A Family Affair
Glenbricken Farm and Its Legacy
By Amanda Crowley | Photography by Romona Robbins
The rugged landscape of Connemara and the fierce beauty of its coastline frame the lives of those who call the west of Ireland home. Its rich history has been formed through centuries of tradition, the unwavering strength of its people, and a dedication to the land. One family, the Gorhams of County Galway, have devoted over fifty years to their passion—the Connemara pony—and have attained recognition as breeders of world renown.
Malachy Gorham, his wife, Jane, and their children, Maria, Mal, and Molly, carry on his father’s legacy at Glenbricken Farm near the town of Clifden. Malachy’s brothers, Joe and John, are invaluable when it comes to showing ponies in the ring, not to mention the less glamorous side of the business, such as web development and other technical duties. Their sisters, Ann and Mary, make it a point to be available to help the family during the Connemara Pony Show held each August in Clifden.
Since 1924, thousands of people have travelled to Clifden to attend the prestigious week-long event. Whether they wish to buy a pony or simply to admire the breed, Clifden is the place to be for Connemara pony equestrians at the top of their game. ‘It’s our Christmas,’ says Malachy. ‘As a family we work hard all week, but there is plenty of time for celebrating.’ The Connemara Pony Show holds a special place in the hearts of the Gorham family not only because they have won numerous awards over the years, but also because Malachy’s nephew, the first child of the next generation, was born on show day back in 1989. ‘It was a great day for the family,’ remembers Malachy.
Growing up on a farm, Malachy felt an undeniable connection to the horses. He worked alongside his father to learn the subtle qualities that distinguish a good pony from a great pony. ‘It’s not an exact science; there is some trial and error,’ Malachy notes. ‘A prize-winning mare and stallion will not always produce a winner.’ Considering the breed’s traits and demeanour, Malachy studies the bloodlines of a stallion and carefully chooses a mare that he senses will be a good fit for the best appearance in their offspring. Then the trial-and-error phase begins: ‘You really never know what is going to work. We’re not in it for the money—if we were, we would just be cranking out foals and it wouldn’t be good for the horse. They aren’t machines.’ Protecting and honouring the Connemara pony breed is in the Gorham blood.
Malachy’s eldest child, Maria, has also developed a love for the ponies. Like her father, she adores the foaling season, as new life brings hope, renewed commitment, and endless possibility. She also enjoys riding and showing in competitions, but she especially loves figuring out what the horses are naturally good at and then working with them to enhance those traits. With expertise and poise beyond her years, Maria confidently moves around two of the family’s mares, who seem to respect her presence. She is quickly absorbing the knowledge and wisdom imparted by her father and grandfather as well.
The ponies of Glenbricken Farm are known as Kingstown Connemara Ponies, and Malachy has travelled throughout the UK, Europe, America, and Australia representing his Kingstown line. With the Kingstown family growing worldwide, he has friends all over and believes this camaraderie is ‘one of the best parts of the pony community.’ The Kingstown ponies have gone on to be very successful for other owners, who in turn promote the name.
With a great pony bloodline, a wealth of knowledge, careful planning, and a bit of luck, Malachy has set his ponies apart, and he realizes that people come to him to get the authentic Connemara ponies. ‘I’m happy when I see a pony I’ve sold go off and win. That gives me a sense of pride to see our work paying off for someone else,’ he says. ‘I do travel a bit to judge and give seminars on Connemara ponies. Recently at a competition, someone remarked, “You have the most marketable item in the equine world right now.” I really do believe there is no better animal. We all have a natural love of the horses. They have become part of the family.’
‘And they get Christmas cake, too!’ Maria chimes in.