Reviving an old thread to thank everyone for their advice and suggestions! Dad and I came home Tuesday night from a 12-day trip of a lifetime in Ireland, and honestly can't say enough about what a wonderful time we had. We ended up riding out of Willy Leahy's place, Aille Cross (highly, highly recommend Willy and his horses to anyone considering riding in Ireland!), riding through the surrounding countryside, over the cross country course at Dartfield, and hunting twice with the Blazers. Every single horse Dad and I were put on by the Leahys was just fantastic. I rode a few Connemara ponies, and the rest were either Irish Sport Horses or full Irish Draughts. I hope I don't make this post too long, but I'd like to share some of the highlights...
Monday, our first day with the Leahy's, we rode out in the morning to get to know our horses. Our ride took us through lanes and roads to a forestry area where we had a few good gallops. The afternoon was on a new set of horses and closer to home, out to a field with a few cross country fences.
Tuesday was our first day out with the Blazers, hunting from, I think, Crumlin. I rode a super little ISH, Banger, who took fabulous care of me, and could jump a house despite being just a little horse. Dad rode Dyon, Willy's personal horse - lovely, lovely and took great care of Dad. Sadly, I don't have any action shots as the camera wouldn't fit in my jacket pocket... It was a great day though - loads of fences, some good gallops, and I came home with the brush! It made this little show ring hunter pretty proud. It was my first time hunting (I'd been out in a staff day with the Cornwall hounds once before, and that was it), and what an introduction it was!
Wednesday was a day at Dartfield, riding out over the cross country course. I rode Willy's very nice ISH mare in the morning, and jumped some enormous fences (remenants of the CCI** course) that I never would have attempted without such a nice horse under me, or without Declan Leahy's encouragement. In the afternoon, I rode a super little Connemara in the rain - we went out with Declan and a 16 yo eventer from Virginia, and just flew around parts of the cross country course. Fun, fun, fun! Dad rode a really nice, huge (!) ID gelding in the morning (excuse the form please - the fence was a canter step for this nice horse, but I didn't get pictures over anything bigger as the mare didn't really like being a tripod), then hacked out in the afternoon on another nice gelding.
Thursday was pouring rain and strong winds, so we hacked out to the forestry area again where it was actually quite nice in the trees. Friday was back to Dartfield for more cross country fences, where Dad and I got to ride two of our favourites again in the morning. We took another pair of horses out in the afternoon too - I rode a young horse who was an absolute testament to the Irish horse's wonderful attitude. He'd had very minimal rides over fences, yet took me around the Dartfield course, including some pretty big fences, without batting an eyelash.
Saturday was our last day with the Leahys, and we hunted again with the Blazers. Dad and I both got to ride our favourites again, and had just a fabulous day. It was a bit of a slow start, but then became a day of enormous walls and great runs. I think there were 4 or 5 foxes that day? Wonderful riding though, and then back to one of the members homes for real Irish stew before putting the horses up for the night and saying our good byes to the Leahys. We had such a fantastic week with Willy, Declan and William that I was talking around a lump in my throat at this point.
All in all, a truly incredible experience! At the risk of sounding sappy, I left a pretty big piece of my heart in Ireland, as I fell in love with the country, the people and the horses. The Leahys couldn't have been more gracious hosts, and the Blazers were just as welcoming too. You know how sometimes, when you dream of a trip for years, you build it up to be more in your mind than it ever could be in reality? Well, our time in Ireland exceeded our expectations in every way. If anyone has been considering doing it themselves, I'd encourage you to take the plunge and DO IT! I'd go back in a heartbeat.
Thank you so much for sharing! Riding in Ireland is surely a bucket list item for me, and your beautiful pictures have encouraged me to keep dreaming. You and your Dad will have a lifetime of memories to share.
Oh its so good to hear that you rode w/ Willy's family and had a great time!! I've been over twice, once to do his inn-to-inn Connemara ride, and then again to do the 3 days hunting, 3 days trail riding. BEST vacations of my life.
So far as I can tell, there are no friendlier, nicer people on the planet than those on the western coast of Ireland. And for sure some of the best riding. Willy and crew are excellent at matching horse and rider and making everyone comfortable.
Its been a bunch of years, but I haven't ruled out going again. For those who haven't been and want to go - Aille Cross is the place...
This is such a controversial issue for some; I've never taken part in one, but have fond memories of watching hunts run through my uncle's field around Thanksgiving in America. I assume they used a real fox, but cannot be sure. Sounds like a great time, telling from the comments here. :-)
When we went to Aille Cross and the Dartfield Museum of the Horse, I got the pleasure of herding five fields of sheep with Willy and Pat, a friend of his who was looking to buy a hunt horse. After we herded them into a pen, he let them go back into the pastures. I still have no clue why we did that?
I rode a 14.2 hand bay called Robin. At one point, Willy put me on his big grey, which looks like the one that your Dad rode, because I was too chicken to jump his stone wall in and out. Willy, of course, took Robin over the wall in and out, plus many other huge jumps. Eventually, I got Robin back and was brave enough to jump some of the other fences at Dartfield.
How about his water complex? When we went through it, the water came up to my knees. Not what I would call a drop into water over here (an eventing drop into water, that is).
I want to do his Connemara trail ride, but it always conflicts with my eventing schedule. Someday....
Honestly, if anyone is considering trying to go to Ireland, or thinking about going back, I can not say enough wonderful things about the Leahys and our trip! Every moment was fantastic. I normally am not so over-the-top, but I really did love every minute we were there. I feel very, very lucky to have shared the experience with Dad, too.
It's interesting - I've been plenty of places before that I've thought were beautiful, or really enjoyed, or liked the people, but I have never, ever identified so strongly with anywhere besides home before. I was teary on the plane home, flying over Ireland from the UK and thinking that was my last view of the wonderful country... I WILL be going back, it's just a matter of when!
Auburn - Yup, did one of the water complexes a few times, the one with the hill and drop in the middle, although we went around the hill, not over it. So much fun!