CPBS History

Welcome to the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society

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Michael O’Malley


Michael O'Malley was instrumental in the promotion and conservation of the Connemara Pony and a founding member of the CPBS.

Born in Rosmuc in 1884 Michael trained as vet at the University of Veterinary profession. A man of many interests he was a bee-keeper, an amateur photographer and a founder of the Irish College in Rosmuc. He was truly passionate about all things and products from his Connemara homeland and Connemara pony itself.

In June 1912, he set off from his home village in the west of Ireland village accompanied by Joe Walsh, leading a 4-year-old grey stallion ‘Irish Dragoon’ and a 6-year-old cream mare ‘Eileen Alanna’. The goal was to present these ponies as an example of the Connemara pony breed as part of ‘The Parade of Types of British & Continental Horses & Ponies’ at Olympia, London. A journey today gauged at 870 kms was made on foot, train and boat from the wilds of Connemara to the heart of thriving London to one of the most prestigious equestrian events of the British calendar. O’Malley’s desire was to ‘show as many people as possible the best pony in the world’. This journey would ignite a fire to preserve and develop Ireland’s native pony breed.

Twelve years would pass between the journey to Olympia before the coming together of local Irish Connemara breeders to officially form the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society. Over that period O’Malley penned a series of letters outlining his concerns and the actions he would like taken to preserve this pony breed. In December 1923, a public meeting was held under the auspices of the Galway County Committee of Agriculture and the Department of Lands and Agriculture, to form a society for the preservation and improvement of the Connemara pony.The first committee took the initial steps at that inaugural meeting.

The Connemara Pony Breeders' Society was originally established in 1923 for the purpose of taking steps that would lead to the preservation and improvement of the Connemara Pony. Prior to this the work was undertaken by the Congested District Board, which was established in 1891. The Boards objectives were to try to encourage the people living in the over populated area of the western seaboard to improve their way of life. As one of these measures the board had introduced a variety of different stallions in to Connemara to improve the breed. Many of the stallions introduced by the Board were considered to be very unsuitable for crossing with the Connemara pony and the results from the crossing with native mares were very unsatisfactory. 

In his study of 1901 Profession Ewart, M.D.F.R.S. of Edinburgh University who was commissioned to survey the West of Ireland in consultation with local experts to study the actual conditions and possibilities of developing the Connemara Pony suggested that a more developed breeding plan was needed than sending in high-class sires to the area. There was recognition of the need to have quality brood mares as well as quality sires, located at indigenous stud farms to perpetuate the best characteristics of the Connemara Pony. The primary objectives of these farms was to increase the bone and improve the makeup of the Connemara Pony without destroying the hardiness, vigour, stamina and temperament of the breed.

The report lay unheeded for many years until the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society was formed in 1923 and one of Ewart’s suggestions for the improvement of the breed was acted upon when the Society decided to select the best mares and stallions from within the breed to form the foundation stock for the Stud Book. It was felt that there was plenty of “old breed” to be found in the heart of the pony districts of Connemara , and it was the opinion of the Society that the best results were likely to be obtained by breeding only from carefully selected native stock.

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The scheme which was approved and adopted by the Society was:

  • That the improvement of the Connemara Pony should come from within, ie., the best of the available native blood to be selected and mated in a proper manner;
  • Up to 100 mares of the right type to be selected for a foundation stock, as well as the necessary number of stallions.
  • That the Galway County Committee of Agriculture be asked to give a grant of £100 and also the Department of Agriculture to be asked for another £100. The former to enable to the Society to offer free nominations         to mare owner, and the latter for purchasing the necessary number of stallions and for the organising and giving of prizes at a local show during 1924.


The objectives of the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society were:

  • The encouragement of the breeding of Connemara Ponies and their development and maintenance as a pure breed.
  • The publication of a Stud Book for animals that have been passed as eligible for registration.
  • To arrange for the purchase of suitable registered stallions of the Connemara pony breed and for their location at approved centre.
  • To hold an Annual Show and arrange for classes and prized at selected shows.
  • To make arrangements for exhibitions and for special sales of registered ponies, with a view to encourage home and foreign trade.
  • To co-operate with the Department of Agriculture, the County Committee of Agriculture, and the Royal Dublin Society with a view to more effectively promoting the work of the Society.
  • Promote the understanding of the rich Heritage of the Connemara Pony


In May 1924 the Council purchased their first two stallions, for £20 each: Gold Digger (5), five year old dun standing 13.2 hh and Connemara Dan (3), two year old black standing 13.1hh, both registered at Cashel. The other stallions approved for the 1924 season were: Cannon Ball (1), twenty year old grey, 13.3hh registered in Oughterard; Rebel (7) two year old grey, 13.2hh registered in Roscahill; Mount Gabel (6) seven year old bay, 13.2hh registered in Clonbur.

An inspection programme got underway in April 1924 offering 125 free nominations of £1 to brood mares of suitable types selected at centres throughout Galway . These inspections were central to the foundation of the Stud Book and have continued to be an integral part of the monitoring and safe-guarding of the breed up to the present day. The first Connemara Pony Show was held at Roundstone on 15th August 1924 and there were 500 entries overall, 150 entries in the Connemara Pony Section. The opening ceremony was performed by Prince Ranjitsinhhi, renowned cricket player, who had recently come to live at Ballynahinch Castle . The Connemara Pony Stallion Class and RDS Silver Medal was won the Society’s own stallion, Gold Digger (5), with Cannon Ball (1) aged 20 taking 2nd place. The second annual show was held at Recess, with the 3rd to 23rd Shows being held in Carna.

In 1947 the 24th annual pony show was held in Clifden and from that year onwards the Annual Show has always been held at Clifden. In 1951 the Royal Dublin Society arranged for classes for Connemara Ponies to be included in their Spring Show for the first time and every year since with increased classes and number of ponies taking part. Volume 1 of the Stud Book was published at a cost of £45 and priced at 1/-. in 1926. It contained details of nine stallions and ninety three mares. The latest published volume of the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society Stud Book; Volume 21 dates from 1999 with the breeding stallion number standing at 1,043 and the breeding mare numbers at 11,621. The Connemara Pony has been exported worldwide and has been promoted by the Irish Diaspora as a tangible link to Ireland and in particular Connemara.