I LIVE in Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh and currently own six Connemara ponies. I have a six-year-old mare Tullanna Lisabelle with a colt foal at foot and a five-year-old mare, Mayday Arrianna. She has a filly foal at foot which I hope to keep and show next year. Both foals are sired by Galloon Rollover.

Mayday Arriana was the last foal bred by The Irish Field’s photojournalist Ruth Rogers, RIP. Ruth passed away on July 2nd 2019 and her funeral took place on July 8th. In between, I took Arrianna to Omagh and Longford shows, where she won the Connemara championship at both, a fitting tribute to Ruth’s eye for a Connemara.

I also have a three-year-old half-sister to Tullanna Lisabelle, which I am showing this year and finally, a yearling gelding out of Tullanna Lisabelle.

1. How did you become interested in owning/breeding Connemaras?

I didn’t have a family background in horses or ponies and my interest started when I bought a house on a 3/4 acre site and needed a lawnmower. So I saw a pony advertised a few miles up the road and bought this jet-black Shetland stallion for £30.

I was at the sales in Cavan a few years later and saw the most beautiful Connemara dun filly foal. The price was away out of my range and it became my ambition to own a dun filly foal. That dream became a reality in 2001 when I bought a filly from Pete Kyne and family in Moycullen.

She was named Newtown Golden Rose and was very successful in the showring and a great broodmare. Her most notable offspring was Galloon Ceól, a Class 1 dun stallion. After him, she bred seven fillies in a row.

2. Proudest moment as a breeder?

The proudest moment for me was going to the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) to see Galloon Rollover compete for the first time, he qualified for HOYS, the Royal International and Olympia in three successive years. It’s also very satisfying now to see him standing at stud with Tommy Sexton in Cavan and his first crop of foals are on the ground this season.

3. Your favourite broodmare?

Asking me about my favourite mare is like asking me who my favourite child is, so I will pick two! Newtown Golden Rose (Moy Hazy Cove - Break of Dawn) and the second is Tullanna Lisabelle (Frederiksminde Hazy Match - Kilbride Pearl). Both these ponies have given me many great memories and I am looking forward to seeing Lisabelle’s foals develop and compete in the years ahead.

4. What is your template of a good Connemara?

A good Connemara for me is the traditional type; strong, compact, deep body, plenty of bone with a nice head and pleasing to the eye. For me, bloodlines are very important.

James Naan with Tullana Lisabelle, the All Ireland three-year-old Connemara filly champion at Ballinasloe in 2019. Pictured with co-sponsor Fiona Donohue, Parkmore Stables, and judge Padraig Hynes \ Emma Finnerty

5. Describe your regime for keeping Connemaras.

My ponies are kept at home, stabled during the winter and out during the summer. They are normally brought in the day before a show, washed and rugged for the night, but rugs are not always the answer and I normally get up an hour early just in case. They are not rugged while stabled in winter and are normally fed a balancer, chaff and oil, and I prefer to use hay as fodder. I find that by using hay, ponies are much cleaner and I don’t have any concerns about haylage going off.

6. If you could have bred a noted Connemara pony, who would it be?

My favourite Connemara pony has to be Village Boy and I spent a lot of time looking for a nice filly foal by him but they were like hen’s teeth - hard to find. My prayers were answered almost six years ago when, by chance, I was shown a filly foal out of the Village Boy mare Kilbride Pearl.

I had no intention of buying a foal that year but this made me change my mind and I bought Tullanna Lisabelle from Seamus Hynds from Moate in Westmeath. This pony has brought me many moments of pride and joy winning numerous championships in each of the years I have shown her.

The most notable are the supreme pony champion as a yearling in Clogher Valley, winning the two-year-old filly class in Clifden and the ISA All Ireland three-year-old Connemara filly final at Ballinasloe.

7. What do you think are the greatest challenges facing Connemara breeders?

There are many challenges facing the Connemara pony breeders, most notably height and type. The studbook states a maximum height of 148cms but the results from the sales in Clifden are highlighting the demand for a much bigger pony and also moving away from the traditional type towards a more athletic type. It will be a challenge to keep the traditional type.

Post-Covid, we are finding prices of foodstuff rising regularly, as are fuel costs, it remains to be seen what price hay will be. Considering these factors and the war in the Ukraine, I feel breeders will be looking at numbers and may decide to reduce their herd, which could have a big impact on pony prices come October.

James Naan with his filly Tullanna Lisabelle, winner of the Trailer Vision All Ireland Yearling Filly final at North east Show in 2017 \ Ruth Rogers archive

8. Breeding Connemaras - would you do it all over again?

Absolutely. Apart from the thrill of seeing ponies I bred do well and getting photos and updates from their proud owners, Geraldine and I have met and made friends with so many people all over Ireland, the UK and beyond.

We have welcomed many breeders and producers at our home and built lasting friendships. The same goes at shows across the country with the competition, banter and laughs.

9. Best advice you ever got?

It was at a show in Sligo many years ago when talking to a man after winning his class when he said: “It doesn’t cost any more to keep a good one than it does to keep a bad one.”

10. Most memorable moment?

In 30 years of breeding and producing Connemara ponies, it has to be the lap of honour after winning the two-year-old filly class in Clifden with Tullanna Lisabelle. The applause and reaction from the spectators is something I will cherish forever and I am grateful to all those who contributed to it.