pony blood, the dividing line being generally regarded as 14.2hh i.e. 148 cms. Over the years they have provided many of the HOYS children’s Riding Pony of the Year also often winning the overall Championships. Famous Welsh part-bred horses include Sir Wattie (25% Welsh cob) winner of two Olympic silver medals and dual winner at Badminton and Langarth Darcy (50%) who competed at European FEI level.

Lady Jennifer Evans-Bevan has bred many of Britain’s top riding ponies and point-to-point horses and gave an informed description of the animals which were shown under saddle in the college’s indoor arena:

Section A: Finglebridge Funtime owned by Mrs Hayley Grota of the Cadlanvalley Stud and ridden by her 6-year-old daughter Liberty. Funtime was 5thin the Colne M+M class at the HOYS and won the novice class at the NPS Summer Championships. Funtime was shown on the lead-rein and also as First-Ridden.

Section B: the 7-year-old stallion Moelview Chester ridden by his owner Sarah Russell of the Bryngwennol Stud, St Dogmaels, Cardigan. Chester was 3rdin the HOYS ridden qualifier at Monmouth and has sired many ponies which have gone to win championships both in-hand and under saddle.

Section C: the 8-year-old stallion Washingpool Llywelyn owned by Mrs Janet Breese and ridden by Katie Parry, both members of the WPCS Office staff. Llywelyn was Overall Supreme champion Welsh at the 2009 Royal Highland Show and has also been broken to drive and is a member of the Teifi Carriage Driving Club.

Section D: the 11-year-old mare Toyside Lucky Lowri ridden by her owner Lisa Saycell, Goginan, Aberystwyth. Lucky Lowri was Champion at the 2007 WPCS Performance Show, Champion ridden Welsh Cob mare at the 2008 Royal Welsh Show and gained 73 British Dressage points at Novice and Elementary level. Last year she had a year off from competing and produced a filly foal, Syfydrin Solitude, which is retained. Lowri also gave an impressive display of her jumping ability.

Welsh Part-bred: the 9-year-old stallion Blaenllain Doodleba ridden by his owner Mandy Jones. Doodleba won the WPB stallion class at the 2011 RW Show and also WPCS Gold, Bronze and Performance medals. He competes at both Show Jumping and Affiliated Dressage with Welsh Team Dressage rider Kelly Webb.

The WPCS is very grateful to everyone who made this event such an overwhelming success and greatly appreciated by the Coleg Sir Gar students and staff.

Wynne Davies, WPCS Publicity Officer

1st Mar 2012