The original home of the Welsh Mountain pony was in the hills and valleys of Wales. He was there before the Romans. His lot was not an easy one. Winters were severe. Vegetation was sparse. Shelter, most often, was an isolated valley or a clump of bare trees. Yet the Welsh pony managed not only to survive, but also to flourish.
Led by proud stallions, bands of mares and their foals roamed in a semi-wild state, climbing mountains, leaping ravines, running over rough terrain. This sort of existence insured perpetuation of the breed through only the most hardy of stock. Hence, the development of a pony with a remarkable soundness of body, a tremendous endurance, and a high degree of native intelligence.
Even an edict of Henry VII that all horses under 15 hands be destroyed did not eliminate the Welsh. Hiding in desolate areas where his persecutors were reluctant or unable to go, perhaps at Nant Llwyd, he continued to live and reproduce, preserving for mankind a distinctive strain of pony that today has generated enthusiasm among breeders and pony lovers all over the world.
Down through the years, the Welsh pony has served many masters. There is evidence to support the belief that he pulled chariots in vast sports arenas. He has worked in coalmines, on farms, and on postmen’s routes.
The Welsh pony has adapted himself to the whims and needs of humans as easily as to his environment. He loves people. He responds well to proper treatment and discipline. He can be trusted. He is an ideal pony for a growing child, and he has the spirit and endurance to challenge an adult.
That the Welsh pony carries a trace of Arabian blood seems beyond doubt. However, he has maintained his own dominant physical characteristics over the years. It has been demonstrated that the Welsh crosses well with many other breeds, and this is, to some breeders, an important aspect of his unusual versatility.
One of the most noted Welsh breeders wrote: “The blood of the Welsh Mountain pony of perfect type can improve any other blood with which it is mixed. This is a very strong statement to make, but I have had ample opportunity to prove it.”
The purebred Welsh pony of today is an animal of great beauty and refinement. He has a proud, aristocratic bearing. Yet he has the substance, the stamina, and the soundness of body and wind which are characteristic of animals that long have lived close to nature.
The purebred Welsh of today has a friendly personality and an even temper, intelligent and constantly alert. He has spirit, but this spirit is combined with gentleness and a willingness to obey. He does not resent discipline and shows respect for the master, young or old, who shows respect for him.
For those unacquainted with the Welsh, the first sight of a small herd, perhaps grazing in a hollow near a stream, is something to be remembered… “They are startled at your approach. For one second they stand with heads erect, nostrils distended, ears pricked and tails held high. Then they are off, flying over the rocks and rough ground, sure-footed and beautiful, their manes and tails tossed in the wind.
In selecting the one we want, we shall look for the great bold eye, the tiny head, short back, strong quarters, high set of tail, fine hair, hocks that do not turn in, the laid-back shoulder, the straight foreleg, and the short, so very short, cannon bone.”
One of the outstanding breeders of Welsh has said: “The bigger the eye, the better; the deeper through the heart, the stronger the prouder the lift of the head, the more courageous; the swifter the action, the more fearless.”
The pure Welsh pony may be any colour: black, grey, bay, roan, cream, or chestnut. He can never be piebald or skewbald.
Although essential points of conformation can be listed and should be considered, it is the combination of desirable physical characteristics, plus a pony’s highly individual personality, plus one’s own preference for colour, which makes a pony exactly the right pony for any one person.
One of the great thrills of breeding Welsh ponies is the chance or calculated mating of two animals, so compatible and complementary, that they produce a near-perfect specimen. This is the challenge. And the goal, with carefully chosen Welsh stock, is not unattainable.
Today’s Welsh pony is a quality animal of unusual versatility and wide use. To see him is to admire him and love him. To own him and enjoy his companionship is a privilege that certainly will be enjoyed by more and more people over the years ahead.