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!
I actually get asked about traveling with a horse somewhat frequently. It is not really surprising as horses are as captivating subject matter now as they were hundreds of years ago and well, I get asked about all kinds of horse stuff all the time from non horse people.
I was asked specifically the other day by a dear friend, “So what does traveling for him FEEL like???” Literally, what does it feel like for the Lito Man to be in the trailer and travel. What does it feel like for him? No wonder I love this person!
Anyway, I thought some of you might also like to hear and see what it is actually like since it is a big part of the travel experience. You know, sharing the whole picture like I like to do and I have yet to really do that with this kind of travel. This is how we get there and back and then, yes, I will share about my hill country ride! In order to know how it feels for him, one has to also know what it looks like. Visualization is key to a lot of things with horses.
Just like everything else in life, there are many ways to ‘skin a cat,’ as they say. This is just how I do it these days based on my horses and experience. Horse travel can vary from discipline to discipline, from state to state, and from country to country. It can also vary different times of year or even with different distances.
There are some things that always apply. Trailers are generally always hotter than the ambient temperature and air movement is key. It is also generally not very fun or comfortable to ride in a trailer. There are things one can do to make it better, outside of being able to have the best and biggest trailer, and I generally try to do what I can.
What I am about to show you is what we do when we are going to be gone for over a week. If I am just hauling 45 minutes down the road with little to no traffic to ride with friends for half a day, we just grab a hay net, my med and grooming totes, treats of course, my horse’s tack, load up and go. It is different when you’re going to be hauling long distances and staying away for a while.
The one thing that is universal no matter when or where, is that horses require a lot of stuff!
I tend to approach packing in stages. First I have a list started. Then I pull the majority of stuff and put it all into piles. The piles themselves generally depend on where they are going to be packed and when they are going to be needed throughout the time away. I try to pull most of what I need a weekend or two in advance and I try to pack and load it all except the last things a weekend in advance. This keeps me from getting stressed and running out of time. That is another universal horse thing, everything takes more time than you think and that is without hiccups. I am better at packing for my horse than I am for myself, but hey, we are all works in progress.
How do you like my tack room packing job? It is always fun to me to get it all in there in an orderly manner. Adult Tetris, you know.
I forgot about taking any pictures of half way through packing the tack room so you could see everything, but you will just have to imagine it yourself from the fully packed version. Whenever I pack for a long ride with this much stuff in the tack room it makes me think of the movie Eerin Go Bragh: The Little Horse That Couldthat came with the Breyer model horse. Anyone know about him? Apparently he has his own Wiki page! Anyway, I digress.
The trailer itself never goes anywhere without a few things no matter if it is just a day trip or if we are going to be gone for a week.
The mounting block for starters. I need it to mount the tack room itself in addition to my horse! You think I am kidding, but I am not! Stepping up in there gets old and tiring after a while, especially with a western saddle. This mounting block, which is over 20 years old by the way, is the exact perfect height for this trailer by happy accident. You can open and close the door without moving the block. Lito is also 16.3 hh, so a mounting block is nice for the both of us.
A copy of every horse’s Coggins and other health papers hangs in the trailer in sheet protectors (I also have a full set of copies in my truck at all times). I just update them every year when we get our updated copies. Two bag chairs never leave the trailer as you never know when you are going to need or want to have a sit down! Our travel panels also live in in the tack room there, bungeed to the wall. They fit perfectly there without taking up too much room and I generally only use them when we travel.
If a horse goes in the trailer, so goes the medical kit. I was once going to do a post on my med kit (I upgraded and revamped it in 2020) because it is an important subject that many horse owners do not even realize, but I never did get around to it. I might do it if there is some interest, but the point is, in my opinion, wherever a horse is, there needs to be a medical kit. I have all kinds of stuff in there: electrolytes, Bute, Banamine, wound and other ointments/sprays/medications, gloves, gauze, vet wrap, duct tape, scissors and clamps, twitch, thermometer, needles and syringes, hoof pick, flash light, etc. You just never know what can happen and when, especially with horses, so it is just better to be prepared.
Of course, horse or not, you need to have all tools to change a tire in addition to other road safety supplies, including whatever you need to unhook and park the trailer. I travel with an impact wrench (man, I will tell you, you will never want to change a tire any any other way than with an impact wrench!), both a Trailer Helper (metal) and Trailer Aid (plastic) ramp jacks, wheel chocks, tire pressure gauge, air compressor and battery charger, and trailer hitch lock. I also have a milk crate basket full of other road safety like flares and lamps etc. Don’t forget a fire extinguisher! I also have a fire blanket in there.
