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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

One breeder dominates first pony dressage leaderboard

ABOVE: Mithril Samwise in action. Picture: EQUISOUL

PONY dressage has become an important and busy part of the equestrian scenery, with ponies being bred specifically for the sport.

The Dressage Victoria Pony Dressage Leaderboard is calculated from the five best scores of ponies competing at official competitions over the year. This is the first year it has been run and the remarkable thing about the list is that one breeder, Chris Milvain of Mithril Welsh Ponies, is responsible for four of the winners.

Quietly spoken and thoughtful, she is a very highly respected member of the Welsh Pony breeding community.

“The first pony I registered was in 1975,” Chris said.

“It was possible in those days to breed 'Foundation Stock' Section B, using a registered Welsh sire (Section A or B) and an unregistered pony mare.

“The female progeny, which had a mature height of between 12 hands and 13.2hh, could be inspected for type and entered into the stud book as FS 1.

“Two more successive crosses to Welsh, with the progeny meeting the height criteria and also being inspected were registered as pure.”


Chris bought four pony mares and a large Section A pony colt.

“Section B colts were in very short supply and B mares were unobtainable in Australia,” she said.

“All the mares produced colts in the first year, which could be registered as Part Welsh.

“I recognised the value of geldings much earlier than most breeders, and have rarely sold a colt to remain a stallion – a handful only – over 48 years of breeding.”

She wanted to breed Section B ponies as she wanted to be able to ride them herself.

“All the ponies had to be able to do a day's work on the farm,” she said.

“And my children rode, with their main interest being pony club eventing. So the interest in animals capable of doing dressage was an early essential.”

Section B ponies have been the mainstay of the stud, with possibly the best known and loved, Owendale Brandyman, siring many successful ponies, including leaderboard winners Mithril Samwise and Mithril Vagabond.

Brandyman lived to the grand age of 34 and sired 92 progeny listed in the stud book, the majority of them with the Mithril prefix.

The first B stallions were Owendale Warwick and Twyford Skylight (Imp UK). Then later, a good son of Skylight, Fairway Skyline. And then, Kinlieth Falcon (iid). Caroline-Ann Hewat rode Falcon and as well as competing under saddle at shows, trained in dressage with him under Vince Corvi.

“This was long before any official pony dressage,” Chris said.

“Just occasionally, a show society forgot to restrict entry in their dressage competitions to horses. Falcon and Caroline won the Elementary class at Canberra Royal.

“When official dressage began, I was in a position to take advantage of the developing market, but many of the ponies have jumping as a second string to their bow.”

ABOVE: A successful day out for Mithril Vagabond.

Now, 40-plus years of breeding dedicated to producing sound and sane ponies and the help and friendship of some special riders saw Mithril-bred ponies winning the Advanced, FEI Small Tour and FEI Medium Tour, with the stud’s stallion Westbury Spitfire taking out FEI Big Tour.

Nikki Donald’s Section B gelding Mithril Samwise won the Advanced.

“Nikki and her mother Jan purchased Sammy when he was a yearling with a view to him being a mount for Nikki’s young daughters,” Chris said. “He can do that job admirably, but Nikki is enjoying the ride too much to surrender him just yet.”

Mithril Velocity, Section D gelding jointly owned by Chris and Kristy Sparkes and ridden by Kristy, was FEI Small Tour winner.

“Velocity is a very talented pony who needs sensitive riding – he is an over-achiever and tries his heart out,” Chris said.

FEI Medium Tour winner was won by Louise Maguire riding her Section B gelding Mithril Vagabond. Louise has ridden a series of Mithril ponies to dressage success, beginning with Mithril Hero’s Return at the second ever DWTS class for young dressage ponies.

The FEI Big Tour winner, Westbury Spitfire, was purchased as a foal from his breeders Stephen and Jane Wiltshire. He was started by Norm Clark, then sent to Kristy to continue his education.

“Kristy and ‘Rex’ developed a wonderful partnership, which has been formalised into joint ownership, “Chris said. “Their dressage journey has been such a joy – Rex’s soft, generous nature makes him safe and easy to take anywhere and his ability to perform the higher movements makes him an outstanding performer. He is also the current National Grand Prix Champion Pony.”

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