An enthusiast of the rare Kerry bog pony has set up a British society for the breed.

Sheila Clarke, who has been breeding the diminutive Irish pony for five years, now hopes to be allowed to show them through the National Pony Society (NPS).

“I think they have a hell of a future,” said Sheila. “They are lovely ponies, with unfailingly sweet natures.”

Bred to pull turf carts, harvest seaweed and carry milk churns, “boggies” were almost lost when tractors took over these tasks in the 1960s.

But in the early 1990s, Kerry man John Mulvihill set about trying to save the breed, which stands 10-12hh.

Genetic typing, carried out by Weatherby’s Ireland in 1995, established the breed type and since then Irish, US and British breeders have worked to increase their numbers.

There are now 300 registered ponies, with around 200 breeding mares and 10 distinct stallion lines, administered through the Kerry Bog Pony Co-operative Society (KBPCS).

And this week Mrs Clarke received permission from the KBPCS to set up a British branch.

There are currently around 15 Kerry bogs in the UK, with foals due this spring.

“We shall be a daughter society of the KBPCS and it will administer the studbook,” said Mrs Clarke.

And if the NPS board agrees with its chief executive, we could well see these ponies in the showring soon.

“They are a rare breed and attractive little ponies,” said NPS CEO Peter Durrant.

“I think promoting the breed is exactly what the NPS is here for and am more than happy to put Mrs Clarke’s proposal [to allow them to compete in mountain and moorland classes] forward to the NPS council.”

And Lee Hackett of the British Horse Society added: “We are in favour of anything that encourages interest in our diverse native breeds and maintains their heritage.”

For more information about Kerry bog ponies, contact Sheila Clarke, tel: 01747 822169.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (9 February 2012)