In line with public health advice, Kylemore Abbey is currently closed.

Wintering Well in Kylemore

As Winter turns to Spring, signs of new life are evident on the Kylemore Estate. Buds are starting to appear on the trees and daffodil stems are beginning to peep through the soil. Spring is a season of new life and hope. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our Connemara foals in a couple of months. This year four of our mares are expecting foals.

While Kylemore Abbey has been closed to the public, we have been busy taking care of our beautiful Connemara ponies. It is important during the Winter months to ensure our mares are well looked after to give them every chance of delivering a healthy foal. All the broodmares at Kylemore live out for the Winter. As the nutrients in the grass decline in the Winter, our mares’ diets are supplemented with haylage, which is made here on the Estate, and some hard feed. The hard feed provides the necessary minerals to aid the development of the foal before it is born. Our mares are fed and checked twice a day.

Connemara is where the Connemara pony originated so these ponies are well equipped to deal with the harsh Winter weather experienced in the West of Ireland. They grow long hairy coats to protect their skin from the elements. The ponies also benefit from the shelter provided by the many trees on the Kylemore Estate. However, last years foals, who are now yearlings (all horses and ponies turn a year older on the 1st of January), are stabled for the duration of the Winter months in a big loose shed with a turnout yard for them to roam freely around. Having these young ponies stabled makes it easier for them to be handled daily and to learn to walk and trot on a lead. In another few weeks when the weather improves they will be let out full time to enjoy the Spring grass.

The long Winter evenings are traditionally when many Connemara pony breeders start to think about choosing a suitable stallion to mate their mares with in Springtime. Nowadays, thanks to the internet and social media it is so easy to carry out extensive research on stallions. At Kylemore we carefully select stallions to best compliment our mares. We hope these stallions will help fulfil our breeding objective of breeding true to type ponies that have the ability to compete at a high level.

As the days are getting longer, we look forward to the arrival of our foals. When the mares get closer to foaling they will be moved to the foaling paddocks to prevent any risk of injury to the mare or her foal. A closer eye will be kept on the mares due to foal. In the days before a mare foals her behaviour pattern will start to change. She will become increasingly restless and start swishing her tail and looking at her sides. Her udder will start to fill and as she comes closer to foaling wax like beads will form on the ends of her teats. This wax-like substance is the immune-supportive colostrum which is so important for the newborn foal. Careful monitoring of the mare will ensure none of these signs are missed.

This year, one of our mares and her foal will take up residence for a few months in Áras an Uachtarain as part of the Biodiversity scheme there. Hopefully, in our next pony blog we will be announcing the birth of some of our foals.

We look forward to welcoming you soon to Kylemore Abbey to meet our Connemara ponies and to experience our new Connemara Pony Trail where you will be able to learn more about our native pony breed.

Written by Niamh Philbin.

Kylemore Abbey to place Connemara Mare and foal in Áras Paddock.

Kylemore Abbey is delighted to announce an exciting new partnership between Áras an Uachtaráin and Kylemore Abbey whereby each year a Connemara mare and foal from the Kylemore Herd will take up residence with the President of Ireland and graze the Áras paddocks from May to September. The partnership was formed following discussions about implementing biodiversity grazing strategies in both the Áras and Kylemore Abbey and a subsequent visit to Kylemore Abbey by President Higgins and his wife Sabina.

Conor Coyne, Executive Director of Kylemore Abbey explained “It will provide an opportunity to get national and international media coverage for the Connemara pony and will be the start of developing a more educational experience for the breed,”.

The mare will deliver her foal in Kylemore and once her foal is strong enough the pair will travel to the Áras. Foals born at Kylemore Abbey carry the “Peaceful” prefix symbolising the tranquillity of the Kylemore Estate and the link to its tradition. President Higgins and his wife will choose a name for the foal using the “Peaceful” prefix.

Foal competition

The Connemara pony plays a large role in Irish Heritage and it is fitting that a Connemara mare and foal be on display to the public in such a prominent setting. Once used as a working pony on farms in Connemara, these ponies now compete in equestrian sports around the World. The herd of Connemara ponies arrived in Kylemore last year and since their arrival, they have proved hugely popular with visitors at one of Ireland’s best-loved visitor attractions. The placement of a mare and foal in the Áras will further increase the awareness of this special native pony. The objective at Kylemore Abbey is to showcase the very best of the West of Ireland, and the Connemara Pony definitely fits the bill. This new partnership greatly enhances that objective.