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!