Trip Hangover.

I think trip hangovers just get worse with age, just like regular hangovers. Why can’t it be the opposite? Like wine and beauty?

This time, the trip hangover lasted about a good week and it felt like it took me almost a solid two weeks to get to feeling like my regular self and back in the groove, but truthfully I did/do not have time to wallow in a trip hangover even if it was obviously and absolutely worth it.

I have of course been back to riding my big boy, as per usual. He had a little two week break with my traveling which is good for him.

We ride all summer and all year, so periodic breaks are good for his mind and body. Besides the fact that I would do it anyway, riding through the summer is important around here unless you have your own covered arena…which I do not. Most people seem to take the heat of the summer (which has been about three months worth this year) off of riding in addition to winter, but you never know when in the winter or more desirable temperature months you will not be able to ride because of rain and mud. We really generally only have two seasons, summer and winter. The other two seasons kind of only pass through. Keeping a higher level of baseline fitness for them (AND you) is better and easier and SAFER to me than having to hurry up and get one legged up two different times of year in a hurry before it gets two cold/wet or too hot.

THE POINT IS (don’t worry, you did not miss anything), news flash, Lito is the best boy and acted like he did not even have a break.

Last weekend I was in Dallas for my niece/Goddaughter’s baptism.

We have been busy this year and it is not over yet! We still have a couple exciting things coming up.

Long time readers know we go on a big adventure every October and this year is no different. We will head to the hill country in about three weeks (actually, less than!) and the count down has begun in earnest. No rest for the weary, as they say, but hey, we can rest when we are in the nursing home, right?! We have good reason to hit the fitness grindstone. More riding equals a happy Avery and Lito, so it is no hardship to be sure.

Then in November, I will be headed to New Mexico for a long weekend with good friends to visit another good friend. You will hear more about this later.

The even more good news is that we have had a bit of a shift in the weather. Knock on wood, but I think we are finished with triple digit temperatures for the year. Hopefully. It was beginning to feel like it would never happen and we were going to be stuck in a perpetual August. That is really how it feels. Like it is never going to change, even though your brain knows better. We still have highs in the nineties, but we are trending in the fall direction. I can feel it.

AND, we got some rain. At least and inch and a half. I will pause here for you to do a happy dance on my behalf. Then I will do one for you, just give me a reason to! You can count on me, dear readers!

We still need quite a bit more rain for the grass, the pond, and to start to bring down the drought deficit, but we will take any we can get. Lito and I rode the pastures Monday morning after checking the cows and calves and I can see some grass growth and some greening up. There was still barely any standing water and there are still a few cracks in the ground, but again, we are trending in the right direction.

The rain and the ticking down of temperatures really put me in good spirits after Ireland. As if the trip of a lifetime was not enough! I treated myself to a pumpkin spice late while I did some grocery shopping AND I made pumpkin bread. Ya, you heard me. We are all in the ‘ber months and fall is HERE. Get with it and get ready! It is time for baking and the season!

Tell me, have you started to celebrate fall? Have you decorated yet? Pulled out your sweaters? Indulged in anything pumpkin? Baked anything???

Walk in love, dear readers!

Ireland, The Best Part.

I know what you are probably thinking.

That we are not even half way through the trip story and this is the last installment. Also, why can’t you put a week long trip into one post?! Just pick the highlights and move on!

OK, fine, maybe you are not thinking that, but I am.

That is part of my point. How does one pick their favorite part of something like this? How do you accurately describe it?!

But who cares, let us get to the good stuff. Buckle up and have a whole pot ready.

Even if I feel like my pictures do not do the countryside justice, this is where the views really kick it up a notch. For me, this is true especially on Wednesday and Thursday. Not to discount Friday though, just wait till you see. This is also my favorite part of the trip because Wednesday and Thursday night we stayed in two different villages in B&Bs and hotels. Staying in any village means one very important thing: PUBS. Pubs mean sessions. MUSIC! We may have only had two nights, but we had to make them count. Thursday night really did not disappoint! We also raced to see the Cliffs of Moher up close and personal right before sundown, so there is that too!

So…

Here we are packed and ready on Wednesday morning, ready to throw our bags in the van and drive to the horses.

The field the horses were in for the night was somewhat split level. Naturally, they were all at the top. We looked at each other and started to climb the hill. I am not sure if these pictures really show the level of incline or size, but we were all winded by the time we got to the top.

The horses did seem to enjoy watching us climb the hill. They know what they are about. Just look at them.

Like I said, they know what they are about. After I grabbed Bulmers, I turned around and saw.

Only a horse such as Bulmers could add to a view like that.

It is like he has a sense of humor or something.

It is like a post card.

So this was one of my favorite days. The views were spectacular before we even started riding and we got to ride in some of the more open country off the roads with no power lines. It was really special to see after we climbed the hill the junction of the forest, the heather, and the green fields.

I am not sure if you can really see it, but where you can see the purple flowers is a little creek/drainage/riparian area. This farmer had it electric fenced off to prevent damage by the cows.

Electric fencing us used primarily everywhere we went in conjunction with the walls and hedges. Interestingly, we also saw quite a bit of barbed wire which was a surprise to me. Four pronged and most of it looking new.

Before this trip, I did not realize the nature of the hills here. I thought gentle rolling hills. While they do look like that maybe from a far or in pictures, the hills are quite steep.

Should I mention again how much I love the heather? No? OK.

The reward at the top of the hill!

This is my favorite moment of the trip. I think Bulmers quite liked it too.

I thought this is was a cool little shot at the top of the hill. While in the wild and free heather, you can see the dark green forest there with the old and new timber and the stark contrast of the soft, light green field.

This country side here to me you really can not capture in photographs.

One more for good measure because you can not get enough!

Some cute horses we met on the road.

A farmer baling haylage or silage.

