IF last weekend’s 2024 opener is anything to go by, Connemara Pony Sales are staying the course, with strong demand and high prices putting paid to any talk of a downturn. With 415 catalogued entries and 360 through the ring, it was a lively two-day renewal with an impressive 75% clearance rate, up on last year’s 65%.

All of the big names in Connemara Pony buying and selling flooded the town of Clifden for the event and were clearly on a mission, with Dutch outfit SDV Horses snapping up 30 lots and the sale regulars, Hannah Taylor and Patrick O’Gorman, signing for 18 lots in total. The pair, who split their time between Tipperary and the UK, sell ponies, cobs and sport horses.

The top price, €13,600, was also up on the same sale last year, when Knockagulshy Hero, a four-year-old dun gelding by Castleside JJ went to Kieran Egan for €13,000. Prices were clearly on the rebound from the tail end of 2023 too, with the December sale topper Balinchalla Atlas going for €10,500.

Ann de Courcy, manager of the sales, said: “We are all very happy, you are always a bit apprehensive about the first sale of the year, the first sale of the year in the country in fact, but we have kicked off even stronger than last year.

“There were 150 riding ponies there on Saturday, so there was no shortage of choice and the buyers were ready. There were a lot of UK buyers and a lot of new buyers, seven on the day we had never seen before and, for the first time ever, we had more people viewing the catalogue online from the UK than in Ireland.

“One of the online buyers was a guy who we never had before, who was on bidding for a pony as a Valentine’s present for his girlfriend and his mind was made up, he was buying that pony (lot 129)!

“On Sunday, there were a lot of unbroken three-year-olds and eight to 10 in-foal mares, all who sold very well. There were customers for absolutely everything and the general consensus was that it was a really good catalogue and all of the ponies were well presented.

“A number of the foals/yearlings had carried over from last year, due to not having passports, so hope next year we won’t have the same issue. It was a very good start and we are now more optimistic and positive about the year ahead,” she concluded.

Lot 131, Falcon Jack (Ice and Fire D'Albran x Lady Kate), was the highest priced pony of the February Sales making €13,600 in the ring on Saturday afternoon \ Rynes Walker

Sale Topper

It was Patrick O’Gorman who won the bidding for the highest-priced pony of the weekend, when he went to €13,600 for lot 131, Falcon Jack, a six-year-old 148cm grey gelding by Ice and Fire d’Albran out of Lady Kate. With 40 SJI points and experience with pony club, hunter trials and hunting, this pony was described as having plenty of potential to go up the levels.

The second highest-priced pony of the February sales was lot 166, Ballywilliam Melody, a four-year-old stallion by I Love You Melody out of Cashel Bobby. This 148cm Class 1 grey was described as an exciting stud or performance prospect and was snapped up by Jenny Hunt for a cool €13,000.

The lovely grey, lot 31, Cabra Queen, a 15hh four-year-old mare by Hillside Joker out of Hanna’s Day was the third highest priced pony and highest priced mare of the weekend. She was purchased by Farwood Equine UK for €11,800.

Lot 31, Cabra Queen, was the first pony of the sales to break the €10k barrier making €11,800 in the ring on Saturday morning \ Rynes Walker

Gerty Tynan, who took home 10 lots in total, paid €11,200 for lot 63, Rocklawn Kentucky, a smart five-year-old grey 150cm gelding by Barana Dexter Boy (by the late Dexter Leam Pondi) out of Rocklawn Heather.

He was described as having hunted on multiple occasions, schooled show jumping and cross-country and with a lovely temperament.

The highest price Kevin Reilly paid out of his four purchases at the sales was €11,200, which he gave for lot 78, Highland Mark, a four-year-old 155cm grey gelding by Knockdomney Boy out of Carrickleas Irene. He was described as having hunted, riding well on the flat and jumping a course.

Another €11,200 was paid by Tiernan Gray for lot 97, Correal Woods, a nine-year-old 148cm grey mare by Woodfield Sammy out of Correal Ginger, who was described as having done plenty of working hunter and unregistered show jumping and eventing.

Lot 129, Cloonraine Ri, a five-year-old 15.1hh grey gelding by Glencarrig Ri out of Quinaltagh Lady also fetched €11,200, when he caught the eye of UK buyer, Brandan Roth.

The ninth highest-priced pony and the last to reach the €11,000 mark was lot 51, Cloonaveigh Chief, a four-year-old 15.2hh dun gelding by Alkatraz Paddy out of Kitty’s Beauty, who also went to Patrick O’Gorman.

Rounding out the top 10 was the 10-year-old 148cm grey gelding Derrylough Harvey, lot 149, by Castlestrange Fionn out of Cashleen Primrose, who was described as a “been there done that type” and went to Niall Daly for €10,400.

Two other lots to reach the €10,000 mark were lot 92, Ballypatrick Lad, a four-year-old 148cm dun gelding by Glenmore Mirah Patrick and lot 183, Suileen Storm, an eight-year-old 158cm gelding by Anbally Storm, who went to Gerty Tynan.

Lot 166, Ballywilliam Melody, sold in the ring on Saturday afternoon for €13,000 at the Clifden Pony Sales \ Rynes Walker

Young stock

While the broken four and five-year-olds dominated the top 20 lots overall, the demand for yearlings and two-year-olds was also high, with Sunday’s lot 313, Carnane Velvet, a 2022 filly by Blakehill Sparrow out of Blackforest Vivienne going to Martina Heffernan for a healthy €4,000. Three lots, two 2022 geldings and a 2022 mare were next highest-priced of the young stock, all going for €3,400. They were: Lot 324, Corclough Gooch, a dun gelding by Lissroe Charlie out of Déjà Vu, purchased by Pat Mellet; Lot 346, Ballagh Tailors Hill, a gelding by Glencarrig Monarch out of Ardmore Girl, purchased by Pat Heskin; Lot 402, Dooncastle Lily, a mare by Bohola Mirah out of Marlyn of Lissroe, purchased by Kevin Reilly.

Rounding out the top-five highest-priced young stock was lot 294, Pine View Caeilte Star, a yearling filly by Lightening Star out of Caeilte, who went to Kieran O’Brien for €3,000.

A whopping 39 of the sales were conducted online and the vast majority of overseas interest came from the UK, which is where 44 ponies have found their new homes. Close behind were the Benelux Countries, where 36 ponies are heading. France was next in line with four ponies heading there, followed by Germany (two ponies) and Italy (two ponies).