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Hunting in Ireland

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  • Hunting in Ireland

    I'm sure this has probably been asked on her a million times, so thank you for baring with me!

    It's always been a dream of mine to do a vacation in Ireland and go fox (drag) hunting. I have traveled very little, never to Europe, and have never been hunting. I'm a good enough rider and do eventing. I'm needing to book my time off soon, so I'm looking for input and advice on the following (or anything else you think I should know!):

    1. What is the best way to go about booking a trip like this? I'm thinking I'll want to do something horse/hunting related for about a week. Are packages the best way to go about it? Which ones are recommended? Accommodations would be very helpful. I'll be on my own for the horsey portion of this trip, so would also be interested in meeting other horse people and being social.

    2. What is the best time of year to go? I know the hunt season is late fall-early spring, and was thinking November/December 2020, but would like input on when the best time is, or if there are "cool" things that happen at certain times.

    3. What are some resources I should look into so that I can participate properly? Good books, articles, site, etc I can read up on so I know the rules.

    Thank you!

  • #2
    A friend of mine has gone for many years with Willie Leahy. The last year or two she has been going in October rather than November. The hunts will still allow you to cap during autumn hunting, but it doesn't cost as much as it does once they enter their formal season.

    She has gone for around a week. She mixes it up with hunts around the area and schooling cross country on off days.

    I believe she has stayed at a centrally located B and B.

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    • #3
      Be ready for balls to the wall hunting. It's not the same sport there as here.
      The weather in hunt season can be lovely or awful (as always in Ireland.) Cork/Waterford has lots of hunting, Tipperary is world famous. Anywhere you go will be amazing and welcoming and a real life's experience.
      My mom encouraged me to go a few years ago - saying that there's a small window of time during which one has enough money to do a big, relatively expensive trip like this, and enough balls (to the wall) to do it.
      I hit the window just right - loved it, but probably wouldn't do it again (not in a first-flight/thruster sort of way, anyway.) But there are all levels of hunting you can select for, just like in the U.S.
      * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.

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      • #4
        Second vote for willie leahy. Went in February and had decent weather. Hunted (my first and only time) with the Galway Blazers had a blast. Willie provides excellent horses. Hunt was tues, thurs,sat We hacked the other days, including the opportunity to play on a cross country course. Leahys are a lovely family, and they care about their guests. Connemara region is beautiful.

        btw, My experience is that “rules ..” in the hunt field are more relaxed than what I know of in US. They make good $$ from capping fees and want everyone happy.

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        • #5
          I went several years ago and it was an incredible experience. I would recommend Flower Hill and Oliver Walsh. He has safe horses for all abilities and a Xc course for you to get acquainted before you go out.

          Cooper Hill I think also has options. You will go on smaller hunts which I liked with flower hill. Willie Leahy is Part of the Galway Blazers which is 50+ people at a time.

          The hunts are live . If you want drag I don’t know how much of that they do. The are long and the footing is such that Americans wouldn’t walk across but you gallop right through it. Bring your courage and your smile and you will have the time of your life.

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          • #6
            I'm going in late January. Replicating my previous trip, I plan to go to Adare and stay at the Dunraven Arms Hotel. Louis Murphy, proprietor, arranges all of the hunts with several packs in the area. It's very turn-key; the room rate for foxhunters includes breakfast and dinner. Drop off your dirty boots and coat at the end of the day and they'll clean them for you for a very reasonable fee.

            Louis arranges the hunts, gets you a fabulous horse, and gives you perfect directions to get to the meet.

            I'll hunt with Co. Clare, Blazers,Tipps, Scarteen, and Co. Limerick. We're even going to attend the Co. Limerick Hunt Ball which is held at the Dunraven. FUN!!

            Co. Clare and Blazers are stone wall country. Tipps, Scarteen, and Co. Limerick are mostly ditch and banks.

            Plan to be out for four hours - pack a snack and maybe a flask. As Hunter's Rest states, it's balls to the walls. But you know what? If the little kids on ponies can do it, so can you.

            Don't carry a hunt whip - you won't be close to any hounds and it's not like you'll be pressed into service if you were. Wear a skull cap and a heavy coat. Don't fret over your turnout either. You'll see a little bit of everything out there.

            Don't be afraid to queue barge either - get across those ditches before they get slick!

            My favorite articles to get you pumped up about it:

            https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ear...SZAe1yAayi0R6M

            https://www.tatler.com/gallery/foxhunting-in-ireland

            https://equestrianreality.com/2013/0...LprahzsU1JqE5Q

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            • #7
              I went for a week about ten years ago. Booked through Oliver Walsh and Flowerhill. Hunted with Roscommon and East Galway and the Blazers with horses provided by Walsh and Willie Leahy. My hunting experience was limited prior to going, but I too had an eventing background and grew up riding everywhere and everything. I will say the hunting there is much more inclusive and full on than in the US. Be prepared to jump stuff you would never encounter hunting in the US. Ditches are not like ditches here. You may jump big stone walls with good drops. The horses are amazing. If you can ride with confidence over varied terrain and footing at speed in a crowd on a strange horse and like to jump big solid obstacles you will have a blast. It is not for the faint of heart. Pack warm layers. The fall and winter cold rain there can chill you to the bone.

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              • #8
                Think about what you want to do on your non-horsey part of the trip as well. Connemara is gorgeous and I can give lots of suggestions there and in Tipperary.

                Google the different hunts and you'll see people with helmet cams who filmed their experience and spectators who film various bits of the hunt. It will give you a good idea of terrain, obstacles, turn out, hunt size, etc. Blazers and Tipp are well covered, video wise.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by BigMick View Post
                  Plan to be out for four hours - pack a snack and maybe a flask. As Hunter's Rest states, it's balls to the walls. But you know what? If the little kids on ponies can do it, so can you.
                  Not necessarily. Those little kids--and their ponies--are fearless.

                  www.laurienberenson.com

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                  • #10
                    So true! You'll see full grown men with their big hunters hesitate at a ditch or kind of hump it over a coop, then a kid on her pony half the size will whiz across and away in the blink of an eye!

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                    • #11
                      Add my vote for Louie Murphy at the Dunraven Arms. I hunted with Limerick and the Blazers, and had a wonderful time. Be prepared for big banks and ditches, and trust your horse.
                      "Argue for your limitations and you get to keep them."
                      -Richard S. Bach

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Trekkie View Post
                        I will say the hunting there is much more inclusive and full on than in the US. Be prepared to jump stuff you would never encounter hunting in the US. Ditches are not like ditches here. You may jump big stone walls with good drops. The horses are amazing. If you can ride with confidence over varied terrain and footing at speed in a crowd on a strange horse and like to jump big solid obstacles you will have a blast. It is not for the faint of heart.
                        So true about jumping stuff that we wouldn't dream of here. While out with Co. Clare, we jumped a single pipe gate onto a paved road, landed and immediately turned left, then 2 strides and turned right up a steep bank into a field and kicked on to the next big wall.

                        We also jumped a fair amount of wire the day I was out with the Scarteen. It seems electrified wire is being used more and more. They lay it down on the ground, the horses know all about it and are very careful not to touch it.

                        The thing about the stone walls to know - they are dry stacked. So by the time you get your turn, many of the stones are knocked down and the gap is only about 3'. Of course, many riders take their own line opting for the high part. Fewer stones on the ground that way.

                        One of my favorite observations was all the young jump jockeys out on racehorses getting them "qualified" for point to point races. The horses were pretty hot and the guys just managed them so beautifully - jumping the biggest parts of the walls. Well done, lads!

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