After a long and great ride, the horses were loaded up in a lorry to take them across some more populated areas to their field for the night. We would meet them there the next morning on Thursday.

A big lorry for big horses. The nice driver Declan said to me, “You only have to say goodbye until tomorrow. Not long.” Did I have hearts in my eyes or what?

Our drive into town was interrupted by the diary cows by the looks of it going to be milked.

We were dropped at our B&B’s in Corofin (I think that is where we were, don’t judge me. We were moving a lot!) and basically ran to a pub. We only had so much time and we needed to make the most of it!

We found this charming place which looked to be the best around! Also almost the only around, but it was only Wednesday and the village was quite small.

I found it interesting the Coors was on draft everywhere. No, I did not have any, I stuck to Irish. I should have asked the bar tender what it is about Coors that is so popular. Alas, I will just have to go back.

I enjoyed my first ever glass of Guinness. It was worth the wait. I liked it a lot more than I though I would. I did not have three by the way. I had two. Not that anybody should be counting when on vacation in Ireland anyway. I also moved to Irish whiskey later…so…there.

Spot the pup in the pub! We moved to another pub called the Yellow Submarine where we would actually be having dinner. They opened up just for us. It was arranged again for us to have a three course dinner there. I had a salad which was good, but I should have gotten the veggie soup, it was really good. I had a ham and tomato toastie with chips (and vinegar!) for the main. Basically a grilled ham and cheese with tomatoes. They had a choice of apple or rhubarb pie for dessert. As a group we all decided to share so we could all taste both. They were both amazing (I need to learn some new words), but I think the rhubarb was particularly wonderful. The crust was perfect and one of the best I have ever had.

After dinner we went back to the first pub for music and drinks.

We walked back to the B&B and hit the hay to do it all again tomorrow! Our group was split into two B&B’s. I can not remember the name of the place we stayed at, but it was really nice. The rest of the group stayed at Lakefield Lodge which was reportedly also lovely.

The next morning our breakfast table was set very nice and we even had the treat of French press coffee. I am a sucker for French press! After a nice visit with the owner, we drove out to the field to meet the horses.

The morning started out stunning and blue, but got rather Irish and rainy pretty quickly!

There is only one other kind of rain that is more pretty. You guessed, Texas rain, especially after you have not had any for a while, but this sure is pretty! Especially with Bulmers’ ears in it. I finally brought along an extra hair tie, so he got a braid to last the day. I stuck some fern leaves in it to dress him up for the day and set out with the goal to build a bouquet in his braid through the day. You all know by know I am just a horse girl kid at heart. The adulting of the world has not beat it out of me yet.

We were riding through the Burren landscape this day through to the coast on Friday.

After riding for a while, we stopped to explore a cool Celtic ring fort!

I am sure you’re not surprised by now to know that I was clearly the photographer of the group. I do not like to generally share pictures of other people for protection and privacy reasons, but it is hard to see details in this picture for the landscape.

It was a very dynamic weather day. It rained enough to soak through my breaches, but the sun was still there to play.

Bulmers’ bouquet growing! One of the other horses kept trying to eat it! The horses there eat mostly everything around. From grass, to flowers, to hedges. There is not much they do not touch. Apparently there are no poisonous plants in Ireland. In Texas, we have not only poisonous plants, but sticky and pokey plants that practically jump out to bite you!

The peat is everywhere! I do not think we got to enjoy a peat fire once though.

It was fascinating to watch the landscape change as we trekked west.

Before we knew it, the sun full on with blue sky and we could see the blue Atlantic!

Like I said, colors. This was only a taste of what was to come tomorrow on our final day.

On this night we stayed in the village of Lisdoonvarna. We were again split between the Bellview B&B and the Rathbaun Hotel. Dinner and Breakfast for us all would be at the Rathbaun.

We did the same thing of drop and run to a pub. This is a cute village that has a bit more going on that where we were the previous night. We were also missing, by a day, the famous match making festival that happens annually here. It is apparently quite a ‘scene.’

We walked around for a few minutes to take it all in before heading to the pub in The Ritz for a drink.

We had dinner at our usual time of 7 at the hotel, another three course meal with many options to choose from. There was no lack of food for us! I had the veggie soup for my appetizer. For my main I had the traditional lamb stew. I wish I could have this all the time or at least taken the leftovers! Ice cream for dessert with some sort of chocolate fudge sauce was the perfect ending to the food portion of the meal. We had to get a move on from the table if we wanted to catch the Cliffs of Moher before sunset! We took our Irish coffees (not as good as the ones on the farm!) to-go as we hopped in the taxi van to head to the Cliffs.

When we arrived at the Cliffs, we decided to divide and conquer. Half of us went right, and half of us went left. I went with the left group. It was nice and quiet. No other people there and light winds.

We had the taxi driver John drop us at the best pub in town. He knew what he was about.

We started with four playing and singing and ended the night with six. It felt like all the stories you hear about what Irish pubs are like. This was obviously my favorite evening of the trip.

I went for the good stuff and had a good conversation with the bar tenderess.

I could have stayed there for hours. Just tucked into the corner with the stayers of our group. Listening to music and lilted conversation. Conversing with the locals and hearing stories. One day, I will be back for more horses, pubs, and people, but not everything lasts forever and we had one last full day of riding to rest up for!

Friday morning brought us another good meal at the hotel for breakfast before we made our way to the horses for one final time.

Another day and another adorned braid for Bulmers! His flower is what they call a butterfly bush. Beautiful color and an even better fragrance. I should have saved my butterfly shirt to wear on this day!

We stopped to explore this chapel ruin and grave yard. While I enjoyed being up close to it, it felt wrong when I was inside. Like I was invading someone’s privacy.

It was very beautify though.

And the horses really were a compliment to the scenery. Which I do not think will surprise anyone.

We also saw a lot of happy cows everywhere we went.

