Ireland – Horse Riding the Clare Burren Trail Day 1-2

01-03 September 2017

The 8-hour layover in Toronto actually worked in my favor. Has it really been 6 years since I travelled to Peru, the beginning of my annual travel phenomenon? I can’t even describe how great it was to see Adrienne and Nadia again. Just like no time had passed.

Landing in Dublin seemed easy enough. I even managed to find the bus I was supposed to catch to Portumna. Turns out, it was merely by accident. From what I could make out from Jerry, the bus driver, in his thick Irish accent, was that he doesn’t normally park there and the bus departs from the bus station at 1:00pm. Assuring me all was well, we drove off to the actual bus station. I have to say, maybe it was the jet lag and being unable to put together any sort of thought, I never would have found it. Yes, I feel fortunate.

There is not much to say about Dublin or the ride out to Portumna and Shannon since I was in and out of consciousness due to lack of sleep. Nicola, the owner of An Sibin Riding center, was there to pick myself up, as well as one of the guides and 2 Swedish women on the tour. Pulling up at the cottage and farm was like a fairy-tale. I mean iconic Ireland – a fucking fairy-tale! Stone buildings, sheep, border collies, geese in the pond, green, green grass, and so much moss! Unfortunately after arriving, it began to rain, so I took to my cottage I share with a twenty-some year old from France. Super quiet, but nice girl. A taste of my former self I suppose. We are sharing a private cottage, each with our own room, and a downstairs, which is far too cold to sit in. Besides, the main house is much nicer.

Talking with Nicola, they have owned the business for over 25 years, but only in the last few years bought this farm, which was a set of ruins. She and her husband, Bertie, are both handy, and although folks thought they were crazy, the rebuilt all the little buildings and connected them. Then they moved the horses over. They have loads of fields all over Clare Burren, adjacent to the park, which is convenient for riding. Total, they have 47 horses of all breeds – Cobs, Connemaras, Sport horses, and crosses. They breed their own herd, and have 2-3 foals every 2 years. Horses retire in their late teens to early 20’s and are given to good homes, where they can still be ridden for another 10 years. Something to be said for herd-life. The horses work, at most, 2 weeks, and then have a week off. But less if there are fewer tour groups.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast and coffee at 8:30am. As I walked into the main building, the yellow lab was looking into the kitchen as the smell of bacon wafted the air. Different dog, same look. By 10:00am, we had driven to meet our horses outside their field, groomed, and tacked them up, My horse, Toibin, is a colored Irish Cob. Quiet a brick house, but stoic nonetheless. We rode for 3 hours down tiny, winding roads squished between farms. Skirting barbed wire fences, we made our way into the park, and had a nice view of the Holy Island. The story goes:

As the tower was being built on “Holy Island”, each time someone passed the tower, they were to say “Bless the Tower.” One day, however, a woman passing did not want to say “Bless the Tower.” Legend goes, the water and island began throwing stones at her, and she, then, turned to stone. That stone sits near the tower. The legend is, the woman cursed the tower saying it would never be finished since she was stone. The roof has never been completed. Many times it was tried, but through one failure or another, it has not been successful.

Just after, we come across a huge stone, and have another folklore story about the dolmen we pass and young woman from an island in the sea where you never age. She wants to marry an islander. Her father says no, as if she leaves the island she will grow old and die. Her father finally agrees but allows the man to come to the island in the sea. They live for 1,000’s years until the man gets so homesick he wants to return to the island. The father says the only way they can do so is by riding horses, for if they touch the ground, they will immediately die. When they make it to the island, they come across a farmer trying to move these stones in his field. The offer to help but the man falls off his horse and immediately dies. The wife, grief stricken, dies beside him, and the dolmen represent their grave.

The heather is in full bloom, so purple, purple, everywhere! And of course, because it is Ireland, it is muddy, muddy, muddy. But it is perfect again for all that fair-tale moss and red-topped mushrooms.

Lunch, we headed back to the farm, and ate at the picnic tables situated outside the tackroom and the wood stove, fueled by sod. The horses, too, got their lunch and a quick nap before heading off for another 2-hour ride.

By now, the sun was out full force. Never thought that would happen here! We stop and come across a Fairy tree – made of a twisted plum and holly tree. The legend goes:

You will have a life of bad luck if you break or take down a fairy tree. Offerings or wishes are usually left to them. The Irish are so superstitious that a road was actually build around a Fairy tree because no one wanted to chance removing it.

Continuing on through the fields of cattle, our guide is continually unmounting to open the gates for us. Being true to self, I am gazing at every puddle and pool growing greenery in it to look for turtles. I forget where I am. But then we come into a Fairy tree forest. A fairy-tale I tell you. Oh yeah, and we are on horseback! Complete. Fucking. Fairy-tale. I am in love and look forward to tomorrow.

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