2 legs good, 4 legs better. A horse riding adventure in Ireland
Original post: Another World Adventures
Some of my very best trips and journeys have involved friends. From the road trip I took with my best friend across the USA to the life long friends I made sailing across the Atlantic, for me a trip is often made by the people I’m with.
This month I said bon voyage to a close friend who is leaving London for an exciting new chapter in Canada. In celebration we decided to spend the week in Ireland, combining two of our favourite activities – drinking Guinness and riding horses.
We joined Willie Leahy a world-renowned breeder of Connemara ponies who has been running riding trails across the beautiful rugged countryside of Connemara in west Ireland since the 1960’s. Willie leads every trail himself, and now in his mid-70s you won’t meet a more passionate, hardworking or expert horseman. His passion for his horses is only equaled by his love and enthusiasm for the people who come to ride with him – some of whom have been returning annually to ride the trails with him for over 25 years.
There is not much Willie doesn’t know about horses and he can match a rider with a suitable horse just by looking at them. I was matched with Archie, a cheeky sociable grey Connemara who liked to eat and walk his own (often boggy) path. We made excellent friends.
Horse riding holidays are a great way to meet like-minded people and socialise in a relaxed environment, so they’re a popular choice for solo travellers. Our small group was a great mix of solos, couples and friends of all ages and we bonded quickly over our new 4-legged friends. As one of my fellow riders said “if they like horses I’ll probably like them” and by the end of the week were a tight little riding family – sharing painkillers, sunscreen and Vaseline (don’t ask).
The countryside was stunning and the terrain thrillingly tough. This was no ‘pony-trekking’ holiday. 6 hours a day in the saddle across rocky pastures, steep mountain slopes and every kind of weather. We took Willie’s advice, which was to get a good seat and put our trust in our horses. They were incredible, nimbly making their way through bogs, brooks and brambles, never putting a foot wrong and keeping us safe.
By day 3 my body was racked with aches and pains but the sun came out and it was a glorious day as we made our way down to the beach for a ride. I won’t ever forget the feeling of galloping along the white sand with new-found friends. Wind in our hair and not another sole on the beach as our happy horses raced back and forth.
We finished off the day with a swim on horseback which was something both Jenn and I had dreamed of but never experienced. Riding bareback we made our way down to the water and clung on as our horses waded in. You could feel the incredible power of their legs as they started to swim, snorting and puffing as they circled around.
Some of the horses were more at home in the water than others and Archie was definitely more of a landlubber than a seahorse. By then though we were the best of friends so that was fine. We had a quick but memorable dip and then just chilled out on the beach and worked on our tans….
Well that’s what friends do ☺