next riding adventure took place in Ireland’s wild west,
the rugged seacoast dubbed “the most Irish part of Ireland”.
Donie O’Sullivan, the garrulous owner of Killarney
Riding Stables, offers a variety of inn-to-inn rides that
last up to six days.
I opted for a day ride along the Ring of Kerry’s
seductive sea. O’Sullivan
expertly selected a horse to fit each of the six riders.
He put a short, inexperienced rider onto a calm
Connemara pony and handed me the reins of
powerful Irish draught.
horses have a long history.
Spanish Arab horses that escaped from shipwrecked
Armada vessels off the Irish coast intermingled with the
original Irish stock, producing the draught, a taller,
faster, and more elegant breed.
placid, big-boned, athletic horses earned their name by
pulling draught beer wagon in the 18th. century.
Before World War II, there were about half a million
of them. With
mechanisation, the horses were not longer needed by farmers,
so they were bred with Thoroughbreds to form Irish hunters.
World War II, older mares were shipped to war-ravaged
France and Belgium for human consumption.
Today, only 836 registered pure-blood Irish draught
mares and 99 stallions exist in the world, according to
the Irish Horse Board.
one draught stallion lives in the United States (its owner,
Jim McGinty of Houston, sells vials of its semen for $1000
and guarantees a live foal birth).
There are only three draught mares in the United
States, one of which is owned by Martha Dupont, of Dupont
Fortunately, the Irish government is now attempting
to save the breed.
our day trip with O’Sullivan, we trotted down country
lanes in the picturesque fishing village of Waterville
(pop.440), where life still unfolds at a gentle pace.
This was the setting for Ryans Daughter, and O’Sullivan
and some of his horses were extras in the film.
we arrived on a deserted beach, Pepsi went at a full gallop.
the backdrop was dramatic: Seagulls dive-bombed
the gray waves of the Atlantic, which pounded relentlessly.
With a little encouragement, Pepsi surged ahead
of the other horses to race through the crashing waves.
It was a wild ride.
Killarney Riding Stables,