Treats are also very important. Just ask any horse! If a horse goes in the trailer, treats are coming along, even if we are not riding. Some people do not agree here, but again, this is just what I do. He gets one when he gets in the trailer. I ride with treats in my pocket and he gets some too when we get back. I keep a mixed variety of treats in a tub right by the door under the travel panels for easy access.
Feed and hay are a large part of the packing with horse travel, no matter how or what you feed. Horses eat a lot! Now, you can see a bag of alfalfa cubes and a bag of feed there right up front. Normally, I have it packed on the far wall of the tack room, but because we had a layover at a different place the weekend before the ride, I wanted Lito’s feed at easy access without having to unpack anything. Many people pre pack each day’s feeding in bags. I have done that before and I do like the ease of it. However, I prefer to be able to alter feedings as needed given my experience with Lito.
In addition to the alfalfa cubes and feed, he gets coastal hay. This is where it starts to get a little complicated. I always over pack on hay and feed because, again, you just never know. (Are you catching on to a theme yet?) I had three bales in the back of my truck under the bed cover and two bales in bale bags in the tack room. I also had shavings both in the back of my truck and in the tack room. I knew when we got to the ride, I was going to need some shavings when I got Lito set up in his pen and that I could leave the two bales in bags by his pen for easy feeding until they were gone, so those things would be out of the tack room for the week along with the muck rake and wheel barrow. A muck rake always lives in the trailer, but I also brought along a wheelbarrow so I could muck out Lito’s pen. This way I would have enough room in there to move around and just grab hay and shavings out of the back of the truck, where they could still be covered, as needed. I also had all my water and feed buckets in the back of the truck. Additionally, I pre loaded hay nets to have in the back of the trailer ready to go. He got one to have while we were in transit and the rest were ready for the weekend layover and his short trailer ride over to the ride camp so I would not have to break open a bale over the weekend before we were stationary.
Horses are meant to graze 17 out of 24 hours a day and it is really important for them to have access to forage as much as possible. Hay in the trailer is a non negotiable for me, no matter how short the ride. They is is good for their digestive tracts, but it is also a de-stressor while they are in the trailer. I also usually hang a hay net while I groom before I ride and Lito really seems to appreciate his grooming hay net.
For longer trips away from home, I feed electrolytes and probiotics beginning a few days before travel and for a couple days after we arrive somewhere just to be sure he is staying hydrated and everything is working. Again, this is just what I do. Part of it is me and my worries, but it is also Lito and how he handles the hauling. I have just learned by trying that this is what works for him.
Obviously, we are going there to ride, so we need Lito’s tack. I generally pack two of everything. I have a few reasons for this. One, the good old standard of just in case. Are you catching on? You never know if something might break or be in disrepair. Things also change when you are riding long distances and over terrain. If you need to change something up because of fit or wear, you can. You also never know if your bestie, R, (or yourself) is going to forget something and between the two of you, you will have it all covered. I only brought one saddle this time (I have brought more than one before), but I have three saddle pads, two saddle blankets, two cinches, two flank cinches, two pulling collars (breast collar), two full bridles, two rope halters and leads. I do not lunge Lito all that often anymore, but I always bring a line and whip with me, especially when we will be gone for more than just a day trip to a place we have not been to a bunch. I keep extra straps and tack repair equipment in my trunk of ‘extras.’
The trunk of extras also has a bunch of miscellaneous stuff in it that I do not need all the time, but you bring because you just never know. Leg wraps and boots, pillows and standing wraps, tarps, fly or regular sheet, hose (which, I actually have the hose hanging there on the hooks on the long wall). Lito’s regular sheet I actually have there on the top saddle rack. Why do you ask? We had our first fall front arrive our first night away. Go figure! At home I would not have sheeted him, but I generally will sheet him if it gets into the mid fifties (F) or below if we are away from the farm. Again, just to keep him that little bit more comfortable and warm to make sure everything is happy and working.
I also bring along a saddle stand when it is not just a day trip so I can let things dry and air out in the open air or in the back of the trailer or if I just want more room in the tack/dressing room) as this trailer does not have a back tack. We had the permanent back tack taken out when we purchased this trailer to be able to take the dividers out to have the ability to use it as a cattle trailer when we need it.
