Sometimes the stars align and everything is just right for things to feel like old times. Old times that are good for the soul. The weekend before R and I flew to New Mexico was like that. It was a horse girl weekend.
We planned a weekend to ride on some quiet country roads that were new to my Lito man and myself. On Saturday morning, we took our time having coffee and breakfast, grooming, and tacking. We glittered our horses! We packed a lunch and left R’s husband with instructions of where to meet us for lunch. We got the music hooked up to the speaker on R’s saddle and struck out. The sun was shining. The air was right. Our horses were amazing…albeit a little quick. They could have won a powerwalking relay race! It was good for the both of us.
The roads were for the most part quiet. The only thing we could have wished for was for the haying to take a break while we rode, but our horses really did handle it well and they have to make hay while the sun shines, you know! Some of those rakes are rather large and scary!
Madeline put it best when talking about ‘barn friends.’ I may not be a part of a boarding barn community (I once was and I loved it) where we are in the same place already to hang out and do horse girl things just because, but you can create that if you want to with a little work. R and I have done that for ourselves thanks to being thrown together as friends in 2012.
I almost felt like a kid again that weekend. Just two horse crazy girls having a good time.
I am not one for really having a word for a year or having resolutions, but 2023 I think has been my gratitude year if I had to put a word on it.
I think 2024 will be my horse girl year. And by that I mean the inner kid version of myself. To more than continue to embrace my inner kid, my inner horse obsessed little girl, but to be her again.
To really live it and breathe it. To be the girl that has fun just because it is me and my horse. To do it for the glory and the grace and the gratitude of it. No worries or excuses. The girl that does not take things or herself too seriously or gets bogged down by unimportant things. Does not worry about what others think. The saddle club kid. Riding. Hanging out. Grooming. Braiding. Glitter. Sitting in the stall while they eat. Sharing space and energy. Just because. To be with others like this. Even more, to create more of this community of quality. Build my own little saddle club. To honor my energy, my self, and my time with those around me more seriously.
I am almost there and I am catching up, my friends!
Since we are coming up on the last month of the year, if you had to give 2023 a word, what would it be? Looking forward to 2024, what word would you like to bestow on the coming year?
Side note…how is it that December will be here by Friday!? It feels like just yesterday I was anxiously awaiting my trip to Ireland. I barely got my grocery shopping done before the crowds descended! This all seems to be just how it is now. Gone are the days of our youth when we had all the time in the world to wait on things to come upon us.
ANYWAY. I digress, as per usual.
I hope you had a wonderful time however you choose to celebrate it if you choose to celebrate it!
We had a week full of family and food at our special place, the farm. We made a lot of new foods and some staples…like pumpkin bread!
We used to have two big family celebrations every year. One in town and one out at the farm. Between families growing exponentially and the results of covid, the new tradition has become a slightly less loud and chaotic one at the farm with only my immediate family (which is a lot). I have mixed feelings about the new tradition, but I will never ever complain about more time at the farm with my horses and my Merley Bob.
I had nine glorious days out there and now I am still doing laundry while I enjoy my morning coffee. I am not allowing myself to get my Christmas tree until the laundry is finished and put away. No small feet, I grant you.
Merle and I got there the Friday before Thanksgiving with all my groceries is tow. We were able to enjoy the calm before the storm with a nice ride Saturday morning. Our time. Just my boys and me. Where is Merle you ask? He was off running somewhere. Probably in the direction that Lito is looking. Lito loves to keep track of the Merle and use him as an extra set of eyes.
We did not do too terribly much, just relaxed and meandered around. We did a little trotting, We did a little loping. We did a little grazing.
I did lose my hat at one point and I blame one of the heifers. She was acting like she wanted to chase us while we were trotting so we turned around to tell her that was not acceptable. Well, the wind caught my hat while we were turning and landed it at the heifer’s hooves. We stood there for a while while I decided if it was worth me dismounting to get my hat to then have to mount back up. 16.3+ hh is a long way up there in a flat meadow. I opted to leave the hat for when we were finished in that pasture. I have a somewhat crooked hat now thanks to that heifer! It could have been worse and there are worse things! The hat still goes on my head and does its job.
