horse and pony
Horse & Pony report on their Horse Vacation in Ireland
When my friend, Sue Kahne said she and her husband, Wally, were going on a riding vacation through Ireland, my husband Joe Faso and I asked if we could tag along.
Our flight to Ireland went without a hitch. After a delay at Shannon Airport, we were driven the 83 miles to O’Sullivan’s Killarney Riding Stable. We met our host and hostess Doni and Noreen O’Sullivan. They went out of their way to make our stay a pleasant one. We had a terrible case of jet lag and spent Sunday walking the grounds in a zombie-like state. We did notice that the barns are concrete inside and out. Although the horses stand on concrete, Doni says they don’t have leg problems. The horses are fed ‘nuts’ (pellets). When a horse gets back from a week long trip, he’s rested on pasture. They are shod every week as they ride on narrow paved roads and rocky paths. They don’t have leg problems. Their farrier is a “silver medalist.” He and his brother studied under their father who was a Master Farrier. Our English saddles were custom made for each horse by a craftsman in Limerick. Extremely comfortable, they put them on the horses without a pad
Monday found us refreshed and ready to meet our horses. Wally got a 12 year old, large, flea-bitten gray draft horse called “Sheba.” Hoe’s horse was a small bay called 2Folly”. Sue’s light Irish draft horse, “Fox” was a sorrel. He was 20 years old, but the sweetest, most energetic horse in the bunch. Mine was, also, a flea-bitten gray draft horse named “Misty”. She liked to plow right ahead and put her ears back if the other horses didn’t agree. We met our guide, Les Little, an extremely nice and personable man. For 28 years he was a steeplechase jockey, and won 128 of his races. It’s a rough life, but he loved it.
Our three hour ride took us through Killarney National Park. Many of the trees are similar to ours and we were surprised to see bird’s nest ferns growing wild. The beautiful copper beech tree has a leaf that is copper coloured in the sun and green out of it. We rode by Ross Castle that was destroyed by Cromwell in his purge through this country. It is being rebuilt to hold medieval banquets. We passed a thatched roofed cottage used in the movie Ryan’s Daughter. We saw MacGillycuddy’s Reeks (a mountain range), lakes, forests, ruins of abbeys and a lovely waterfall. The people along the way were friendly with beautiful rosy cheeks and nice smiles. We were able to walk, trot and canter in this beautiful park.
Tuesday we picked up our horses that had been trucked to Killorglin. We rode from Killorglin through the Devil’s Elbow with views of Lake Caragh and across the Windy Gap Trail. The only rain on our trip was a brief downpour on the Windy Gap Trail. Farms with sheep and dairy cattle dotted the trails. We stopped for lunch at about 2 o’clock. Lunch consisted of two sandwiches with a single very thin slice of meat, one apple, a scone and a can of soda pop. After lunch, we continued our climb up the Windy Gap Trail. Sheep scurried out of our way as we finally reached the top. We had a magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean and the patchwork quilt fields that surrounded it. As we came down the hill toward Glenbeigh, we could see the fields were separated by the stone walls Ireland is famous for. We stayed at the hundred year old Falcon Inn. It has a labyrinth of rooms with bathrooms across the hall. For dinner Sue and I had poached salmon, Wally a steak, and Joe a pork cutlet.
Wednesday morning Sue exchanged horses with Les, our guide. It seems Fox loves the beach and gets a little rambunctious. Guinness, a large black and white draft horse who formerly pulled a gypsy’s cart, was very laid back. Prancing all the way to Rossbeigh Beach, Fox went flat out for the next two miles. Misty tried to keep up with him, but he was two fast for her. Joe followed on Folly, then Wally on Sheba. Sue’s horse cantered at such a lovely pace she sat back and enjoyed the scenery. I just held on till we stopped. After the beach, we headed for the bogs. We walked our horses through, as one false step and you’re stuck. We had lunch at beautiful Coomasaharn Lake surrounded by Horseshoe Mountain. After lunch, we trekked back to Glenbeigh for our last night at the Falcon Inn. Just a note here to say we were all waiting for Wally to complain he was sore as he doesn’t ride much. He didn’t. I did. My legs felt like they were going to fall off. We averaged 20 miles a day and post-trotted for long stretches at a time.
Thursday our ride took us back up the mountain through Windy Gap to Glencar. What is amazing is the stamina of the horses. They trot up and down the mountains and never seem to tire. We were surrounded by the ring of Kerry with its mountains and lakes. The scenery was constantly changing. We stayed at the 200 year old “Glencar House”. It is famous for trout and salmon fishing. People come from all over the world to try for the big one. The inn reminded me of the inns used in the old murder mysteries.
Friday we sadly left the lovely old inn and headed through the Ballaghasheen Pass. Our destination was Waterville 24 miles away. We passed virgin bogs and 15 year old pine forests. Flowers grow wild all over. We way buttercups, fuscia, heather, wild cotton plants (very small used for weaving), foxglove, St. Patrick’s cabbage, etc. In Waterville, we stayed at the “Strand Hotel”. Its one of two hotels owned by Mick O’Dwyer, a famous football player. The hotel overlooks Ballinskellig’s Bay. Saturday, Sue and I traded horses for a gallop on Waterville Beach. This time I had the lovely canter on guinness, and she tore ahead on Misty. From the beach we headed toward Hogg’s Head. On the way we saw the rock the Druids left and enjoyed the rocky coastline. We stopped at the point closest to New York for our final lunch. Then, sadly, headed back to Waterville. Our journey was over, but along the way we had met very friendly people. We would never forget their hospitality to four strangers from America.