The clouds really cleared for us to show off the blue sky, green grass, and wildflowers when we started to climb some hills on our way to the coast. Yes, hills, plural. Two very large hills that by the end felt like mountains.

This was the first reward for the first climb. We dismounted and led the horses down a steep gravel road to have lunch in the valley.

After lunch, we then led the horses up another very steep hill with smooth, slick, old rocks. It does not show, but we did some serious hike climbing. At some point during our climb, I was doing quite a bit of thinking about my paddock boots. We were all pretty winded by the time we made it to the top.

BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!

This was at the very top and look at the flowers. I mean the picture does not show anything like what it looked like in person. Nicola the owner and one of the guides we had part of the week even exclaimed at the particularly special and unique beauty.

The Cliffs of Moher are there off in the distance.

For such a small island, it sure is big!

After a spectacular final day of riding, the horses were again loaded on the lorry and taken back to their starting field for a well deserved week of rest.

We had a long quiet drive back to the farm that evening.

I know for me, I was feeling very grateful. Grateful to be blessed with this trip and to experience a beautiful culture. Grateful for time with friends and the people we met. Grateful for the horse I got to ride and who took such good care of me and for being able to spend so many hours in the saddle. We rode a solid five and a half active days with almost half of it trotting and cantering.

I was also grateful to be heading back to a home a love and to be coming home to my own animals that I love.

This whole trip was an amazing experience. Every horse you ride has something to teach you and Bulmers was no different. As a lifelong and frequent rider, I would not consider myself to have low confidence or registerable fear. It is however a nature of the game to have some level of healthy fear. They are horses after all and even professionals have some level of fear and anxiety. All of that said, I found Bulmers a lovely confidence builder that I did not know I was needing. It was surprising to me. He reminded me to ride the horse you have. I was not even feeling scared, but before I even put a foot in the stirrup he almost grabbed my hand and said, “I got you, let’s go have some fun.” You can call me crazy, but long time readers know by now I am into the woo of life. That is where the carry descriptor for Bulmers came from. He carried me I felt like. He was so naturally uphill feeling when he moved, it felt very literal.

The whole week was a truly special experience.

I was sad to say goodbye to Bulmers, but I was also happy to be coming home to mine. I will carry Bulers and his feeling with me.

Dinner that night was late, but it was still festive. Sweet potato sliders for the appetizer, coconut chicken for the main, and brownies for dessert. Really good brownies! We had an after dinner champaign toast of thanks and gratitude with the owners and staff.

We stayed up late and packed late. We would have an early and long day on Saturday beginning with an 8 AM departure to make our way back to the airport.

Thankfully our travel was safe and event free. I got home in time to have a hot bath before jumping in bed. I think I was asleep by 11 PM and I slept all the way through to about 6:15 AM Sunday morning Texas time.

I was feeling pretty good! I figured I had escaped any jet lag.

That is what I get for thinking! It hit me hard by Sunday afternoon and the hangover lasted almost week! The good news was, I was at the farm by Sunday midday and would pick up my Merley Bob on Tuesday morning (thanks the Labor Day).

I hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride on my trip to Ireland! Thank you for letting me share this all with you. Sharing this with others is almost as good as going for me. Not everybody can go and do this for any number of reasons. Just another reason I feel grateful.

Walk in love, dear readers! Where should we go next?!

Ireland, Trekking West.

This day, Monday, was the ‘real’ start of our trek west. We arrived on Saturday mid-day and then had a half day ride in the morning to the farm from the starting field on Sunday.

We have all met our horses and are settled in the routine. Since the horses spent Sunday night at the farm, we did not have to drive to meet them at a field. After a quick groom and a tack up (I managed to start a braid in Bulmers’ mane), we struck out for the day.

From here on out, each night until Friday, the horses would stay in a new field where we stopped each day for the nights. For the next two nights, we were driven to the farm to have dinner and sleep and all our lunches were on the trail.

We began in part of the magical forest around the farm we did not explore on foot.

I think I already mentioned how cool I think ferns are, but moss on rocks is also really cool! It is really soft too,

When we left the trees we came again to an open area with the heather. Most of the riding is on some kind of road, weather it is asphalt like this or just a well based two track road. The ground is so wet and rocky, striking out across the country side is not the best option in most cases. I believe it was right before we got to this open area that we did cross through a boggy area with a creek. I was very impressed with how the horses just methodically picked their way through the muck and the rocks. Some of the vegetation there was as tall as we were!

As you can see, we had lovely weather as well. I know I am going to sound like a loony broken record, but the heather is so pretty. If you ever go in person, you will be able to see for yourself. Pictures just do not grab it. Pretty good visibility here though, right!?

I thought this area was very pretty.

Bulmers very much liked to be at the front. He was not bad anywhere else in the group, but in the front his ears were always forward and he walked with a little more…zest.

I also found the power lines to be interesting. Not them themselves, but the fact that they are almost everywhere. I tried to take photos that cut them out, but it was almost impossible unless that was all I was doing. I guess it is a combination of the ground being so wet that they don’t have underground lines, everything being so close, and that we were mostly riding the roads. Here in Texas we do have some underground lines and some more spread out, open spaces where you can not see any lines for miles.

We stopped for lunch by this cute and well built ruin. You could see other evidences of civilization surrounding this structure.

I really wanted to go down this little used two track, but that was not the way we were going. You can tell by Bulmers’ ears!

More peat drying!

Upon returning to the farm, we cracked open a new beer to celebrate a great ride! All those Nora Roberts books based in Ireland sure gave me a lot of drink inspiration! I will say, there is something about having beers where they are made. They are better. We had some people in our group that did not really care for beer in general. They tried these local beers and really liked them. I was holding out to try a Guinness in a pub on draft.

The sun room in the farm house is really special. We always hung out in there if we were not outside. Especially for our early morning coffee and our after ride beers. It is surrounded on three whole sides by windows. It was magical to sit in there with the light Irish, glittering rain falling from the sky.

