ireland on horseback
Ireland on Horseback and their Horseback Vacation in Ireland
by Suzy Graham
My two horse-owning sisters and I had always been intrigued by those ads in the horse magazines for equestrian vacations. Finally having come to the conclusion that life is too short to postpone those activities one really wants to experience, we booked a week in Ireland with Cross Country International. Our three non-horsey husbands politely declined our invitations to come along, so off we flew for our adventure in the south western corner of County Kerry.
Based on pre-trip questionnaires as to size and riding ability, we were matched up with a horse and a group of ten riders and tow guides for a week. Our first glimpse of our horses was a bit disconcerting. From a huge truck that held twenty-one tracked –up horses, by the side of a road in the pouring rain, came out twelve steeds.
At first glance, most of these horses were far from what I would call beautiful. Many were large Irish draft cross-breads, shaggy fetlocks and all. While I was not impressed by their looks, my initial misgivings quickly changed to great admiration for the animals. These tough will cared for horses knew their job and did it well. They were in top condition and carried us four hours a day at a fairly fast pace over every type of terrain imaginable. They routinely performed tasks you and I would never ask our horses here to do; for example, several times a day there were fifteen minute trots (I timed them) over paved country roads. And throughout the day our guides piping Irish voice would cheerily call out for us to secure our belongings for “a little canter” – and off we would go-over rocks and through mud and enormous puddles, at a pace we would call a gallop! The Large, well-shod feet of these sure-footed horses served them well and I observed no stumbles or slips. Two mornings were spent on wide ocean beaches and the many full-out gallops were experienced on the hard-packed sand and into the surf were exhilarating and thrilling, to say the least. The horses seemed to enjoy this as much as we did, and did not sweat or even breathe hard from the exertion.
Both horses and riders were will maintained but not pampered. A typical day would start, after a hearty breakfast, at 10.30a.m. when our horses were presented to us, ready to go. Then we would ride as a group for two hours, stop for a picnic lunch and ride on for another two hours. There were no rest stops, other than Kodak moments. Our horses were taken away from us in the late afternoon and we were transported to our bed and breakfast. We then had the evening free to explore the nearby town. Two of the towns were small seaside resorts but three nights were spent in Killarney, a tourist heaven of shopping, restaurants and pubs with traditional Irish music.
Our riding group, besides us three sisters consisted of four other Americans-two girls just graduated from college and a couple from Connecticut. In addition, there was a couple from Germany, a young man from Holland and our two charming Irish guides. All the guests were experienced horse people, and we enjoyed getting to know them and their mounts.
Nothing is perfect, right? If there was a downside to this trip, it was the weather. We had expected some precipitation, but even the guides were a bit taken aback when it rained steadily for three of the six riding days! However, it was not cold (60-65 degrees) and we all had water-proof clothing that kept us comfortable. Ireland is such a beautiful country? The rural and seascape vistas we were treated to daily were spectacular, whether viewed through blowing mist, a downpour or brilliant sunshine.
Would we do it again? Absolutely. It was the perfect vacation for the avid trail rider who wants to experience a foreign country while doing what she loves best.