Competitors and spectators at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Mars Equestrian are used to seeing a variety of horse breeds among the entries, from Thoroughbreds to Irish Sport Horses. But there were two entries this year who prove that ponies can add some punch to any athlete's pedigree!
Sparrow’s Nio (Grange Finn Sparrow x JB/Unknown)
2003 Connemara/Thoroughbred gelding
Owner/Rider: Allie Sacksen
The Connemara breed is not typically seen at a five-star event, but Sparrow’s Nio, a feisty grey standing at just 15.3 hands, isn’t one for being typical. Owner and rider Allie Sacksen joined forces with Nio when he was seven and new to the sport of eventing. They started at the Novice level and methodically worked their way up the ladder, building his confidence and competing at the Intermediate/two-star level by 2013. The pair completed their first four-star competition, now classified as a five-star, at the 2015 Kentucky Three-Day Event. Following this accomplishment, the American Connemara Pony Society (ACPS) recognized Sparrow Nio’s excellence as an ambassador for the breed, naming him 2015 Halfbred Connemara of the Year. Fast-forward to 2019, Sacksen and Nio are prepped and ready to take on the LRK3DE challenge for the third time!
Sacksen has described Nio as amazing and spunky, with all the trademarks of a Connemara pony despite his Thoroughbred-crossed pedigree. The Irish contributed much to this country, and any owner will tell you the Connemara is their greatest contribution, said the ACPS. Born out of the beautiful yet harsh Western Ireland shores, the Connemara evolved from an unusual blend of natural selection and human need. Athletic, adaptable, and hardy, this breed can excel in virtually all disciplines. A well conformed Connemara’s compact and well-balanced body result in lovely, free-moving gaits and a natural jumping ability.
Visit the American Connemara Pony Society to learn more about the breed.
Honor Me (Brynarian Brenin ap Maldwyn x Dream Contessa/Royal Chocolate)
2006 Thoroughbred/Welsh Cob gelding
Owner/Rider: Lisa Marie Fergusson
Honor Me, known as “Tali” in the barn, and his owner/rider Lisa Marie Fergusson competed at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 for the Canadian Eventing Team. In their first major games, they leapt an impressive 40 spots up the leaderboard between the initial dressage phase and their final show jumping performance and finished in the 40th position as an individual. Fergusson guided Tali around Capt. Mark Phillips’s challenging cross-country course with finesse, jumping clear and accumulating just 8.4 time penalties in Tali’s favorite phase.
Tali is a Thoroughbred/Welsh Cob cross, also referred to as a Welsh Sport Horse, and was built to answer the tough cross-country challenges presented at the LRK3DE. According to the Welsh Pony & Cob Society of America, the Welsh Cob originated in the mountainous region of Wales with a lineage that predates the Roman Empire. The horses of this region not only survived, but thrived in the unforgiving environment, developing into a breed with a remarkable soundness of body, tremendous endurance, and a high degree of native intelligence. They are also well-known for their friendly personalities, even temperaments, and trainability. It has been demonstrated that the Welsh Pony/Cob crosses well with many other breeds, and this is an important aspect of the breed’s versatility for breeders.
Today, there are over 45,000 registered Welsh Ponies and Cobs in North America competing in nearly every discipline, even at the highest levels, as evidenced by Tali. Visit the Welsh Pony & Cob Society of America to learn more about the Welsh Cob.
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