The "Real" Ireland

My 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 "Pepsi",  a powerful Irish draught.

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.

These 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.

After 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.

Only 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 family fame.   Fortunately, the Irish government is now attempting to save the breed.

During 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.

When 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,
Co. Kerry,

Telephone: 00353 64 66 31686
Fax: 00353 64 66 34119

From USA:
Telephone: 011 353 64 66 31686
Fax: 011 353 64 66 34119


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