For dinner on this night, we had salmon in parchment with potatoes and peas for the main. I did not think I cared much for salmon in general, but I suppose that is not the case! I loved this. It was so, so good. I do not remember what we had for appetizer, but for dessert we had homemade buttermilk pie.

The following morning (Tuesday), we were again driven out to horses after breakfast.

A few of the horses were visited by the farrier, including Bulmers. He got a new set of fronts to get us through the rest of the week. They have a standing visit from the farrier every Saturday and Wednesday. Some needed to be seen before Wednesday, so he came on Tuesday morning before we rode out for the day. As you can see, Bulmers got done up with a handsome braid for the day. His forelock is done as well. At some point, I remember to bring an extra hair tie. This day was not that day however.

This day the riding and views really start to get good and just continue to get better. I think Wednesday and Thursday were my favorites, but Tuesday was great too. I will probably start contradicting myself soon.

Bulmers was a perfect gentleman for his pedicure. I offered to hold him, but Bertie insisted he do it. The owners really do love and care for all their horses and it shows. They payed special attention to every detail. I actually missed a very special moment with my camera between Bertie and Bulmers when they were head to head and Berite was talking to him.

We rode through so many of these pretty trees.

Bulmers having a little snack by this sunken road and looking handsome by the heather.

We stopped here by this ruin to have a little history lesson on the potato famine and the work houses.

If you read and look at nothing else, watch this video to enjoy a canter with Bulmers. I took many videos, but this is the best one. Fingers crossed my next post does not break wordpress with the media size!

Stone and hedge lined fields every where you look.

We stopped for lunch along this very scenic road.

Just the cutest waiting for his lunch grain.

I told you the moss is cool!

Blinding green views for lunch anyone?

Mares and foals enjoying field life.

After lunch we passed this cool house that had two barking orange and white English Setters inside and a barn in the back!

We were making our way to Lough Graney where we will need to cross the lake.

Pretty much every horse wanted to lay down in the sand before we got to the water!

Tuesday afternoon really felt like we were riding to the ambiance of Ireland.

Just look at the fuchsia! I mentioned all the flowers before, but there are also many berries everywhere. Lots of black, blue, and red berries in the hedges.

Don’t you just want to have a canter around that field?!

The only memory I had of this night’s dinner was that we had bruschetta for the appetizer, made on the homemade brown soda bread. This was of course pretty good. I think the main was a different kind of pork than we had the first night. I have good reason for maybe not remembering what was served because on this night we had to get our bags packed. The next two nights, we were staying in villages!

Walk in love, dear readers! There is one Ireland installment left (hopefully) and you will not want to miss those views!

Ireland, Meeting Bulmers.

You can take the horse girl out of Texas, but you can not take the Texas out of her, even with a time change.

Between the general excitement of the trip, excitement over meeting my horse for the week, and being the Texan that I am (i.e. early riser to beat the heat and a morning person to boot with a deep seated need to be early on time), I was almost twiddling my thumbs waiting for breakfast, fully dressed and hopped up coffee. Breakfast was any of what you wanted of coffee, tea, orange juice, yogurt, cereal and granola, fruit, and a traditional Irish breakfast of fresh brown soda bread, bacon (ham), eggs, tomato, and mushroom. A few days we also had a choice of sausage, black pudding, and beans.

Breakfast was served at 8:30 and meeting/departure time was 9:30 I think every morning. It seems so long ago now that I am back home and recovered from major trip hangover. The trip hangover was great indeed.

The good news is, pretty much the whole group was ready to go and chomping at the bit before 9:30, so at least I was not alone! We apparently became known as that American group that is always early. I will take that. We were all waiting at the meeting point for the van to take us out to the field to meet the horses.

Most of us went out to help catch up the ones needed for the week. This cute bay was super sweet and really wanted to be called on. She followed us all the way up to the gate. I secretly wanted to ride her!

BUT, I was assigned to Bulmers! This handsome Gypsy Vanner gelding here. He was named after the Irish cider. Long story short, he was THE BEST. Just amazing. In my humble opinion, he was the best of all the horses that week. I think a couple of my friends would say that about the horses that they got to ride too.

Bulmers was kind, gentle, smart, and a nice mover. It was not work to ride him from walking to galloping. The carrying sort (not to be confused with a packer). He politely carried me along all week and I will say I was sad to say goodbye to him. Don’t tell my horses that! He was just a really good boy that knew he was loved and cared for and knew his job well. All the horses there did. It was really lovely to see. And they all get to live out like horses should. I really enjoyed speaking with Nicola, one of the owners (she was also one of our guides for part of the time) about the agriculture industry in Ireland and in particular horse keeping.

Bulmers greeted me every day with pricked ears and happy for a little loving. Not too much though! He did not fancy much cuddles! He humored me though and allowed me to pamper him as much as I could. And after I dismounted for the day, he was the same way.

As you can see, this first morning was a bit of a rainy one. After grooming them as best we could we had to scrape the water from their coats before saddling up and heading out. I really wanted to give Bulmers a good scrub and use all my grooming tools and products, but a curry comb and one brush would have to do.

Our first ‘between the ears’ shot of the week! Bulbers has very nice ears. He was having a little snack while we waited for everyone to mount up. Get ready for many BTE shots!

This first ride was just a half day ride to get to know the horses and for the guides to get to know us. On this half day ride, we were going to be riding from the field to the farm where the horses and ourselves would stay the night.

Our guide was named Luna and she was riding a Connemara/Appaloosa cross mare. Our group rode primarily Gypsys, but there was one Connemara and one Irish Draft cross as well.

This country/island is so verdant. It makes me wonder what it would look like if it was wild and without civilization. The places my brain goes to?! If you look up the road there at what Bulmers is looking at, you will see an escaped cow going for a stroll. She gave us all wide eyes like we were out of place when we passed her.

