The Welsh Pony designates a group of four related types of pony and horse native to Wales: the Welsh mountain pony (Section A), the Welsh pony (Section B), the Welsh pony of cob type (Section C), and the Welsh Cob (Section D).
Welsh ponies and cobs are suitable mounts for both children and adults. The modern Welsh Pony is known as a riding and driving pony. It is shown both in hand and under saddle, including hunter/jumper and dressage competition, and is a popular children's pony. They have a reputaton for intelligence, friendly personalities and even temperaments, allowing them to be easily trained. The breed is used for many forms of equestrianism, including pleasure riding, as well as horse show competition. The Welsh also crosses well with many other breeds and has influenced the Pony of the Americas and the British Riding Pony. Many are also crossbred with Thoroughbreds, and other horse breeds. The Welara, a cross between the Welsh pony and the Arabian horse, has its own registry.
The original Welsh Mountain Pony is thought to have evolved from the prehistoric Celtic pony. Welsh ponies were primarily developed in Wales and existed in the British Isles prior to the arrival of the Roman Empire. They were adapted to the difficult climate of severe winters and sparse vegetation. Shelter most often was an isolated valley or a clump of bare trees. Bands of ponies roamed in a semi-feral state climbing mountains, leaping ravines, running over rough moorland terrain. Therefore the Welsh pony developed intelligence, speed and soundness, and is known for "heart" and endurance. They are tough and thrifty, with a steady, tractable, and calm nature,
When the Romans occupied Ancient Britain, they brought horses of their own, which bred with the native ponies, producing hardy offspring with substance and attractive appearance. It is believed that Julius Caesar founded a stud for the ponies on the shores of Lake Bala.
The characteristics of the breed as it is known today are thought to have been established by the late 15th century, after the Crusaders returned to England with Arabian stallions obtained from the Middle East.
In the 1500s, King Henry VIII, thinking to improve the breeds of horses, particularly war horses, ordered the destruction of all stallions under 15 hands and all mares under 13 hands. Fortunately the ponies in the wild, remote, and inaccessible mountains of Wales escaped this order.
On the upland farms of Wales, Welsh ponies and cobs would often have to do everything from ploughing a field to carrying a farmer to market or driving a family to services on Sunday. When coal mining became important to the economy of England, many Welsh ponies were harnessed for use in mines, above and below ground. In the 18th century and 19th century, more Arabian blood was added by stallions who were turned out in the Welsh hills. Other breeds have also been added, including the Hackney, Thoroughbred, Norfolk Roadster, and the Yorkshire Coach Horse.
In 1901, the Welsh Pony and Cob Society was formed in the United Kingdom, with the first Stud Book published the following year. In 1949, the sections of the Stud Book (A, B, C, and D) were introduced. The United States registry, also named the Welsh Pony and Cob Society, was incorporated in 1906.
One important stallion in the Welsh breed since the 1900s was Dyoll Starlight, credited with being the foundation sire of the modern breed, and who was a combination of Welsh and Arab breeding. From his line came an influential stallion of the Section B type: Tan-y-Bwlch Berwyn. This stallion was sired by a Barb and out of a mare from the Dyoll Starlight line.
A life-sized statue of a Welsh cob stallion was erected in the town of Aberaeron in 2005 donated to the town by the Aberaeron Festival of Welsh Ponies and Cobs to denote the area as Welsh Cob country. It was created by sculptor David Mayer.
The Section A Welsh Pony is also known as the Welsh Mountain pony. Both the Section A and Section B ponies are more refined than those in Section C and D. They are characterized from the cob types by a large eye, small head (often with a dished face from the Arabian influence}, high set on tail, and refined leg conformation, but retaining good bone and correctness.
Section B ponies are taller than the closely related Welsh mountain pony (Section A) with a maximum height of 13.2 hh (1.37 m) in the UK and 14.2 hh (1.47 m) in the U.S. They are known for elegant movement and athletic ability while still retaining the substance and hardiness of the foundation stock, the Section A Welsh pony.
Section B ponies also generally have a slightly lighter build, as a result of Thoroughbred and Hackney blood. Section B ponies should resemble the Section A pony, but are of a more refined "riding type". However, they should not be light of bone; they should resemble their Mountain Pony ancestors for quality of bone. In addition to the desirable characteristics of the Type A pony, Type B ponies have a free-flowing movement. They should have a muscular neck, arching from withers to poll, and have a deep, wide chest.
The Welsh pony of Cob Type (Section C) should be no taller than 13.2 hands (137 cm). However, unlike the Welsh pony (Section B), it is heavier and more coblike and compact.
The Welsh Pony of Cob Type first resulted from a crossbreeding between the Welsh mountain pony (Section A) and the Welsh Cob (Section D). Today , some Section C ponies are still produced from this cross. In the past the WPCSA also accepted Section C ponies with Section B blood but that is now longer the case. There were also crosses with Iberian horses, which led to the development of the Powys horse, which was also a foundation for this type. Other breeds also influenced the Section C, including the Norfolk Trotter, the Hackney and Yorkshire Coach Horse.
Cob type ponies differ from the section A and B ponies in that they have a straight profile with large, expressive eyes. They have clean limbs with silky feathering, and have sound feet. Their movement is high-stepping but with good reach in the shoulder and impulsion from the hindquarters. They have a round barrel and compact back with good muscling.
The Welsh Pony of Cob Type is considered to have a more independent character than the Section A or Section B. They are easy keepers and have excellent endurance. Today, the type is used mainly in harness for competitive driving.
Influential stallions on the Section C and D bloodlines include:
The Welsh Cob (Section D) is the largest-sized animal within the Welsh pony and cob breed registries, and is no shorter than 13.2 hands. Under some organization rules there may be no upper height limit, others require they not be over 14.2hh.
Though they are the tallest and stockiest of the Welsh sections, the head remains full of pony character, with large eyes, and neat ears. The legs may be relatively short, also akin to pony proportions. Mature stallions have somewhat cresty necks, those of mares are generally leaner. Like the section C, they have powerful, extravagant action. Grey coloring is rarer in the section D cob than other types of Welsh ponies, but bold white markings are common.