Ten years ago, in 2003 Deirdre Feely wrote in “Characterisation of the Connemara Pony Population in Ireland” that:
“In future, it is vital that sire family sizes become more balanced, giving all stallions a better opportunity to breed their own replacements in the next generation. This would help to control the level of inbreeding and genetic diversity within the population… Adequate genetic diversity is vital for the long term health and viability of any population.”
Analysis of the 502 Class 1 stallions on the 2013 CPBS Stallion List into direct sire lines shows a very uneven distribution of stallion lines are available to mare owners in Ireland. Direct sire line descendants of just four ancestors make up over half of the stallion list:
- Abbeyleix Owen contributes 18.1% through 91 stallion descendants,
- Hazy Dawn contributes 13.7% through 69 stallion descendants,
- Mervyn Kingsmill contributes 13.3% through 67 stallion descendants, and
- Ashfield Sparrow contributes 10.6% through 53 stallion descendants.
At the other end of representation there are Class 1 stallions who appear to be the last one or two of rare branches of stallion lines, listed below with their ancestor line in brackets:
- Spinway Keepsake (Rebel Wind’s son Atlantic Rebel),
- Templebready Bo’Sun (Moyglare Sampson),
- Williams Boy (Macdara’s son Atlantic Hero),
- Gevaudan (Clonjoy’s son Tulira Rambler)
- Clonfert Boy (Carna Dun’s son Little Joe)
- Knockadoe Dancer and Cong Admiral (Carna Bobby’s son Coosheen Finn)
- Loughlum Sadat and Doorty’s Lady Killer (Dun Aengus’ son Maam Hill)
- Tynagh Miller and Carraig Galen Miller (Macdara’s son Beal Tra)
- Mulroy Bay (Dun Aengus’ son Calla Boy)
- Cloudy Day (Killyreagh Kim’s son Windy Day)
- Rebel Star (Bridge Boy’s son Ardnasillagh O’Flaherty)
- Sweetwall Captain Courageous and Captain Miller (Bridge Boy’s son Marco Polo of Clonkeehan)
- Ballymore Paprika (Marble’s son Oxenholm Matador)
Many of these rare line stallions are free of Abbeyleix Owen, Mervyn Kingsmill, Hazy Dawn and Ashfield Sparrow. Consequently, they and some of their daughters are ideal for developing outcross stallions for breeding with the large numbers of mares from overused stallions.
Imported stallions are a feature of the CPBS Stallion List. Most add diversity to the stallion list, however Hazy Dawn sons and their offspring have become too numerous for the overall health of the population. Some other introductions are relatively closely related to other stallions on the CPBS list. Useful stallion introductions from a genetic diversity perspective include:
- Gwennic de Goariva and his four sons (descendants of Clonkeehan Auratum)
- Patty’s Sweet Dream (descendant of Heather Bell through Ben Lettery)
- Patty’s Veuve Cosmic (descendant of Heather Bell through Murrisk)
- Burning Daylight (descendant of Rebel through Sticky)
There is a phenomenon where an imported stallion is perceived as being better than those bred locally regardless of whether the pony is imported or exported from a country. Relying on imported stallions to provide genetic diversity while losing rare lines available at home results in a loss of genetic diversity for the global population of Connemara Ponies. This loss cannot be reversed where the stallion line only exists in one country.
ADDENDA: After posting the analysis of Stallions on the 2013 CPBS Stallions List, it has been discovered that the list is very much out of date. Spinway Keepsake remains on the CPBS Stallion List 14 years after he left Ireland for Austria. He passed away in 2001. Hopefully, this error is an exception. At worst it could mean the loss of stallion lines and the affect on the genepool is in a more parlous state than that portrayed in this Analysis.