I, of course, have my groom tote (I am not a one brush kind of gal, OK, there are many and it is a process). There are three important items that I keep in my grooming tote other than my actual grooming tools. Mouth butter, essential oils, and Rescue Remedy flower essence. Lito’s overall demeanor and attitude really benefits from having his lips and bit well greased in addition to pre ride calming oils and some drops of Rescue Remedy. Where the Lito goes, so go these things.
I also bring along my bathing kit. I do not really do full shampoo baths that often anymore, but you just never know when you are going to need or want to! He might have wallowed in mud after some rain. I also bring along a pair of saddle bags, usually horn bags, but I rarely use them on this group ride. We have many stops and support, so they are not really needed.
The most important thing about traveling with a horse next to making sure your vehicle and trailer are safe and road ready, is to not be in a rush or stressed. I can not stress this enough. Being rushed or stressed, or both, is a surefire way to make sure things do not go right with your horse, especially when a trailer is involved.
Some non-horse people might wonder just why this is fun at this point, and I might have had a fleeting thought while packing that your wonders might be right…especially seeing it all written down! EXCEPT. Look at that farm sunrise!
Enjoy the pretty sunrise! It really is not as bad as it sounds and it gets easier the more you do it.
Pack early, have everything on your list, have a plan and routine in place (the routine here works wonders for the horses and for you too. I can not stress this enough either…or the med kit), and give yourself plenty of time.
I was able to enjoy my coffee and sunrise after packing a few final things in the truck before I had to get Lito ready and loaded.
Just wait until you see the between the ears shots from the ride and you will know one of the main reasons why we do this!
Ahhh, so pretty, right!?
You want to know what is also pretty? Or handsome, rather? My Lito man!
Just look at my by in all his glory! No, I am not actually speaking to his get up or his lovely package he just left on the ground (poop is always good with horses!). I am talking about his fall coat! His fall dun dapples just smack me! And this is them without anything but a quick brush with only ONE dirty barn brush and a spritz of fly spray (obviously his mane and tail got a good spray and brush out).
Anyway, as you can see, getting him ready for a long drive is a little bit of a process for us. There are some that just load their horse up straight out of the pasture and have no worries or troubles. That is just not for us. Hauling concerns Lito some and I like to do whatever I can to keep him comfortable and safe.
First, he wears a Hidez compression hood mask under a fly mask. The Hidez mask helps to activate certain pressure points to aid in relaxation and reducing anxiety (he actually ripped a hole in it somehow and I am trying to decide if I should get another one or try something new). I actually used to ride him in it some when he was younger and he really responded well to it. He really does seem to like it and puts his face in it himself. The fly mask is to protect his eyes from flying road debris and hay from inside the trailer. He wears a padded sheepskin leather halter for head protection mainly because he is so tall and I do not have a warmblood sized trailer. I used to make him wear a helmet cap and actually, the helmet also lives in the trailer…just in case. I do not like to use leg boots or wraps while hauling (or overly much in general) as they generally cause too much heat to build up in the legs and that is not good for the tissues. I do however like to put bell boots on all around in case he steps on himself or feels the need to paw etc. while in transit. I do wrap his tail with a padded wrap to protect the hairs from rubbing and to keep it clean. This last bit is not generally as important right now because I do not have the dividers in the trailer.
He really is too big to shut him into the trailer stall with the dividers. He would really rub his tail and rump coat out otherwise. When I did have the dividers in, he would ‘be’ in the middle stall and I would secure the divider open so he was not a sardine. Without the dividers though, he has the room to stand how he likes (straight on the left side) and balance as he needs to. I like to tie him loose enough so he can carry his head the way he wants, but at the same time, tight enough so he does not move too much and throw us all around. He is a big boy, bigger than photos make him look.
Many people also do not realize how much physical work it is for a horse standing in trailer while moving. This is what is actually FEELS like for the horse. It can be hard and exhausting! A workout itself. It is not just standing there. It is work to balance the entire time. If you have ever ridden in the back of a long vehicle or even in a trailer, I am sure you noticed how much it moves you around back there. Conscientious, steady, and smooth driving (accelerating and decelerating) and turning is key to making it as pleasant as possible for the horse, but there is still a lot of moving going on requiring constant balancing. I think that some horses with loading issues actually have issues with how they are being driven.
I know some people probably make fun of me for putting all of this on him, but you know what? I do not care. This is what works for us and what I feel he needs and what I need. And we are the only two in this equation. He is not just my horse. He is my best friend, my buddy, my baby. I want him not only looking good, but feeling good.
