Early History & Heritage - Welsh Mountain Pony and Welsh Cob
The original home of the Welsh Pony was in the hills and valleys of Wales on the southwestern coast of Great Britain. Early members of this breed -- small ponies about 12h -- were brought to the island by the early Celts. Severe winters and sparse vegetation kept the breed small, yet also developed a great hardiness that allowed the ponies not only to survive but to flourish.
The African Barb and Arabian horse brought in by the Roman conquest of lower Britain in the 1st century BC influenced the Welsh in the delicate muzzle, dished face, tiny ears, and sweeping length of neck visible even today in both the Section A and B Welsh.
During the reign of Henry VIII in the 15th century the Welsh pony was threatened with extinction by edict of the king. All ponies under 14 hands were ordered to be destroyed in the attempt to force farmers to breed larger, stronger horses capable of carrying armored knight. To save their ponies, farmers turned them loose into the wild Welsh hills, allowing the ponies were allowed to roam in a semi-wild state. Climbing mountains, leaping ravines, and running at will over rough terrain served to develop a remarkable soundness of body, tremendous endurance and a high degree of native intelligence in the pony. Today the descendants of these ponies are called "Welsh Mountain Ponies".
Bowing to the king's edict farmers began crossing various draft breeds to develop what is now called the Welsh Cob. The feathered fetlocks, high head carriage, and lofty action of the cobs is a clear stamp of that influence. The Welsh Cob quickly became the mount of choice to lead the mighty fighting horses known as destriers. As the destrier's natural gait was the trot, Welsh Cobs had to cover great distances matching the war horse stride-for-stride at the trot. To this day, the forceful ground covering trot of the cob is legendary. Their substance and quiet manners made them popular mounts for British infantry and for pulling heavy guns and equipment through rugged terrain up until 30 or 40 years ago.
Since the turn of this century the Welsh Mountain Pony and Welsh Cob have maintained their own dominant physical characteristics. The Welsh breed has the manners and ability ideal for a child, yet has the spirit and endurance to suit any adult. Both Welsh Mountain Ponies and Welsh Cobs can be found competing in nearly every discipline -- fox hunting, driving, dressage, combined training, combined driving, English & Western pleasure and conformation.
Growth of the Breed in America
While Welsh ponies were imported to America as early as the 1880's, the Welsh Pony and Cob Society of America was not established as a breed registry until 1907 - only 6 years after the first registry was founded in Wales.
Interest in the breed dropped during the depression years, but through the combined efforts of breeders, particularly those in the East, participation in shows and fairs continued. By the 1950's the numbers of members grew, more ponies were imported and interest increased dramatically. Over the next few decades Welsh became the fastest growing breed in America.
Registered Welsh ponies and cobs of the American registry can be found throughout North America, and a number have been exported internationally. To date, over 34,000 Welsh ponies and cobs have been registered.
The Welsh breed is split into two groups -- Welsh Mountain Ponies of two height sections - A and B, and Welsh Cobs with two height sections - C and D.
The Welsh Mountain Pony - Sections A and B
The Section A Welsh Pony is an animal of great beauty and refinement with the substance, stamina and soundness of his ancestors. Well known for their friendly personalities and sweet temperaments, they are extremely intelligent and easily trained. They are characterized by a beautiful dished face, large, gentle eye, tiny head and ears, short back, long arched neck, strong quarters, high set on tail, fine hair, laid back shoulder, straight foreleg and short cannon bone. The Section A pony may not exceed 12.2h and can be any color except piebald or skewbald.
The Section B Welsh Mountain Pony was bred upwards from the A to meet the demand for a larger riding type pony from 12.2h to 14.2h. In every respect, except size, they are mirror images of the Section A. Bred for elegant movement and athletic ability, they are the predominate pony found winning the ribbons in the medium and large hunter pony ring.
Welsh Cobs - Sections C & D
The Section C is also known as the Welsh Pony of Cob Type. They may not exceed 13.2hh and may be any color except piebald or skewbald. It is characterized as strong, hardy and active with pony character and as much substance as possible, bold eyes, strong laid back shoulders, dense hooves, feathered fetlocks, lengthy hindquarters, and powerful hocks.
The Section D cob exceeds 13.2h with no upper limit on height. A strong and powerful animal, they have gentle natures and are extremely hardy, making them an ideal riding or driving animal for many adults and children. This section has become a popular choice for dressage, combined training and combined driving.
(The above information was taken from the breed descriptions of the Welsh Pony and Cob Society of America)
(editor: Welshpony 7/2000))