We have been listening to a playlist on Spotify called ‘Outdoor Zen’ and it is zenfull.
Look, there is the Merle! Enjoying a mud bath!
I had lots of help feeding the horses through the week. Feeding seems to be the kids’ favorite part.
I normally do not keep the horses in their stalls for anything but feeding, but since they were kept up for the whole week and the kids were always running around, I put them all in their stalls for a few hours morning and night to enjoy their hay and rest alone before feeding. Have their quiet time, if you will. This kept everyone relaxed and made the routine a little easier. It created more work with more mucking and dealing with water buckets, but it was worth it.
We enjoyed many gorgeous sunsets and sunrises that photos do not do justice to.
We had all the traditional Thanksgiving favorites for an early dinner as opposed to lunch, We had most everything prepared by the day before so we could take the whole day to leisurely enjoy a snacking lunch with mimosas and setting the table and doing crafts with the kids.
Y’all know I love to do a special dessert and this year was no different, even if it was a little more simple than in years past. I made a chocolate gingerbread tart. A new type of dessert for me, but it was really really good. There are some changes I would make to improve it (to the crust mainly…you can see it does not look quite right), but it was a good first effort! Very elegant I think. It was a big hit. I used two different recipes as go inspiration go bys to create it (recipe 1 and recipe 2…I can not find…it was a chocolate amaretto tart). Sister A also made a pumpkin tres leches that was amazing. Pops really likes pumpkin desserts so we had to include one!
You can not by any means skip the pomegranate seeds. Gosh. Those really were the finishing touch. These are not the best pics, but trust me, it is worth repeating!
The great thing about giving everyone quiet time in their stalls is I always catch at least someone having a nap. I love to watch them nap!
On Friday I took my Lito to our friend M’s house for a body work session. He felt good and really seemed to be thankful for it! It was cold and windy, but he relaxed into it. I did not catch all the yawning and releasing on the camera, but there were many! We are going to look into getting him set up with the chiro to be adjusted soon. M thinks that will help his two spots of soreness.
I was blessed to have to make a quick run back out to the farm Monday afternoon thanks to Pops leaving a gate open. I got the gate closed, checked all the animals, and did some fence work before I took some time to hang out with the horses a bit. It was cold, but it was a pretty day. Almost as pretty as my queen Cheetah. She will be 20 in May and I am having a hard time that. She is still the spicy four year old I met all those years ago despite the gray hairs and effects of arthritis.
It has been a busy week catching up after Thanksgiving, but I would not have it any other way.
How was your Thanksgiving? What did you do? What did you cook? Check back soon for riding and Santa Fe adventure updates!
Walk in love, dear readers, and continue to give thanks!
Now on to the reason most of you are probably here for, the proof of adventure, the regularly scheduled programing, the ‘Between The Ears’ shots where you can follow along on the trail!
I am going to let this be mostly a ‘Wordless Wednesday,’ or at least as wordless as I can be. Join us in our own little world.
I am glad for the special times I shared with my people and the late nights laughing until we cried. I am also glad for the time I got with my boy.
Lito walks with a purpose and moves out. He does best when he is out front, and well, so do I. One of the lead horses was very slow and they were happy to let us lead the way to encourage my friend’s horse to walk out a little more.
I am not sure he will ever not look like a baby to me. He seemed happy enough in his pen…even if he dumped his hay out of his bucket and spread it around. You can see a little white salt block there on the ground. I did not mention this in my previous traveling post, but for long trips away, especially when he is in a small pen or stall, I also bring a little salt block. I do this for his salt replenishment if he needs it, but I also do it for his entertainment and distraction. I do not like to hang it on my panels (I do have a hanger) because I do not want them to rust.
