The Welsh Mountain Pony is one of the most popular children's pony's in the world. It's beauty, versatility and gentle temperament make them superb mounts for children. Although they are a little small for most adults to ride, they can go well in harness.
It is known that there were herds of wild ponies running free on the mountains of Wales since pre-Roman times. They were tamed and used by hill farmers as pack ponies and for riding. Later their small stature combined with their general hardiness saw them put to use as pit ponies. As with many native breeds, blood from more delicate horses such as Thoroughbreds and, particularly, Arabs was introduced. The Romans brought many Arab horses to the UK (from their campaigns in Africa). When they left most of the horses were left behind, either sold or simply turned loose. Some put the Welsh Mountain Pony's typically dished face down to Arab influence. Fortunately this new blood simply refreshed the breed rather than fundamentally altering it. During the reign of Henry VIII an attempt was made to stamp out the smaller breeds. King Henry VIII wanted people to breed larger horses for war and presumably did not appreciate the importance of the smaller breeds for work. Fortunately the fact that these little ponies had made their home in a fairly remote location, coupled with a distinct lack of enthusiasm for imposing the will of a remote monarch meant that Henry VIII's wishes were largely ignored and the little Welsh Mountain Pony continued to survive and thrive in its traditional home.
The Welsh Mountain Pony (Section A) is the smallest and daintiest of the four Welsh breeds. It may stand up to 12 hands high and all whole colours are permitted. Their heads are of Arab type often with dished faces and large eyes, but they still look like ponies rather than small horses. Their necks are strong but not overly wide and their bodies and sturdy without being bulky. Their legs are relatively slim for native breeds, but they have strong bones and although their hooves are small they are dense. Welsh Mountain Ponies (Section A) tend to have high-set tails (again due to the Arab influence). Although their small statures mean that they take small steps, their movement is graceful whether under saddle or in harness. Although they are generally far too small for adults to ride they are quite strong enough for an adult to drive.
The Welsh Mountain Pony (Section A) is far more than just a pretty face. These ponies have spent thousands of years managing to find food and shelter in an area which has little of either even at the best of times. Consequently these little ponies are highly intelligent and resourceful. They are also bold and sure footed. For their size they tend to be capable jumpers, happily tackling all kinds of obstacles in the wild and performing well either across country or in the show-jumping ring when domesticated. This is part of the reason why they are so highly prized as children's ponies. The other is that they have gentle, friendly natures as well as common sense. They adapt well to modern traffic. As well as being excellent riding horses, they also go well in harness either for pleasure driving or for competitions. There is only one real issue which may occur with Welsh Mountain Ponies (Section A), which is that they can get into the habit of jogging rather than walking or trotting properly. This can happen when they are out with larger animals (adults with children for example) and the smaller pony simply can not keep pace with the bigger one at a standard walk. It can also be a sign that the pony has been over-fed and has too much energy. This can generally be avoided (or if necessary cured) with good training and good management.
Welsh Section A Health
Welsh Mountain Ponies (Section A) tend to be healthy animals. Ironically the only health issues of concern come from their ability to live practically off thin air. As has been previously mentioned over-feeding can lead to behavioural issues as well as issues related to obesity. Even when the ponies are not given any extra food they can still over-eat themselves, particularly if kept on richer pastures. Owners have to keep a constant watch on their pony's weight and be alert to any signs of laminitis. In its early stages laminitis often manifests itself as light lameness or stiffness and can be easily confused with arthritis, particularly in older animals. Two common signs of laminitis (as opposed to arthritis) are heat in the hoof or hooves) and an excessive pulse (which can be taken at the base of the leg). Because of its frequency and the seriousness of its repercussions, it's best to check with a vet at any sign of stiffness or lameness.
Caring for a Welsh Section A
Apart from managing its weight, these ponies only require basic care. They will need regular grooming and hoof care/shoeing. They will also need to be turned our regularly even when they are being exercised which means keeping their paddock free of dung and litter and worming them regularly. Although they need very little in the way of food (unless they are working extremely hard), they will need access to clean water at all times and in the stable will enjoy a hay net and possibly a salt lick. As these are highly intelligent animals, they appreciate regular exercise away from their immediate surroundings and like all ponies enjoy company both from other horses and from humans. If given insufficient attention they may develop negative behaviours ranging from depression to attention-seeking behaviour such as stable vices. These can usually be completely avoided simply by making sure the pony gets enough stimulation and attention.
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