As wet as it is, and I think we were told that this is a particularly dry year, it is a bit of a wonder to me how agriculture works here. It just seems so different than how we do things. Every environment has its challenges though. I am sure they would wonder about us and the heat in Texas alone! It is amazing to me how we adapt to so many different climates and environments.

The visibility on this day was clearly very low, but the eye can see much more and better than any picture could.

There were a couple loose horses in this large field that wanted to play while we made our way up to the dolmen to have a closer look.

Just a mystified dolmen. No big deal.

The first of many peat bogs we rode past. Unfortunately, we did not see any of the actual cutting of the peat which would have been cool. Everywhere we rode smelled of either haylage/silage and peat.

As it started to clear a bit, you can really see the heather start to shine and the water of the Lough Derg/Shannon in the distance.

I was very fascinated with the timber here and the industry. We rode through so many big and beautiful trees. The size of them is a wonder to me given the top soil, winds, and how easily they fall.

It really turned out to be a beautiful day!

We arrived back at the farm around lunch time. We fed the horses their well deserved grain after untacking and Bulmers made sure I knew what was going on before we were even told just by the look on his face.

He was very grateful.

We all went inside and enjoyed a fireside lunch of fresh bread (fresh bread and butter was at every meal), cheese, salad, soup, and pound cake while the sun was shining and glittering outside. Everything seems to stay so wet that it glitters.

Naturally, after we ate, some of us had some more hanging and walking around the farm. It was made extra special by some of the horses, Bulmers included, being turned out right next to the house. The rest were in the arena by the barns.

He was a friendly dude!

My afternoon drink to try something new!

Cujo showing us this very big and old well.

It goes pretty far down there! I neglected to get a picture of the opposite fourth, far outside (where there is no rail), but under the growth is solid rock wall. I love ferns even more than I did before.

The start of what we named the fairy trail.

Of course we had to walk through! You tell me there are not fairies in there!

Are not those uprooted trees pretty spectacular!?

Dinner was another lovely three course meal, again by candlelight. We began with a smoked salmon puff (that I actually ate most of. I do not care for smoked salmon generally). I will be honest, I do not remember what was for the main. I know there were roasted potato wedges and veggies. This is not to say it was not good or forgettable. It absolutely was not, all the food was good. For dessert we had a fabulous blueberry cheesecake. I always laugh when people describe cheesecake of any kind as light. It is decidedly not light, but I suppose that is just my opinion. However, this particular cheesecake was light! It had a lovely crust that was the perfect thickness and texture and the filling was velvety smooth and felt very light! I think this was due to the use of yogurt to cut the cream cheese. It made me feel like a kid again eating blueberry yogurt (a large part of my kid diet), but in a grown up way. Hard to describe, but the point is, the cheesecake was amazing. I ate mine and part of somebody else’s. You only live once and you do not eat cheesecake in Ireland every day, OK?! We also had Irish coffee to finish everything off. This became a theme for the week. These were literally the best Irish coffees I have ever had. I think this was because of the coffee. I might have to order some online, but a quick amazon search is not looking overly promising.

They had this cool paining of the general ride route beginning in the Whitegate area by the Lough Derg of the river Shannon through the large and dense forests, stone wall lined fields, stunning Burren, and ending in Lisdoonvarna by the Cliffs of Moher and the Atlantic.

The adventure would really start the next morning and we were all ready. Five more whole days of riding!

Stay tuned for the next two installments of this epic riding adventure through western Ireland!

Walk in love, dear readers!

Ireland, The Arrival.

A place that goes by many names. Some you know, some you do not.

I am not going to go down the rabbit hole I almost just went down on all the names Ireland is or has been known by. That was a close one. We are all safe though.

I will however share a name by which it is now known to me.


‘The Place Where The Term, “Photos Do Not Do It Justice,” Was Coined.’


Good, no?! OK, fine, we will work on it, but here is why I think this. I think this is also where I might finally break WordPress’ photo capacity. Just blow it up. Wish us luck, I have many, many pictures. This whirlwind trip will be broken up into a few posts letters. The point is, dear readers, I was disappointed in most all of my photos! Now, I can anticipate y’all telling me I am full of IT. However, if you could have seen it all with your own eyes and felt it all with all your known and unknown feelings, you would feel the same. I would look at my pictures at the end of the day and just wonder what exactly it was I saw with my own eyes. It was more…everything! The pictures simply do not do the place any kind of justice.

My trip I suppose technically began two Thursdays ago. I was fully packed on Wednesday and my house was about one hundred percent clean by that point. I may have stayed up super late one night (like 1 AM), fueled by anticipation and super strong coffee to get there, but I got there! It felt amazing to only have to wake up Thursday and put clean sheets on my bed. I am not sure what feels more accomplished than that. I know, that sounds somewhat sad, but adulting is sad sometimes! It feels really good to come home to a spotless house. It also gives you a good reason to procrastinate on unpacking and laundry upon your return. Who would want to undo all that hard work!? Anyway, I digress…

Fortunately for both Merle and myself, we had a quick 12 hours at the farm scheduled after work on Thursday. He was really in a dither with the packing and energy and general change. I always feel guilty when the dogs get upset knowing you’re leaving and not wanting to be left behind. We had just enough time to let him have good run and for me to check on everyone in addition to getting a few things done before we had to leave Friday morning. I said a sad goodbye to my boy Merle at the kennel at mid morning on my way back home to grab a quick shower, throw my bag in the truck, and head to my friend’s house. I left my truck safely parked there and we hopped in a car to the airport.

I was feeling pretty good by this point, but I would still not feel like I was actually on vacation until we all arrived on the Emerald Isle WITH our bags. There have been a lot of airline travel mishaps recently as I am sure you have heard and it was definitely something that was causing me some slight worry. BUT, as they say, try not to worry for naught!