He was happy to be back home with his herd and his mamma. The haul home was long and arduous. For both of us. It was the day of the eclipse and there was A LOT of traffic…not to mention crazy people just on the side of the road wanting to watch it. If I could have left earlier, I would have. I also think there was some extra…energy in the air and atmosphere from the eclipse and Lito seemed to be reacting to it. He did not do anything bad per se, but he was just moving around quite a bit in the trailer and seemed restless and unhappy. All was right with the world when we got back to the farm.
Unpacking and cleaning is always nicer when it is so pretty out and my horses watch with their cute faces. We got even more rain while we were gone and the pastures are really showing it.
R and I are hoping to squeeze in one more horsey adventure before we head to New Mexico to reunite with friends.
There is a lot of work to do between now and then and before we know it, it is Thanksgiving and Christmas! Time for baking and cooking and movies galore!
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!
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?!
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!
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!
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.
A special day for a special boy. This can be your daily dose of cute with a side of an AHA moment.
This past weekend my Merley Bird turned a big 4 years old and celebrated by doing his favorite thing, romping around the farm. There is no better way to celebrate if you ask him, or me for that matter.
True to form, he had to have some pictures taken. If you ask him, he is just glad he did not have to wear a hat. He struck is signature look first.
Then he had some treats for breakfast.
Then he had a little dip n’ shake in the pool.
The pool that apparently has a leak. Not the best time to discover this little tid bit given the lovely heat we have been having if you ask me! We have been enjoying close to triple digit deg. F temperatures with 1000000% humidity. They say the heat index is over 110 deg. Thankfully we got a little break with a good rain last night. The animals, land, and humans are very grateful!
The Merle can and does cool down just about anywhere between the water troughs and the pond and even the river. However, I sure will miss my post summer work cool down! We will see how long it is before I snag another one. It is a nice treat to sit there in the heat of the afternoon in the shade with a cool drink and a book while the horses do their summer ‘training’ standing tied in the shade. It is the best way to get any horse good at standing quietly while tied.
Then my parents and I beat the heat with a brew and lunch at the brewery to celebrate Father’s Day. Merle had to stay home as it was too hot to sit outside. I did snag him some special birthday things though. Treats and brew just for him! Even if it was a girly ‘beer’ (it is not actually beer, there is no alcohol), he really seemed to enjoy it poured over his dinner.
He also told me these are his new favorite treats.
Every Merle birthday is a special birthday. I am just ever grateful to have him. He is a blessing to me.
With every passing day with him, I am reminded of my Darcy Girl. I did not get six birthdays with her. Her heart tree still shows her heart sometimes, if you look just right. If it were not for my Darcy, I would not have my Merle.
This is part of my reminder to stay present. To enjoy the now and be grateful for what I have. I do not think it will ever not be a kick in the guts to remember (nor will I honestly ever not worry about losing Merle early, if I am honest, but I do not want to talk about worrying today), but I can also now be glad and grateful in the remembering. And see her here and there.
Grief, it is a funny thing. It is also a universal connector. We all experience it. Even though we all experience it differently, none of us are alone in it and nobody can avoid it. Remember that.
That is it for your coffee break this morning! So, happy birthday, Merle! Enjoy some more cuteness before you rush back.
Your AHA moment today is brought to you by Nick Jamerson.
The first video has a lovely intro to the song in addition to this version just being so good, but if you want to just skip to it, watch the second video.
Take these lyrics with you into this blessed long weekend. Remember those who fought for this life you get to live. For the journey you get to walk. Be grateful for what you know and what you do not know while you learn more and gain more perspective and direction. Be grateful you have the chance to wade in and through while enjoying the green grass. Go get that horse.
This song makes me think of my grandfather, Gee Gee, I am not sure why. “There ain’t no cinches in life except on saddles,” he would say, so go catch up your pony, saddle him up, and make sure your cinch is tight. We have some riding to do! This life is a wild ride!
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”
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!