Expert guide to using native breeds

By: Horse Deals


Expert guide to using native breeds
Tim and Corrieview Owen

Warmbloods might rule the competition world, but Continental bloodlines aren’t the only option for riders or breeders. Some are going back to traditional British breeding philosophies and going native, with great results.

While smaller native breeds influence many performance ponies, Welsh section D and Connemara bloodlines are popular in the horse world, as their size gives better odds of producing offspring 15.2hh-plus and crossing them with Thoroughbreds or near can be a match made in heaven.

Purebred Welsh Ds, which can be any height, can be seen in all disciplines and purebred Connemaras exceeding the breed’s 148cm height limit are also in demand as performance animals.

Welsh breeds

Devon rider Tim Rogers took an individual bronze medal at the junior European eventing championships on his mother Jane’s home-bred Corrieview Owen. The 16hh 11-year-old bay gelding is by the Thoroughbred El Conquistador out of Jane’s Welsh section D mare Rickwood Gwynneth — a mix of bloodlines always intended to produce an event horse.

"Owen’s got that fifth leg native blood always gives you," says Jane. "I always feel happier when Tim’s going cross-country knowing that the horse has that extra something."

She believes a combination of Welsh and Thoroughbred bloodlines gives the ultimate mix of trainability, athleticism and temperament.

"I like the conformation of the foals I get and I love their laid back attitude for the dressage and their toughness," she says. "You could see it was there in Owen right from the start. When we turned him out with his mother for the first time, 24hr after he was born, he just lowered himself and galloped."

Jane thinks native part-breds provide the ideal step up from ponies to horses — and, of course, there’s always the chance that you’ll find or breed one with the talent to excel.  "Tim was a reserve for the pony Europeans on a Welsh pony, but needed more experience," she explains. "I handed Owen over to him because I thought he’d be ideal. Tim was only 14 then, and tiny — his feet came just below the flaps of the dressage saddle."

Tim, now 20, is on the start squad for the World Development Programme and will be bringing out Owen’s younger brother, Corrieview Merlin’s Magic, a four-year-old palomino by the Thoroughbred Krisinsky.

"I did think about using a warmblood stallion last year," said Jane. "But then I thought: don’t be stupid. I’ve got a cross I know works and with this mare, gives me nice, straight, big-moving horses. Why change it?"

Connemaras

Five years ago, the then 15-year-old Danielle Johns went to dealer and show jumper Emma Hinkley’s Sussex yard to look at an overgrown Connemara. Templehill Merlin, who stands just 15.1hh and is by the Irish stallion Monaghanstown Fred out of Templehill Circe, is now 10 and just off grade B.

"We’ve done everything together," said Danielle. "He’s my horse of a lifetime. My pony was 14.1hh and we bought Merlin so I could move on, but we had no idea he’d be this good.

"We’re jumping 1.15m and 1.20m classes and I’m hoping to do young riders with him. I call him my pony — he’s very quick and can turn on a sixpence."

Connemara pony blood can help event horses. Last year, Kelly Aldous’s placings on the Connemara/Thoroughbred Hearnesbrook Derby Day included fifth in the Osberton two-star and a fourth in the intermediate at Great Witchingham.

Highland breeds

Part-bred Highlands are less common, though there are some competing at lower levels in Endurance GB and in all disciplines at riding club level. One of the breed’s best par-bred ambassadors is Sarah Couzens’s Nash End Corbiere, bred by Penny Smith at Nash End Stud in Gloucestershire.

Sarah won prelim and novice sections for part-breds at the 2010 TopSpec supreme dressage championships on "Corbi", who is by the Highland stallion Gary out of a Thoroughbred mare. They also have BD points at novice level, which has given Sarah the satisfaction of proving at least one critic wrong.

"I was told I wouldn’t get anywhere because he’s a bit long in the back and croup high, so when he’s standing, he looks as if he’s on his forehand," she says. "But he doesn’t when he’s going! Kate Scott, my trainer, is brilliant with us and he’s working at medium level in our lessons. I have to accept that he finds some things harder — for instance, he’ll do travers, but finds medium trot difficult.

"He’s got a lovely cheeky character and I really trust him. I rode him while I was pregnant with each of my children and was actually riding him when I went into labour with one of them! I wouldn’t change him for anything."