Skewbald Breeding in The Park

Cousins, Mikey Coffey (left) and Robert O'Brien pictured breeding their Skewbald ponies at St. Stephen's Park on Friday evening. ©Photograph: John Reidy
Cousins, Mikey Coffey (left) and Robert O’Brien pictured breeding their Skewbald ponies at St. Stephen’s Park on Friday evening. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Traditionally bred hunter / jumper Skewbald (Brown and White) and Piebald (Black and White)  are fetching prices now from €5K to €10K and you’ll get nothing in that line for less that €1K.

I just happened upon a breeding session in the O’Brien yard on Friday evening. It’s nothing Goffs will fret about as the session in question was held just off the Pound Road in Stephen’s Park here in Castleisland.

However, there is an Irish Piebald & Skewbald Association set up in Ireland since the early 1990s.

Its formation was seen as a coming together of like minded coloured horse breeders and loosely operated as an Irish branch of the British Skewbald & Piebald Association.

Over the years registration numbers continue to grow and the association is filling the need to further enhance the services offered to owner / breeders.  In 2011 they got approval to issue equine identity documents suitable for all horses.

In light of the economic conditions they have substantially reduced registration fees for the recent seasons. In March 2014 they were approved for the first time to establish and promote The Irish Donkey Studbook.

The breeds are known as Paint Horses in America and they have quite a history there.

As settlement spread to North America the Indians, by trading and stealing them,  adapted themselves easily to the coloured horse. Because they had an eye for anything bright or colourful, the Indians sought out the painted horse. To them the horse was more than a war horse or a means of travel. He was a medium of exchange and a status symbol.

The Paint Horse has always been associated with the Indian in legends, stories and songs. At the siege of the Alamo, at the Fetterman massacre, at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the Paint Horse was there.

If what I encountered on St. Stephen’s Park isn’t traditional breeding then I don’t know what is.

Irish Traveller communities are now the traditional keepers of the Skewbald flame in Ireland. They labelled Friday evening’s exercise here as: “A Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” to curious passers by and just went on with the show as countless numbers of their ancestors would have done for generations before them.