Farm Life

The Elphin Mountain Connemara Ponies

Heather rode, hunted, and Pony Clubbed (achieving her B level) in England as a child, but after moving to Canada gave it up for over 20 years to pursue careers in both editing and handweaving. It seemed a natural progression upon moving to the country get animals, as she had had in her childhood. When Kirsten was 6, Heather decided it was time to introduce a pony into her life. For several years we had a few grade horses and ponies, but a visit from Heather's English niece changed all that. During her stay, Katie asked why there were so few Native ponies in Canada, especially Connemaras. This inspired Heather to fix the problem by breeding Connemaras of her own!

After a tour around New York and Vermont, we purchased our first two ponies, mother and daughter Oak Hills Gold Friday and SP Mils Breaban, from the late Marilyn De Wispelaere, in Rochester NY. Marilyn turned out to be a veritable walking stud book with a wealth of breeding knowledge, and a close friend. We were greatly saddened by her sudden death and hope her dreams live on through "her" ponies Millie, Dee and Lanti.

Several months later we bought our stallion, Maplehurst Michael MacDaire, at 18 months old, from Barry Hull and Louise Jolicoeur of Maplehurst Farm, in Coaticook Quebec. The only problem with our new stallion was that he only understood voice commands in French, but he soon became bilingual! In the spring of 1991 we bred our first mares to Mick and in the fall we purchased our third broodmare, Aluinn dé Haoine, from Marilyn. 1992 saw the arrival of our first foal crop: 2 purebred colts, and 4 halfbreds. Over the summer we broke Mick, one of the easiest horses we have ever trained, the only difficulty being keeping his active mind occupied.

During the mid nineties we competed and Pony Clubbed both Millie (up to B level) and Dee, and despite the fact that one is dun and the other black, they made a lovely pair in the 1994 PC musical ride! Eventually we decided to let Dee be a broodmare, as having babies is her forte, while Millie continued on up the eventing ladder, culminating in her participation in the 1998 Ontario Training Level Championships. Millie, as versatile as every Connemara should be, also travelled with Kirsten to 3 different barns for 3 summers of working student jobs. Heather concentrated on eventing Mick, and we even trailered and competed Millie and Mick together for a couple of years.

In 1996 we purchased our fourth pony mare, Atlantic Promise, from Marilyn De Wispelaere. Lanti was essentially an accident, being the product of a stallion jumping into the mares' field, but we'll never tell her that!

In 1997 we decided to import a filly from England, and our choice was *Scotsway Lullaby. Abby crossed the Atlantic with 3 other Connemara fillies, arriving at the airport totally undisturbed by 5 hours in a plane. She was equally willing to load, in the dark with jets taking off overhead, into a 4 horse truck and unloaded at home very easily, only to look for food. We have since learned that these are Abby's two trademarks: being utterly bombproof, and in constant search of food! Abby has since produced many beautiful babies for us. We rode her 3 times in the fall of 1998, after that she was simply too fat/pregnant to keep a saddle on, but in her third lesson she was already trotting off of the lunge line. Recently we decided to see if she had remembered anything after 2 years off, and of course she had, standing like an old schoolie to be groomed and tacked up. Under saddle she was as stoical as ever, proving once again how remarkable the Connemara temperament is!

Also in 1997, we also hosted a stop on the ACPS Inspection Tour. 16 Connemaras attended, a record gathering in Ontario! Our 80-year-old barn even held 3 stallions at one point, certainly a record for us. We presented 5 ponies for inspection: Mick, Millie, Dee, Lanti and Abby and all passed receiving their ICCPS passports.

In January 1998 our ponies survived the great Ice Storm, which swept across the eastern coast of North America. After 4 inches of ice landed in several days trees, power lines and roadways were destroyed and we were without power for 2 weeks . The ponies looked like Abominable Snowmen, absolutely covered icicles which tinkled when they trotted! Our fields were skating rinks for weeks afterwards, but because of their sure-footedness no one was injured. Spring clean up was a major operation that year, and parts of our cross country course are still inaccessible due to tree damage.

Ponies in the ice storm, l-r: Lanti, Abby, Zinna, Odie, Millie and Tullie.

After Millie's retirement from eventing in 1999, Kirsten started riding Mick, having developed a habit of stealing her mother's horses! From 2000 to 2002 Kirsten and Mick had very successful eventing seasons, winning frequently at pre-training and training levels. In the fall of 2000 Heather took Mick to an event, their first foray into the competition scene after a shoulder injury sidelined Heather in 1998, and they won too! 2000 was also an exciting year for Kirsten, as she started her TB/Conn gelding. At 16.1 hh, Elphin Gaelic Celebration (Ceb) is fondly known as the Ceb-o-saurus to his friends and has followed in his sire's footsteps to become a successful eventer. Kirsten continued with her coaching endeavours and gained her HA Pony Club Certificate and Canadian Equestrian Federation Level 1 Coaching Certificate in 2002.

2003 saw the advent of Mick's serious dressage career and he placed well at First and Second Level against much larger horses. With scores in the 60s he qualified for the area championships but had to miss the show after a mystery illness appeared the day before competition began. Heather returned to her handweaving career and the flock of sheep keeps growing, now with several Leisters and Romneys to complement the Black Welsh. Late in the year, Mick's sons Elphin Lorcan and Elphin Song Sparrow did him proud by passing their inspections to become ICCPS approved stallions.

Elphin Lorcan under saddle.

In 2004 Kirsten ventured abroad to study in Australia and received a diploma at the high distinction level in Horse Business Management from Marcus Oldham College. Mick and Ceb went on holiday for the year - no one heard them complaining! Heather was elected the first President of the Canadian Connemara Pony Society and continues to work hard to develop the society and promote the breed in Canada. Our farm played host to another round of breed inspections in the fall where several of Mick's offspring gained ICCPS passports.

Kirsten on ESB Gold Dust, the Irish Sport Horse mare she trained while in Australia.

Who knows what the future will hold for us - probably another pony oddesy! What ever happens, we will no doubt be kept busy.

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