Specialist sport ponies bred on the continent are finding their way to Britain in ever-greater numbers. Yet, ironically, many of these well-moving, glamorous continental ponies are returning to the home of their ancestors.

Britain’s abundant and diverse native breeds make up the best and largest selection of pony bloodlines in the world. The envy of breeders worldwide, British ponies have been exported to many countries and incorporated into their own breeding programmes.

In the 1970s, German breeders raided Britain for stock with which to begin breeding their own sport ponies. Famous British pony prefixes – including Downland, Coed Coch, Bwlch, Catherston and Cusop – litter the pedigrees of most modern German ponies.

German dressage ponies dominate the European Championships. Yet most of these are the offspring of ponies acquired in Britain and bred to Hanoverians, Thoroughbreds, Anglo-Arabs or German riding ponies to produce the perfect child’s mount.

Progeny of the influential D-line in German pony breeding, which includes the individual European dressage champion Dornik B and team gold medal eventing pony Desperado, can be tracked back to the British ponies Catherston Red Gold, Bwlch Valentino and Downland Chevalier. The four-times European dressage gold medallist, the stallion Dressman, and perennial British team member Daphne also share these bloodlines.

What is a sport pony?

A sport pony stands 148cm or less, with the conformation, movement, rideability and type to excel in the Olympic disciplines of dressage, jumping and eventing.

According to Celia Clarke, chairman of the Sports Pony Studbook Society, a sport pony is simply a smaller version of a sport horse.

“A sport pony has the elasticity and movement of the sport horse. It doesn’t have flicky toes like a show pony – it must use the knees and hocks, be extremely flexible through the back and, most importantly, have a good temperament.

“Britain is behind in breeding this type of pony, but if we looked at the working hunter type and bloodlines, a great deal of work could be done very quickly – as long as breeders are stringent about movement and temperament.”

Successful British sport ponies

Millbrook Ifor

Eventing pony. Five-times member of British team. By former HIS Thoroughbred Rough Lad out of a Welsh section C mare. Bred by Ifor Evans in Fishguard.

The Importance Of Being Earnest

(originally Flavell’s Genesis)

Winner of elementary restricted national championship 2004 with Melissa Beer. By Welsh section B Coed Coch Pele out of a part-bred Arab mare Farchynys Crème Caramel (by the Arab stallion Hadeer). Bred by Ruth Thacker.

Welton Camelia

Eventing pony by Welton Apollo out of riding pony mare Greenacres Camelia, by Greenacres Crescendo. A mix of Thoroughbred, Arab and Welsh, with the lines of Bwlch Hill Wind and Bwlch Valentino on both sides of her dam, who is related to famous show ponies Pretty Polly and Holly Of Spring. Bred by Sam and Linda Barr.

Forester’s Gold

European dressage team medallist by the Trakehner sire Narval Du Pujas out of a New Forest mare.

Duntarvie Catalan

National preliminary dressage champion and reigning Pony Club dressage champion with Pippa Morrison. By the Welsh pony stallion Longnewton Maestro out of Hodstock Catia, by the riding pony stallion Solway North Wind, who carries both Arab and Thoroughbred lines. Bred by Tweetie Nimmo

Top Gun VI

On the European dressage bronze medal team with Sally Crisp in 1998. By the riding pony stallion Chiddock Fankino, who carries Thoroughbred, Arab and New Forest blood.

Baydale Velvet

Eventing pony. Member of the British team in 2004 with Sam Magennis. By the Cleveland Bay Baydale Juryman out of an Arab mare.

Machno Carwyn

Individual gold medal winner for Switzerland at the European show jumping championships in 2000. A stallion by the Welsh section D Carregcoch Bleddyn (SSPS) out of a part-section B mare.

Red Alert

Eventing team silver medallist with Kitty Boggis. By the British-based Danish Oldenburg SSPS elite pony stallion Laban out of a Welsh riding pony mare.

Quayside Caution

A member of the 1999 European gold medal show jumping team with Simon Buckley. Bred specifically for driving, by a Trakehner stallion out of a Fell pony mare, but showed his ability for his preferred discipline as a youngster by jumping out of his field.

H&H 10 March, ’05