At a far end of the riding spectrum from the mighty draft horses, are ponies, equines under 14.2 hands, and it`s my guess that of the many breeds of riding ponies in America, Welsh Ponies and Welsh Cobs are among the most popular and most common. Cobs are basically “stockier”, ponies more refined, but that is a very broad generalization, not, perhaps, very accurate.
I was a pony kid, too, but back in 1952, I had no idea of breeds or types, I just knew I wanted a pony. It was years later that I became aware of the various “Sections” that define the different sizes and types of Welsh Ponies, and then I was only partly aware. As I never have spent much time around the various pony breeds, I hope those who have will feel free to chime in, correct me when I`m wrong, and educate us all.
According to my conversations and research, the Welsh ponies may have descended from the prehistoric Celtic Pony, and there were possibly Welsh Ponies in Wales as early as 1,600 BC. Because they had to endure rugged conditions, a harsh climate, rocky terrain, and poor grazing, the breed that we know today became tough and hardy, basically through the “survival of the fittest” method of “natural selection.”
At some point, perhaps in the 15th century, some Arabian blood was added to the mix, but not so much that the breed characteristics were lost. Early Welsh Ponies did farm labor, hauled logs, pulled carts and buggies, and were used in coal mines. There is a theory that Justin Morgan, founder of the American breed of that name, may have been part Welsh, as early settlers to America brought these sturdy ponies to help settle the opening lands.
The modern Welsh registry was established in 1901/1902, and has been modified from time to time, but basically there are four “Sections” of Welsh Ponies and Cobs, A, B, C, and D. For a full explanation, ask Mr. Google! Basically, Section A ponies are the little guys, under 12.2 hands.Section B ponies are over 12.2, but under 13.2 hands, and are slighter of build than Section C cob types, also under 13.2, but of stockier build. Section D Welsh Cobs are over 13,2, and don`t have an upper size limit.
For all this complexity, there is one constant, which is that over the years, thousands of children have begun their riding careers on Welsh Ponies and Welsh Cobs. They`ve used them in Pony Clubs, they`ve followed hounds on them, they`ve jumped their first jumps, taken their first trail rides, and have had their first falls off Welsh Ponies.
I`m a pony fan for small kids and small adults. One thing I know from lots of experience with ponies, when I was a kid, and from Morgans, and Arabians, when I was NOT a kid, is that small neither means weak, incapable, or limited. It`s the size of the heart that counts, and the size of the try. Welsh Ponies are famous for lots of both.