The total drive to our weekend layover was about four hours and I planned a nice stop at our half way point at a large tack store. He got to rest and I got to shop! I have stopped there with R several times in years past on our way to this annual ride and I think the horses do appreciate the rest. If the drive was any longer than this, I would likely offer water while I was inside. This is one the reasons I give electrolytes for a few days before long travels, so I know he is well hydrated through the trip and when we arrive. Some horses will not drink when offered water on the road.
We arrived at our layover, a friend’s ranch, a little delayed due to road construction, but Lito seemed happy enough. He was glad to be there and stretch his legs a bit and to have a pee (sorry to be vulgar again!). We only had to wait about 45 minutes for our other friend and her horse to arrive. Lito was not bothered to be alone, but he really fell in love quick with my friend’s mare! He has met her several times before and has been stalled next to her in previous years, but he decided he was a Spanish stallion trying to impress her and get her attention. She was however, not impressed and did not pay him any mind.
When we were all settled, we fed the horses and enjoyed the sunset after dinner.
Like I mentioned, it got a bit chilly that first night, so I put Lito’s sheet on him right before we went to bed.
I as per usual, woke early way before anyone else. Lito patiently waited for his breakfast while I enjoyed my coffee with him. I slept poorly and actually checked the horses a few times in the night. I saw a cool fox though, so that was nice.
I did not want to feed him and have my friend’s mare get upset, but I also did not want to feed her mare without having discussed it with her the night before.
At some point in the morning, Lito complained nicely about the morning service being late and not what he ordered.
I just enjoyed another cup of coffee and stood with my boy, soaking up our time. I think I had about 3 cups that morning!
I think by this point he had demoted me to just ‘Food Lady’ and I decided to just go and get him his breakfast. She was just going to have to wait, but she was OK with it though. Do not worry, her mom woke up shortly and she got her breakfast.
No matter where you are, there is just something about a sunrise and how it unfolds. It is just so different in the hill country. The layers of it. The first shine on the hillside.
The hill country is truly a magical place. So much beauty everywhere you look.
I made sure to ask my friend if I could feed Jazzy for her the next morning so Lito would not have to wait so long and she agreed. We had one more night here before we loaded up for the hour plus drive into camp for the week. We humans made the most of our special time together and the horses seemed to really enjoy their large pens.
My apologies for the delay in posting. I wanted to write to you long before this, but I have been having many difficulties with WordPress and images getting along. Hopefully all is sorted now!
Walk in love, dear readers!
Check back tomorrow to SEE the reason behind why us crazy horse people do this!
I have to say, I think all of our wishing for summer to hurry up and get on out sure seemed to make it get up and go! This weekend we will have highs in the mid seventies and prayers for rain on the way there. Which, it is currently raining right now while I drink my imaginary cup of coffee. Why imaginary, you ask? Imaginary because I am just a good adult, and I am out of coffee. Well, technically, I am not out as I have a bag of coffee packed for next week, but I do not want to get into it, so I really am being a good adult. Just your average every day musings going on over here.
So, here we are, October, and there you are! If you can not tell, I am more than ready for it. If you know any Texans, I bet you already know this. I might freeze with lows in the low fifties.
Chance started growing his winter coat a couple of weeks ago, which is normal for him, and it was actually noticeably cooler on Sunday morning. My brain wanted to tell me it was even cold! It was not actually cold, we have still been having highs in the nineties and so humid, but the horses’ coats were the tiniest bit puffed up that morning and the nineties are on their way out.
The crazy thing is the timing of it all, but there is never any surprise there. I am just grateful for it. Lito and I will be headed to our annual ladies ride in the hill country for the week starting this weekend and through next week and we will be glad for the cooler temperatures, I grant you that. I think we might both be a bit fresh with it! I will have my lunge line at the ready just in case and his sheet. When temperatures drop while we travel, I always throw his sheet on for some extra comfort. It may just be for me, but it is just something I do along with giving probiotics and electrolytes every time we travel.
I have been jamming to this song and those like it these days. It will make for good driving music.
We are mostly ready to go! The trailer is mostly packed and I have most of my things ready to throw in a bag. I do have to pick up some things at the feed store after I drop my Merley Bob at the kennel tomorrow on my way out to the farm. Leaving Merle behind is one of the worst things about some travel.
I sure wish I had some real coffee right now to go with the pitter pat of the rain on the car port tin roof.
Well, it is way past time for me to get going for the day and I have lot to do before I head out tomorrow.
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???
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?!
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.
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!
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!