GENEROUS – the resounding word used to describe Padraic Hynes. News of the Connemara pony breeder, producer, inspector and judge’s passing spread through the Connemara pony community on Easter Sunday, as a minute’s silence was held in his honour prior to the CPBS Stallion Parade in Clifden Showgrounds. Social media posts from across the world followed in their droves, as friends, followers and owners of pony graduates from his Canal Stud, paid tribute to the man who influenced so many with his generosity and knowledge over the course of the last half century.

An animal lover through and through Padraic was a cattle and sheep farmer, as well as being renowned for breeding quality sheep dogs. “I think that is what set him apart,” explained Caillin Conneely, who remembers seeing Padraic showing ponies when he was a young boy. “The way Padraic dressed, how the pony would be turned out, it was always to the highest standard. He was a huge inspiration to me and others,” he said. “He set the bar at the time of how ponies were produced for the show ring. Even the bridles and leads he used were always the best of quality.”

Padraic’s grandfather, Francis O’Brien, won at the inaugural Roundstone Connemara Pony Show in 1924 with Moss Rose, while his father Tom Hynes won in Clifden with Grey Granite (Rebel) in 1948. But Padraic’s passion for the breed brought Canal Pony Stud to a new level. Nestled atop the hill at Canal Stage, Padraic lived with his wife Mary, where he bought, bred and produced ponies that have left a mark across the world.

In 1975, Hynes won his first Supreme Championship at the Clifden Connemara Pony Show with Rambling Home (Carna Bobby x Gantys Pride), who was a small traditional type mare. “His greatest attribute was his eye to spot a pony and to produce it. That was his forte,” said Henry O’Toole, who credits Hynes as a mentor to him in the early days of Castle Connemara Ponies. In 1983, Hynes bought a yearling filly bred by O’Toole from his foundation mare Village Star and by Thunderbolt. Village Laura went on to be Padraic’s ‘North Star’ and a core broodmare. Under his production, she was a serial winner on the show circuit, winning Supreme Champion at Clifden in 1987. The same year, the pair won the first of three consecutive Championships at the Dublin Horse Show (1987, 1988, 1989).

Padraic’s gifted eye continued to spot and develop winning ponies for decades. The purchase of Village Colleen (Mervyn Kingsmill x Village Star) and Castle Countess (Abbeyleix Owen x Castle Dame) from Henry O’Toole reflected Hynes’ respect of the mare line. Hynes would take the 2000 Clifden Supreme Championship with Bunowen Beauty (Abbeyleix Owen x Irishtown Beauty), bred by Noel Sweeney, before Padraic and Henry stood side by side on the Showgrounds in 2001 with the sisters Castle Countess (Abbeyleix Owen x Castle Dame) as Champion and Castle Urchin (Abbeyleix Owen x Castle Dame) as Reserve. “A saying he had for me the night he won in Clifden was ‘you start the preparation for next year tomorrow,’” O’Toole said.

Padraic was crowned Supreme Champion again in 2004 with Miss Daisy (Streamstown Larry x Daisy Belle), bred by Aidan Joyce, before Village Heather (Boden Park Finnard x Village Girl) rounded out Hynes’ Supreme Championship wins to a total of six in 2012. She demonstrated his unwavering appreciation of the dam line of the Village ponies bred by Paddy and Christy King.

While his number of supreme champions is an aspirational record, the number and range of classes he has won remains one of the widest achieved by any exhibitor to date. With successes from foal classes right up to the older mare competitions, Hynes was winning right up until last year, when Canal Lady (Frederiksminde Hazy Match x Canal Linnett) took the 10 to 15-year-old mare class at the 98th Annual Connemara Pony Show. “He was way ahead of the times in producing a pony. The majority of ponies back then would have been produced out of the field. Padraic would have his in and handled, walking them in hand on the road. He stabled ponies and produced them that way,” O’Toole explained. Caillin Conneely credits this approach for Hynes’ consistent results over the course of his lifetime: “He strived for perfection, and he always got it. People saw him as an icon, the standard you had to meet if you wanted to get to the top.”

