The Welsh pony and cob, also known as the Welsh mountain pony, are the products of a storied history, having faced challenges from both humans and nature. This has resulted in a group of tough, adaptable animals whose flashy style makes them very popular horses for the show ring. Adults often use them in harness, and their sizes are perfect for young riders. The larger Welsh cobs are a steady ride for older children and adults, as well.
Weight: 400 to 700 pounds
Height: 12 hands (48 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)
Body Type: Sturdy, compact build; delicate features; expressive eyes; deep chest
Best For: Riders and owners of all experience levels, including children
Life Expectancy: 35 years
Welsh Pony and Cob History and Origins
Native to Great Britain, Welsh ponies and cobs are believed to have existed in Wales for thousands of years. They likely developed from crossing native ponies with Arabian, thoroughbred, and hackney bloodlines.
They lived throughout the hills and mountains of Wales, where the rugged terrain and harsh climate frequently offered only sparse grasses and moss for food. Generation after generation of exposure to this environment produced horses that are exceptionally hardy, strong, and adaptable. Besides nature's challenges, they even survived King Henry VIII's misguided attempts during the 1500s to improve horse breeding by having horses of small stature destroyed.
The ponies first arrived in the United States in the late 1800s. Although their numbers dropped during the Depression, their popularity began to rise again during the 1950s. And the population continues to expand today.
In 1901, the Welsh Pony and Cob Society formed as a breed registry. Over the next few decades, four main sections within the breed were added to classify the horses by size.
Welsh Pony and Cob Size
Welsh ponies and cobs weigh between 400 and 700 pounds on average. They are classified into four size groups based on their height.
- The section A pony, or the Welsh mountain pony, is regarded as the foundation of the breed. It stands at just 12 hands (48 inches) high. Many children learn to ride on section A Welsh ponies.
- Section B ponies are between 12 and 13.2 hands (48 and 52.8 inches) high.
- Section C ponies are regarded as a cob type. They're up to 13.2 hands (52.8 inches) high and have more substantial bone structure than section B Welsh ponies, though they retain the refined look of the smaller ponies.
- Section D ponies are also a cob type and may be up to 15 hands (60 inches) high. Although a sturdy section C can carry an adult, most adults are more likely to ride the section D cob type.
Welsh Pony and Cob Breeding and Uses
Welsh ponies and cobs were bred to be all-purpose horses. They have been used extensively on farms, in the military, for hunting, and commercially in harness. They're also excellent racers and jumpers. Moreover, the breed has influenced numerous light horse and pony breeds, such as the pony of the Americas.
Welsh ponies were originally draft animals used to pull loads. They commonly worked in coal mines and on postal routes, and they hauled military equipment. Nowadays, trekking on Welsh ponies (known as trail riding in North America) is popular in the United Kingdom. They’re also used in dressage and other equine competitions. And their small size makes them popular for children to ride.
Colors and Markings
Welsh ponies and cobs come in many equine colors, most commonly chestnut, bay, gray, and black. They also can be brown, cream, dun, and palomino. Additionally, they can be any roan version (a mix of colored and white hairs) of these solid colors. However, they do not come in piebald, skewbald, or leopard-spotted coat patterns. They can have white face and leg markings.
Unique Characteristics of the Welsh Pony and Cob
One of the most notable qualities of the Welsh pony and cob is their hardiness. These horses can thank their difficult early history for this. Adaptable to most environments, they're able to withstand harsh climates and sparse pasture. In addition, they may be small, but they exhibit surprising strength.
Diet and Nutrition
Because these ponies evolved in rugged terrain, they can thrive on less food than one might think. Overfeeding ponies is typically more of a problem than underfeeding, especially for novice pony owners. Quality grass hay is ideal while other fodders, such as clover, can be too rich. Furthermore, a sparse grass pasture is best, as overgrazing in lush pasture can result in health problems for a pony. Most ponies also don’t need concentrates or grains unless they have a high activity level or a health condition.
Common Health and Behavior Problems
By nature, these ponies are generally healthy and resistant to disease. But like other ponies, they are prone to laminitis. This is an emergency condition often due to overeating grass or grain. Even just a half hour in lush pasture can be enough to cause laminitis in a pony. Symptoms include foot tenderness, heat in the hoof wall, difficulty standing, shaking, and sweating. Quick treatment is essential to give the animal its best chance of recovering.
In terms of behavior, Welsh ponies and cobs are typically friendly and easy to manage, though some can be a little spunky at times. They’re also social creatures and thrive in the company of other horses.
Grooming is fairly easy for these ponies, largely due to their small stature. Standard equine grooming practices are typically all that is necessary. Regularly brush and comb the pony to keep its coat clean and free from mats and tangles. Also, inspect and clean its hooves daily to look for injuries and prevent infections.
Prone to laminitis
Some are too small to ride
Champion and Celebrity Welsh Pony and Cob Horses
One of the most significant stallions in Welsh pony and cob history was Dyoll Starlight. Over the course of his career, he amassed several awards in the show ring, and many Welsh ponies can trace their bloodline back to him.
A feral group of Welsh ponies lives in the Carneddau mountain region of Snowdonia, Wales. These are direct descendants of the ponies that escaped King Henry VIII's killing squads, living in the wild ever since. Researchers have determined that they possess a unique genetic makeup, having developed organically without the influence of breeders since the Middle Ages. Known as the Carneddau ponies, they suffered a loss of almost half their population to an exceptionally cold, snowy winter in 2013. Efforts are underway to protect the surviving ponies, but their continued existence is still in jeopardy.
Is the Welsh Pony or Cob Right for You?
These ponies suit all levels and ages of riders, from beginners to experts. Because they can be ridden and driven, the whole family can enjoy them. Plus, their overall excellent health and hardiness make them easy keepers, and they require nothing special in the way of feed.
They are known to be sociable, smart, and trustworthy horses that are easy to work with. Some might have a mischievous streak, making them the "troublemakers" among ponies. Still, many people appreciate the added character in this loyal, flexible breed.
How to Adopt or Buy a Welsh Pony or Cob
The cost of a Welsh pony averages around $5,000. This largely depends on the horse’s age, training, and pedigree. The price can rise up to $50,000 or more for a solid, healthy pony with success in the show ring.
When searching for a pony, visit with it at the breeder or rescue organization before committing. Learn about the pony's history, health, temperament, and training. And ask to see its training demonstrated if possible. Also, look for red flags that haven't been disclosed, such as lameness or labored breathing, which can indicate injury or illness.
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