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Despite looking incredibly pretty, these ponies have proved time and again to be the choice for young children as a first pony. Built on the moors they are hardy and intelligent, with a cheeky personality that will make them one of the family.
Similar to many Native breeds of the UK, the Welsh Pony developed on the wild moors of Wales. As people moved into the area, the ponies were domesticated and noted for their ability to work hard, carry large weights and deal with all terrains. Living on the moors, they were also very intelligent and able to live on sparse grazing. They were used as farm animals, as well as by the militia that helped Henry Tudor ascend to the throne.
During the 15th Century people started to mix Arabian blood into the natural population. The different sizes and shapes of the Welsh Pony started to develop; the Welsh Mountain Pony was the smallest and is now known as the Welsh Section A. Despite nearly being wiped out by a cull proposed by Henry VIII, they developed a role in mining and in recent times as children’s ponies. The Welsh Pony and Cob Society was created in 1901 to monitor and separate the differing types of pony that had developed. They have helped to register and create breed standards, and installing breed classes which the Welsh A now thrives in.
Welsh A’s are the archetypal Thelwell pony. Not exceeding 12 hands, they have a deep girth and short strong legs – this makes them strong and able to cover large distances. They have a sloping shoulder and lean hindquarters that give them a springy gait. The influence of the Arab has given them a concave face and fine muzzle. Their large eye and small ears give them the prettiest face of all the Native ponies.
These ponies also come in any colour except for piebald or skewbald. They naturally have thick manes and tails, which should only be thinned for showing. This hair protects them from the weather when living outside, and during winter months they will grow thick coats to keep themselves warm. Their fetlocks are also lightly feathered, protecting their heels from mud and damp.
Each different section in the stud book has a different appearance, whilst keeping the temperament and conformation similarities. The Welsh A is the small, round pony at the start of the scale. The Welsh B is finer, being up to 13.2 hands. It is closer to the riding pony in appearance, with more Thoroughbred blood in its history.
The Welsh C closely resembles the Welsh A in body appearance with more Cob blood in its inheritance. They grow up to 13.2 hands and are heavier than the pony. The Welsh D is the heaviest of all the sections, bred for endurance under saddle and harness. They are much heavier in bone, and have a high, powerful knee action. Although all come from the same small hardy breed, they have all diverted into types based on the region they developed and the blood that was introduced.
Their size and strength makes them the perfect pony for children, able to carry even adults up to 10 stone in weight. They will look after the smaller child, as well as learn quickly for older children who wish to try a new sport. They enjoy being groomed, and thrive on attention from children and adults. As well as being good at equine sports, they are also incredibly trustworthy out on hacks. Many riding schools and trekking centres use Welsh ponies due to their ability to adapt to any rider of any ability.
Their character is one of the key reasons children love these ponies more than any other. As well as being very friendly, their intelligence gives them a cheekiness you cannot help fall in love with. If they can work out a way to avoid a puddle or decide they need a quick stop for grass, they will. This can give children the best lesson in riding they will get before horses. Their intelligence also means they thrive in gymkhana games, jumping and across country. They will work out ways to help you get over a difficult fence, or learn quickly how to cut round bending poles the fastest, making many easy for children to learn on. With their height they also make great lead-rein ponies in the show ring, looking after small children of a very young age.
Being native to moorlands, they are incredibly easy to keep if not spoilt. Most can be kept outdoors, only requiring a rug in winter if you plan to ride them often. They have incredibly strong hooves, so only require shoeing if working often on the roads; even then the front feet only need to be shod.
Being used to sparse grazing, they will purge if kept on lush grass or fed on high-energy feed. This makes them prone to obesity and can lead to laminitis. This is an incredibly painful disease that causes inflammation in the hooves, making the coffin bone separate from the hoof wall. The pony will rock backwards on their front hooves and become lame, sometimes unable to walk. As a result Welsh Mountain Ponies are frequently seen in starvation paddocks during the spring to keep them away from fresh grass. If their grazing is kept under control, you won’t need to feed them extra food unless you are planning for a show or event.
If you do plan to keep them stabled, make sure doors are low so they can see out and watch the yard. They will get bored easily, and this can lead to wood chewing or eating their bedding. Toys with treats hidden in them, or a swede left in the stable overnight will help keep them busy whilst indulging their need to eat.
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