The Stud - Where it all began
Situated in the Suffolk countryside, Penny Makinson began the TawnyDun Stud in October 2004 with my first dun filly foal Ballinaboy Shackira, purchased from the Clifden foal sales in Connemara.
I wanted to start a small stud to produce quality ponies and loved the dun colour - but it was extremely hard to find - so the visit to Connemara and the sales was originally just for research. However, I was very taken by Kiera as she seemed ‘her own person’ even in the crowded sale pens. Studying her pedigree even I could see that she had some very good old Connemara bloodlines. The bidding was rather nerve racking but I bought her, and also made contact with her breeder, Joe McCann. I went to the Clifden Show in 2005, finding that there were so few dun ponies there - mainly in the older mare classes. I resolved not only to try and breed dun connemara ponies but also to buy the best bloodlines I could find, so that any TawnyDun pony would be known for quality as well as its dun colour.
Kiera was followed by Willowtree Dancing Jubilee, a 3 yr old connemara pony of Millfields breeding who produced my first foal, TawnyDun James. I returned to Clifden sales and with the help of Joe purchased Carraig Cailin - she had breeding problems but wonderful bloodlines - and finally Joe bought on my behalf October Gold, a 4 yr old with competition breeding - who he put in foal before she left Ireland.
TawnyDun Stud started as a dream but became a reality!
Breeding Dun Ponies
Although connemara ponies are known as dun, they are actually buckskins. I have only ever seen one 27 year old mare in Clifden who was a true dun, and at the time I did not know what I was looking at.
The true dun gene is a ‘simple dominant’ - if the foal has the gene it will be a zebra dun with dorsal stripe and barring on its legs. If it does not have the gene, it will not be dun.
The buckskin is something completely different, diluting the agouti (bay) gene with the creme gene. This makes the bay body of the pony dilute to the lovely golden colour, but leaves the legs, mane and tail black. The creme gene is an ‘incomplete dominant’ - if one is thrown then it dilutes, but if two are thrown this produces the blue eyed creme.
It is reckoned, genetically speaking, that out of four coverings of buckskin to buckskin, there will be two buckskins, one bay and one blue eyed creme. This is why the buckskin colour is hard to breed, because it is not easy to guarantee the colour.
Connemara ponies are now generally known to be grey, although in the past there were many more colours. This is because grey is a dominant gene, and if thrown it will over-ride any other colour. If a grey pony is bred with a buckskin, then it is quite likely the offspring will be grey if the grey gene is thrown. If grey is to be eliminated then a whole colour must be used, such as black or bay. However, if a bay is put on a buckskin, genetically speaking, out of four coverings there will be two buckskins and two bays. Again, the buckskin colour cannot be guaranteed.
The only sure way of breeding buckskins is to breed either using a blue eyed creme stallion on bay mares, or using a bay stallion on blue eyed creme mares. However, it is only recently that the Connemara Societies both in England and Ireland will allow blue eyed creme mares or stallions to be graded up to grade one - before that decision was made, blue eyed cremes could only be graded to grade 2. Even further back, the blue eyed creme could not be graded at all! If you do have a Grade 2 pony, its progeny can be graded up, so breeding with quality is very important.
TawnyDun Stud is one of the very few studs who will breed buckskin to buckskin. It does mean that I get blue eyed creme foals. However, the benefit is that our blue eyed creme offspring do not carry the grey gene, making them very rare. Also, as all our mares are homozygous for agouti, this makes the blue eyed creme offspring Perlino in colour (not Cremello) - again extremely rare. Perlino is a double dilute of creme with an agouti base, whereas Cremello is a double dilute of creme with the red factor base. A Perlino will produce buckskin when put with a bay, whereas a Cremello will produce palomino when put with a chestnut.
Colour genetics are very complicated, and the above is only a broad outline - as I understand it - of one specific part of the whole. It is also
PLEASE NOTE :
Although the colour used is 'dun' for connemara ponies in Ireland, they are actually, genetically speaking, buckskin - a dilute of the agouti gene with the creme gene.