The Irish Hobby horse

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The Irish Hobby horse is an extinct breed of horse developed in Ireland prior to the 13th Century.The breed provided foundation bloodlines for several modern horse breeds, including breeds as diverse as the Connemara pony and the Irish Draught.

Palfreys were known as haubini in France, which eventually became hobbeye. These animals eventually found their way to Ireland where the Irish Hobby developed.

They were smaller horses, sometimes described as more like ponies, whose strength was in being light, agile, and swift. The Irish Hobby horse could easily cover 70 miles in a day with a rider. The breed is the origin of the term hobby horse, meaning a toy horse, consisting of a model of a horse’s head attached to a stick, or sometimes used as a synonym of the rocking horse.

Irish Hobby HorseMares of Irish Hobby breeding may have been among the native horse breeds of Ireland that provided foundation stock for the Thoroughbred.

Alexander MacKay-Smith in his book Speed and the Thoroughbred: The Complete History
clearly traces the origins of the thoroughbreds’ speed back to Ireland’s original – now extinct, sport horse breed – the Irish Hobby.

This is not surprising; the name “hobby” comes from the Gaelic word “obann” meaning “swift” or “fast”.

These horses, developed in Ireland well before the 13th century, were imported into Britain for racing and light military use for many centuries, and contributed to their pre-thoroughbred and thoroughbred racing breeds.

Kathleen Kirsan in her book North American Sport Horse Breeder
explains their contribution to the American Thoroughbred, Standardbred, Saddlebred, Tennessee Walker, Missouri Fox Trotter and Morgan breeds and traces the Irish hobby to the northern Iberian peninsula, where it has an extant relative-the Asturcón.

The Irish hobby contributed to the development of both the Connemara and the Irish draught breeds.

All modern sport horse breeds were developed from, and refined by, other breeds. As the Irish traditional horse is comprised of two unique native breeds crossed with the thoroughbred (with all 3 breeds connected to the Irish Hobby) it is, as a breed, genetically unique.

There is a great deal of evidence that the Irish Hobby was imported to England and Scotland for various activities, including racing.

This quick and agile horse was also popular for skirmishing, and was often ridden by light cavalry known as Hobelars. Hobbies were used successfully by both sides during the Wars of Scottish Independence, with Edward I of England trying to gain advantage by preventing Irish exports of the horses to Scotland.

Robert Bruce employed the hobby for his guerrilla warfare and mounted raids, covering 60 to 70 miles (97 to 113 km) a day.