Getting through bag check and security was a blessed non event and we headed straight to find a mimosa and lunch! It is vacation and travel after all! Mimosas are the first call of duty on any trip and we had plenty of time before our 4:45 PM departure.

There are blessedly no airplane pictures for you, at least not for the flight over. If you have been around here a while, you might well have been expecting some of those. I did it both when I went to France and when I went to Hawaii! I feel it shares the whole experience. The truth is though, I always feel so silly taking pictures out the window of the wings or of the flight trajectory while in flight. Ha, normally it does not stop me, but this time it did. I was more restless while in the air than I normally am.

All that said, the travel went off just fine! We landed at 10:30 AM Ireland time and so did our bags. The fun could really begin now. We were picked up by one of the farm owners and we stopped at a shop in Bunratty on the way for a coffee and a snack. In retrospect, we should have also made a quick souvenir run through here as well, but we did not.

You already know the Ireland is very green. They call it the Emerald Isle for a very obvious reason. I was expecting it, but the stark difference to Texas at the present moment deep in a very brown and crispy drought was a bit shocking! I could also mention the starkness of the difference in temperatures, 100+ deg. F to 60 deg. F, but we do not need to go there. However, the flowers there! They are stunning. Flowers everywhere. Not just landscaped flowers, but wild ones as well! These beauties along with the hydrangeas literally everywhere were just lovely. I have never seen so many hydrangeas and of such size and so many colors. Funny thing is, I think I only have one hydrangea picture from the whole time and it is a bad one through the window of a bead and breakfast. Oh well, live for the moment! Anyway, like I was saying, the colors. All kinds and colors of wild grown flowers. The fuchsia bushes and hedges and the purple heather in the fields are just stunning against the green. It brings complimentary colors to a whole new level. It really makes me want to become a master gardener.

We only stopped for half an hour before making the rest of the drive to the farm which would be our home base for the next four nights.

Like I said, GREEN! Made also even more green by the lovely weather we had. We did have some rain too, do not you worry!

The drive was…I am not sure of the word to use here. Harrowing seems like it should be a bit strong, it is not like we did not know the whole opposite side of the car bit, but I think it just might be accurate! Put eight Texans in a van hip to hip and drive it on the left side of the narrow, non shouldered, not quite two lane road with fast oncoming traffic…not sure what else to call it. I think Bertie was laughing at all of our gasps. It was an experience!

We were all ready to get out and scretch our legs, at take a deep breath, by the time we arrived.

We were immediately greeted by the magical wonder and charm of the farm and the house, but the best part was being greeted by Sneachta, or Snow, the sweetest lab (and a good looking and behaved one too!).

Have a walk through the house with us!

So many things to see and experience here. So many nooks and crannies. So much history and magic. I bet I could come ten times and still see something new.

After arriving at the farm mid Saturday, we had the rest of the day to rest and be leisurely. We got a tour of the whole house and got settled in our rooms two by two. We had to have another toast after getting settled! I chose a Bulmers light Irish Cider. Little did I know I was toasting to my horse!

After grabbing our drinks, we went for a little walk around the farm. In addition to Snow the Lab, there was also a Border Collie, also named in Irish/Gaelic, but I can not remember her name. It sounded somewhat like snickers and nothing like Cujo, but we called her Cujo as she was a typical turbo intense BC. Very sweet though!

The house and barns were completely surrounded by a magical forest. A magical forest glade! I have no doubt that there were ferries in amongst the trees.

Cujo trying to tell us dense humans where we should go with her by luring us with her stick.

An Sibin is the name of the farm/riding center/outfitter. The name apparently means speak easy and/or/with homemade whiskey. We booked our trip through Stacey with Active Riding Trips and we had a lovely booking experience with them. We came for an eight day riding adventure from Whitegate to the west coast complete with six riding days. It was an adventure to be sure and we really covered some country!

Once we had our little walk around the farm with our drinks, we retreated to our rooms for a little nap. While I did not think I would be able to sleep, I am glad that I got a little bit of a nap as I could not sleep on the plane.

After our naps we all got a little restless and dinner was not until 7 PM. We had some time so most of us took another little walk down the road and hooked up with the walking trail before dinner.

Loyal snow stayed with us the whole way and back again.

We went a little ways down the trail before the ground got a bit soft and wet, so we turned around to stroll back for dinner.

We had a lovely candle lit three course dinner with wine of cuscus stuffed roasted tomatoes followed by succulent slices of pork with potatoes and veggies and a finale of apple and berry crumble topped with fresh, soft whipped cream.

I went to bed full of anticipation and dreams of meeting my horse for the week the next morning! This is what we came here for, to ride and see Ireland by horseback, between the ears.

The story continues! Come back soon for the next chapter!

Walk in love, dear readers!

Drowning In Sweat.

At first I typed ‘Drowning.’ Just…Drowning. So dramatic!

Have no fear, I am not DROWNING. Other than in sweat.

I have been drowning in sweat.

Happy 3rd August, Texas!

Do you remember that time I made a comment about it being ‘real’ hot when you have sweat in your eyelids? No? Well I do and I am here to tell you we somehow skipped that phase and went into full on deluge. This is very reminiscent of the awful summer of 2011.

Yes, I know the heat is old news (I am so tired of getting heat advisory warnings every day!), but I needed to set the scene for what I had got to do on Monday.

This is the end result and I am thankfully not sore:

Thankfully for all of us, there are no progress photos! Ain’t nobody wants to see that! The amount of sweat was surprising to me. I have never sweated that much in my life. It felt like a spigot had been turned on. I started a little after 6 AM and finished before 10. All still morning and in shade. I was not in any hurry other than to finish before my shade ran out. I took many hydration breaks.

