A brief explanation of my current Connemara obsession
I was spending a school year with my aunt Carolyn in Ithaca NY after several unsuccessful years in the Cambridge, MA public schools. My aunt sent me to an alternative school where we did "Tuesday Projects" instead of having regular classes. So, on Tuesdays, you'd do something you loved, like art or music or getting stoned in the art room (This was 1981)... But me and another group of sixth and seventh grade girls did horseback riding. Our teacher, June Pollack had a mixed herd of horses of various sizes and breeds. We all had our special horses that we rode every week. My favorite was a chestnut mare named "PG" short for "Pretty Girl." We'd bomb around the back fields of Ithaca NY with no helmets or saddles. (Something that I'd probably never allow my kids to do. At least the no helmet part!) "A" shows and blue ribbons were far from our minds. We were just horse crazy and loved to be around horses and to ride under any circumstances. In short, that year was heaven.
An ice storm put a temporary end to our riding, so June brought us to see the Greystone Connemaras instead. We entered the barn out of the biting wind and the breeder, Marianne gave a brief lecture on breeding and explained that she bought the first pony Hideaway Greystone Alexeander from Hideaway Farm in Geneseo NY and said something like "He doesn't look like much, but has very good breeding." She said she named him Alexander after her husband because he was so expensive. (A statement that rolled off of me at the moment but I think of now when I grin at my husband who has promised me a horse for my 40th birthday in June). Our eyes probably glazed over a bit when she was talking about bloodlines and breeding... We were horse-crazed little girls who had never owned a horse. We probably would have been thrilled with a donkey. Then she brought Alex out of his stall. We all said WOW and learned a bit about the Connemara temperament. Until then the little I knew about stallions was that they were dangerous creatures, wild and unmanageable... (OK, most of what we knew about Stallions was from the book "The Black Stallion" which we considered to be the definitive tome on the subject). And out came Alex who was so beautiful with his kind eye and we all got to crowd around him and pet him. Then she put him back and she brought out Errill and suddenly I understood what she meant about bloodlines and breeding. The cute little bay was this magnificent creature's dad. The barn got silent and I think me and the girls issued a collective gasp. This was the horse of our dreams from his dappled black coat, to his arched neck, the way he pranced out of the stall, so full of himself, a bit more "stallion like" than Alex but was not too proud to get neck scritches from a band of 11 and 12 year old girls. Marianne explained a bit about the way black connemaras usually gray, but the band of brown around his nose meant that he'd stay that color.
One of those girls and I came back every Tuesday for about another month or so until the trails became ridable again. There wasn't much for us to do there. We hung out and played and stared at Alex and Errill through the bars of their stalls. When we'd gallop around each others yards pretending to be riding. One of us would yell "I call Errill!" or "I call Alex!" That was the last year that I got to PLAY like that before boobs and boys and other things complicated our lives.
So roughly 30 years, one husband and two kids later later, somebody on the Chronicle of the Horse community forums asked a question about Connemara blood lines and my mind flew back to the Greystone Connemaras. A quick Google search revealed that Errill or "Greystone McErrill" died in 2009. The photo on his obituary made me catch my breath again because part of me will also be a horse crazy 11 year old. I learned that those two stallions were the foundation for an important branch of the breed. I also realized that it's not too late to get my Greystone Connemara pony and think I will be shopping for one this summer.