Dowlais Pony Club was formed approximately in 1890 around the settlement of Pengarnddu, Near Dowlais.
Old written records of the Society are sparse and this information has been sourced from the older generation in the locality and persons which have moved away from the locality. David Reynolds and family originally from Dowlais were previous members of the club. David is now with the renowned Springbourne Stud and gave me invaluable information on the Pony club’s history. He recalled is father saying to him as a young lad, that hundreds of ponies would be gathered from the surrounding hills and sold on a sale at Caeracca Farm, Pant, Dowlais.
Also large numbers were sold at the Waun Fair situated on the mountain top above Dowlais, which is one of the oldest recorded fairs (and dates to 1140) in the UK. Vendors and purchasers would come from afar, the late Emrys Griffiths (Revel) would be a frequent visitor and used to quote “if you wanted to find a quality pony, the Waun Fair was the place to go”.
The coal mine owners, farmers, and breeders would also flock to the fair for these ponies because of their strength and durability, their size was ideal deal for some of the low heights in the drift coal mines
Old Waun Fair - Photo by kind permission of David Thomas
Today the membership has dropped to thirty, the main reasons for the decline has been poor market trends, Passport legislation costs, the looming of micro-chipping and government interference - without consulting the breeders concerned. These native ponies are the culture and heritage of Wales, if people with no knowledge continue to interfere with the breed it could possibly become extinct. There were an estimated 800 mares running the Dowlais hill in 1950 / 60’s. There were many problems with undesirable entire colts roaming the hill, which was stifling the aims and objectives of the Club. However in 1953 we were granted the new status by the WPCS (Dowlais Pony Improvement Society) which enabled us to implement the removal of these colts under the 1908 Commons Act; campaigned for by Council Members then, who had great vision to enable registered hill ponies to become pure Semi-feral Section A Welsh Mountain Ponies.
Traffic was on the increase in the 1950’s and there were a lot of quality ponies killed on the unfenced A465 common road. Cattle grids and fencing off the town off Merthyr Tydfil and surrounding areas in the early 1970’s, remedied a lot of the problems, but some still remain. Opencast mining began in 1958 in the area and as changed the natural landscape in particular where the Pontlottyn Pony Improvement Society ponies graze on the southern side of the common. Deep mining closures also caused a huge change in the environment and way of life in the area.
Sheep numbers were also being increased around this time because of Government subsidies. Hill pony breeding started to decline over the years and in 1982 WPCS census, Dowlais had 244 mares officially recorded with the WPCS. The present figure is now down to 49 mares. The overall figures in Wales are also of great concern. This overall decline is also been noticed by leading National Parks Ecologists in many parts of Wales over a number of years because of the effect of the imbalance of mixed grazing is having on conservation, which make parts of hills and commons impassable with bracken and gorse where ponies are absent.
The Society has used some very good quality stallions over the years. The majority of members when asked over the years, believe the following have created a huge influence on improving our hill ponies were: Revel Ballet Dancer, Criban Silver Sand, Vadra Sunstar, Marsh Silver Cities, Oakroyd King Cole, Glascoed Merlin, Bowdler Beggar, Revel Somersault, Criban ® Splash, Clan Dirk, Eppynt Blue Danube, Revel Vodka, Eppynt Val, Pendock Coco, Rowfant Chamios, Rhosaur Chelsea Rogue, Revel Spinning Top, Revel Josh, Revel Jacob, Cotebrook Ianto, Baledon General and more recent some lovely young ponies by Maesgwyn Humburg, Maesgwyn High Jack, Blaenau Daniel, Blaenau Vail.
Members have bred some very good brood and show mares over the years, far too many to mention individual breeders without pleasing some and offending others. Every spring we prepare the stallions for inspection at the Annual Glanusk Premium Stallion Show in May.
The next event on the calendar will be our Annual Horse Show on Bank Holiday, which attracts very good entries of quality ponies and cobs.
If the weather is suitable, any time in October is round up time over thousands of acres to check and worm the mares and wean the foals; this can take several attempts with many quad bikes and men on horseback. Daunting tasks but we enjoy the end product a hill pony in the true sense of the word which graces itself with, intelligence, beauty, and above all the hardiness to survive in what nature puts before them
Colin Thomas (Secretary)
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