84 bales of hay unloaded and crammed stacked into the feed room for winter feels like winning. Anybody who cares for livestock in the winter knows how great this feels. Even if you were completely soaked through with sweat when you were only half way finished. Exhausting work, but it is the most satisfying work at the same time. It is a joyful chore for such a blessing. An even bigger blessing given the drought situation. Hopefully I will not have to use any of this hay before December.

Actual footage of me when I turned around after the last bale was loaded in:

You know it really is dry and HOT when the weeds and trees even look hot.

Anyway, I feel like a kid on the last day before summer or winter break and it is not just because I finally got this important chore off the list.

Why, you ask? Oh, I dunno, because I get to do something exciting soon. Go somewhere exciting soon.

Way to bury the lead, huh?!

You will just have to wait and see!

Walk in love, dear readers! More to come!

Life Lessons From A Stranger.

Happy day to you!

Keep it simple, like a Merle. They call it a dog’s life for a reason!

How are you?

I had an interesting day yesterday. I had to take my truck into the shop for some regular, routine benchmark service (and fork over a lot of monies, but oh well, better than a more expensive problem because I did not do it). Here is your reminder to take care of your vehicle before you have a problem!

Anyway, I had some encounters with two strangers that had a lot to share about how their days and lives were going. I think I have one of those faces that people like to share things with, I do not know. Maybe they just needed someone to share with and because I asked how they were doing and how their day was going, and they answered truthfully. Their words and feelings really struck me.

Mean what you say and say what you mean, as they say. Whoever ‘they’ are. I try to ask those questions because I really do care about the answers. Words and how we say them really matter. I think people often forget that. I hope their days got better.

This is what Texas feels like. Never be too far from water.

I will not share their stories as they are not mine to share, but they served as good reminders for walking through life.

A reminder to always be kind. A reminder that any one person can have no idea what troubles another is facing.

A reminder that your struggles are no bigger than any other person’s. Everyone has them and they all add up to the same thing at the end of the day.

It is more than the Golden Rule. It is compassion and grace.

A reminder to keep moving and not stay in the troubles. A reminder to not judge a book by its cover. Or one page. Or one chapter. Any one thing does not define us.

A reminder that one person’s definition or vision of success is not another’s. A reminder that difference does not mean less.

A reminder again that there is more than one way to make a life and that one is not better than the other.

The best way to get through summer afternoons is to nap in the shade.

Walk in love, dear readers, and offer some kindness to your fellow stranger today. Coffee break is over, let us all get back to work! It is yours to get!

Call Me Augustina.

“Ain’t nothin’ better than ridin’ a fine horse in new country.”

~spoken by Augustus McCrae”― Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

I can not help but think of the above quote every time I ride in a new place. My critters and I seem to have the same thirst as Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call for seeing new country. Call it adventurous if you will, I do not even know what to call it. Lito especially just eats it up.

This past weekend, Merle, Lito, Petunia and I loaded up and headed to north central Texas to ride some new country. It was a great and relaxing time getting used to the place, despite the big time rain we got Friday night and the resulting winds. On Saturday morning, both Lito and Petunia felt as if they had been bathed, if that tells you anything about the kind of rain we had.

Today, I will just let the pictures speak for themselves, so please click trough the slide show, watch the videos, and enjoy! This is about as close to a wordless Wednesday as you will get from me as I have found out over the years.

I particularly want to point out MVP emotional support donkey, Petunia, who travels with us when we go places without other riders and the insane wildflowers. Honestly, saying the pictures do not do them justice is the biggest understatement. They give blanket of Indian Blankets a whole new meaning. There are even still bluebonnets there!

Your AHA moment for today is brought to you by Augustus McCrae, by way of Larry McMurtry:

“It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living. I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you live.” ~spoken by Augustus McCrae”

― Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

Not just where you live, but how you live.

If you have never read the book or watched the movie, I highly recommend it!

I want to thank each and every one of you for being here. For coming along with us on this journey. For enjoying my pictures. For reading. For commenting. For your sweet email notes. I am grateful for it all!

Go make your bed, get your second cup of coffee, and get after it today!

Walk in love, dear readers!

We are headed back to the water this weekend for some bay fishing in our favorite place! Talk soon!

Rain on the Plains.

The coastal plains, that is.

This is the best kind of rain. This meaning any kind. Bring on La Nina! Do not worry, I am not going to go off on a tangent about weather. Or at least I do not think so! You never know with me.

Anyway, while it is not raining on this fine morning, it was raining the last time we spoke. The past several weeks have brought several inches. In fact, we have been blessed with so much rain that there have been times we could go mud skiing! At times just walking has actually felt just like that. I slipped the other day (I almost fell and I felt like I was a cartoon character, or on an episode of Punked) and my back is still yelling at me. I guess I have just reached that next level of ‘more wise’ age where the body is starting to be a traitor to the mind. Sigh.

However, the pond is full, the grass is growing and everything is colorful, and all the animals are fat and sassy. One of the best times of year before it gets too hot. The rain and life’s schedule has made riding lately an every other week occasion, but it is better than no riding! I have been there and it is no bueno. We have definitely been taking advantage of the riding days we do get, but we will get to that soon. We actually got back from an adventure yesterday!

After our Good Friday at the farm, The Merley Bob and I loaded up the truck on Saturday and headed to the beach for 24 hours. Long story short, it was glorious!

Ha! Long story short, y’all know me too well. It was a big 24 hours!

I enjoyed a lovely early bird dinner on a patio over the water with this lovely cocktail.

After dinner, Merle and sat on the porch and enjoyed a couple hours of wine and views and music.

Easter morning was of course celebrated sunrise style with a long walk. It was…? I do not even know a word. Y’all help me!

Spot the Merle blur as he hits the beach!

Just a bird dog doing bird dog things.

Merle has only two speeds if you were not aware. Zero and turbo. Turbo requires all four off the floor for the majority. Flying is more fun if you ask him.