Overseas influence

As well as being a prolific Clifden winner, he judged the show on four separate occasions. An active member of the CPBS council, Padraic inspected fillies and colts both here and abroad, including Sweden where he met Nina Gustafson, friend and a long-time visitor to Canal Stud, who described Padraic as a master of communication. “He shared his knowledge in a way that everyone trusted what he was saying,” she said. “The Swedish breeders had great confidence in his opinion. Of all the years he was inspecting, there was no negative feedback. Regardless of the quality or type of the pony, he treated all owners and breeders who presented equally.

“The special thing about Padraic was he was faithful to his mare line. He kept it consistent; it was so nice to see the next generation of daughters and granddaughters coming through. He never stopped planning, always discussing how to develop for the future. We will miss him a lot.”

Padraic has had significant influence on the Connemara’s development in Australia. In 1979, he sold the stallion Abbeyleix Finbar (Ballydonagh Rob x Finola of Leam), bred by Viscountess de Vesci, as a yearling to Sue Clarke of Glenormiston Connemaras in Queensland. Finbar competed in hand, under saddle and sired 76 registered Connemara ponies, several of which were exported to America.

Forty years later in 2019, one special mare bred by Padraic began the journey down under. The purchase of Canal Lucy (Glencarrig Knight x Canal Linnett) was the realisation of Australian breeder Dianne Collins’ 45-year-long dream. “I was looking for a quality pony. When I saw the ponies at Canal - every pony Padraic took out, these daughters and granddaughter of Village Laura sired by different stallions - the quality of the dam line really shone through,” she said.

“I feel very privileged that Padraic sold Lucy to me. Her offspring and Capall Park Johnnie Boy’s future offspring will add to the Australian herd here. Clifden trips won’t be the same any more, driving past the brown Canal Ponies sign, knowing he is no longer there to visit. He was the quiet achiever, an absolute gentleman in all ways. I will be forever indebted to him.”

While Padraic’s belief was that ‘it starts and ends with the mare’, he did stand and source several stallions of note. He sold Canal Misty Fionn (Abbeyleix Fionn x Gloves Misty) to France, where he went on to have a successful jumping career. Following a period with Jimmy Canavan, Hynes stood Fredericksminde Hazy Match (Hazy Dawn x Oxenholm Mandy), who he described as a ‘gift’ to work with and provided an outcross to the Abbeyleix Owen mares of the time. Lecarrow King (Village Boy x Lecarrow) stood with him before being sold to Henrietta Knight and then Elisabeth and Bernd Lindemann in Germany.

“He always remained true to himself. His unwavering passion was just fantastic. We loved walking around his fields with him, talking about the ponies or having tea with him and Mary in the kitchen with their beloved dogs, swapping pony stories,” Elisabeth said. “We are so glad that we could share the joy of his ponies with him. We will miss him deeply.”

Beyond bloodlines

Hynes’ influence on the Connemara pony goes beyond bloodlines. He has had a global impact on the people behind the breed. “He was an encyclopaedia of Connemara ponies,” said Joe Gorham Jr, who considered Padraic like an older brother growing up. “He was fiercely intensive about showing, but he also knew how to have the craic. A rock-solid man, who put the pony first.” Padraic acted as a mentor also to Australian Karen Holloway, who judged at last year’s Connemara Pony Show. Her achievement is said to have been a great source of pride for Hynes. For Henry O’Toole, some of his fondest memories are of travelling to and from council meetings with Hynes, Padraic Heanue and Caillin Conneely. “We had some brilliant, brilliant times. He shared his showing secrets willingly. He wanted to see you improve. I wouldn’t be the person I am in ponies today, if it wasn’t for him. He will be greatly missed. There’s no doubt about that.”

- Claire Silke