Hunts in Ireland (Update Nov 24)
I'm sure this topic has been done to death (so my apologies up front), but I wanted to come to the experts for more information! Dad and I have been talking about a trip to Ireland for years, and we've finally decided to stop just talking and actually do it! I truly hope I don't come across as ridiculously naieve with this post, but here goes...
First, some background information. Dad is just over 60, and has been riding his entire life, although he's slowed down a bit lately. He has done big jumper stuff in the past, started babies, and has hunted a little bit in the dark ages. Currently he does A/A Hunters with his lovely mare.
I am 27, and also have ridden my entire life. I've started youngsters, and ride low level jumpers as well as show hunters. I went out once on a staff day with the Fox River Valley/Cornwall hounds in Illinois and had a fantastic time! Both Dad and I are comfortable riding cross country and have done several hunter paces on our own horses. I will readily admit though that I have never ridden over what I've seen in pictures from some of the Irish hunts!
Ideally, we'd like to find somewhere that has a riding school type facility attached to it... If possible, we'd maybe like to ride in the ring and over a cross country course to get a feel for what we might ride and jump before heading out on a hunt. Both of us also agree that if we got over there and were informed that we're hopeless and it would be life threatening to try to hunt, we're okay with that. ;) We'd rather come back in one piece than let our pride get the best of us!
Our plan is to try to get out with some hunts here on our side of the pond before taking on Ireland, for sure. We've been offered the chance to ride with some hunts here in Ontario, as well as a few in the US, and would like to take those opportunities, if at all possible. It'll knock the rust off Dad, and give me a chance to try "real" hunting as opposed to a staff day.
We sat down today with a huntsman friend of ours, who gave us a list of hunts he would suggest. I'd appreciate any input on the list that anyone may have. Also, if any of the hunts are over much wire or are really rough going, I'd really like to know - neither Dad nor I have any real desire to jump wire, on our own horses or hires.
I've been to the Hunting Association of Ireland website, which is a wonderful resource, but was hoping for some more insight if possible! Also, what time of year would be best to try to go? Ideally, we'd prefer mid-October to spring, as that's the best time for us to be away from home, but are open to any and all suggestions. We were told we'd be best to avoid the heavier going in Central Ireland, and the rockier parts of Northern Ireland to have the best riding. Is this consistent with what others have experienced?
Without further ado, here's the list so far. Thank you so much in advance for any input!
Black & Tans