I picked up only one shell to take back to leave where I was staying. Growing up, we always loved to collect shells with Pops. Buckets full in total over the years. Some were just for enjoying their beauty. Some were for crafts. Some were to put in a flower bed or a book shelf. Some were for candles. I kind of like to leave them where they are for the most part these days, but this one seemed like it should go back with me, so it did.

Merley was tired after his turbo beach walk and so was I! No naps for me though as we had to soon hit the road for an early Easter dinner. For this celebration, I made a lemon cake. It was delicious, but it was very ugly. A Leaning lemon Tower of Pisa! The oven I used was not level and I had 3 layers. I was too lazy to trim them even, so I slapped together my leaning cake and hoped for the best. However, It was very tasty! So long as it tastes good, that is all that really matters in the end.

We went on our annual ladies group spring ride which I have probably written about in previous years. I did not take many pictures, but we had some big thunder storms the first night. My Lito man seemed not bothered by it when I could finally go out to check on him when it was all over. It was an interesting weekend as he had A LOT of feelings about ducks because of peacocks and wind. Horses, man. He rode well, so there you go.

My Cheetah Girl then got some kind of upper respiratory funk that required 2 times a day antibiotics for two weeks. I will only share one pic and just say, there was an odor, OK? Thankfully, my girl has a kissable muzzle again, and that is all that matters at the end of the day.

While not ideal to be a commuter during those 2 weeks, it was glorious to be able to start and end my days with all my animals.

I have had to do this from time to time for varying reasons and it is always worth it. I may curse the traffic a little (actually no more than I always do), but it is generally bliss. Sunrises. Sunsets. Horses. Cows. Dinner on the porch. Evening rides or drives. Crossing things off the list. Quality time all around.

During these times I get a lot of spring cleaning and organizing done while also completing special projects or needed chores. It always seems easier to get the work done like this during the week even though you only have a few hours every week evening to do them. This way the weekend can just be that, a weekend, and not work.

My special project this go round was trimming up a ‘trail’ in the river bottom to make it easier and more enjoyable to ride. By enjoyable, I mean less ducking, dead ends, and spider webs. I used to always have a loop down there, but it is always changing and evolving and it requires constant maintenance to keep it ‘rideable.’ It had been a while since I had done any work down there, but a few evenings and half of a wet rainy Saturday and we were back in business. I spent my other evenings reacquainting the horses with the bottom as it had been a little while since they had been down there. Lito seems to like it the most out of all of them, but he has also been down there more than anyone else except for his mother, Cheetah.

I also took time every evening after chores and feeding to check the cows. They are all due to have their calves right about now. Two of them dropped their calves at the very beginning of my two week antibiotic administration stay, so I got to see them almost every day for those two weeks. There are more to come soon, but these mammas are holding on tight!

One of my favorite things to do in the evenings has always been to go sit amongst the cows while listening to them graze. I did this when I was younger too. I of course love to listen to the horses eat. Most horse people feel this way. There is just something about the rhythmic sound of the chewing combined with their breathing and the smells and the feeling of contentment. Listening to cows graze at down and dusk is the exact same. The sound of their breathing and their swiping tongue and grass cropping and the chewing. I do not know, it is hard to describe unless you are there to hear it and feel it.

OK, you are right, I also go check on them multiple times a day when I am there during the day too.

We might be tardy on the mowing, but I prefer to just focus on and enjoy the green product of all these rains. Especially when viewed between a pair of dun colored ears.

Check back tomorrow for our adventure with new views between these very dun colored ears! Spoiler alert, there was rain! BUT, it did not spoil the adventure!

Walk in love, dear readers!

Grateful, Even In Grief.

Happy Good Friday, y’all!

It is a rainy morning here on the farm while I enjoy my coffee in the loggia with my Merle wet and lying at my feet. I managed to get the horses fed before it started raining again. Mother Nature truly put on a light show with the heavy rain storms last night and there is a good chance for more today. I am smiling contentedly as I think of the horses and cows on their happy, lush pastures.

Good Friday is turning into another one of those reflective days for me. I mean, it should be a day of reflection already of course with the coming of Easter, but it is even more so for me now. Good Friday was one of my days with H.

I am not sure when it became a tradition of sorts, but it just did. It was one of the days we would regularly try to schedule a ride together. I think it was a day that she always had off from work and she did not feel as bad taking that time away from her husband, other animals, and home. Sometimes we rode with other friends and sometimes it was just the two of us. It just depended on what everyone had going on. In the more recent past, it was usually just the two of us.

I really miss her today and that seems to make me even more grateful that it is raining like this. Like we are not really missing another ride together as the years accumulate.

However, as sad as I feel at the present moment have felt for the past few days at times coming up on today, I have also found myself smiling at the same time. While on the one hand I am not quite sure how I feel about that, the whole dichotomy of feelings I mentioned yesterday, on the other hand I am beyond grateful that I am here. That I am able to look back on all our time together so happily and be glad that we had it. That I can really feel the gratitude that we were even friends at all, even if it feels like her time here on earth and our time together as friends was cut short.

Being in this new and improved and bigger, but hey the same great thing, space of gratitude while I am remembering my H, I am beyond grateful for my life and my time in this earthly world. I know this probably sounds odd and possibly I could have worded it in a better way, but it is true. Case in point being H. We do not know how much time we have and we can not create it or get it back. My point is, this ever repetitive AHA moment, use your time wisely!

I do not know what exactly I set out to write today, but I am grateful. I am grateful that H and I were friends. I am grateful to FEEL. Whatever the feelings may be. Happy, sad, you name it. They are not independent of each other anyway. You can not have one without the other. I am grateful for my grief because I think it makes the joy bigger.

Walk in love, dear readers! Go live your time while you enjoy the memories! Dance in the rain!

I need to go get to work!