riding adventure took place in Ireland's wild west, the rugged seacoast
dubbed "the most Irish part of Ireland".
Donie O'Sullivan, the garrulous owner of Killarney Riding
Stables, offers a variety of inn-to-inn rides that last up to six
days. I opted for a
day ride along the Ring of Kerry's seductive sea.
O'Sullivan expertly selected a horse to fit each of the six
riders. He put a short,
inexperienced rider onto a calm Connemara pony and handed me the
reins of "Pepsi", a
powerful Irish draught.
horses have a long history.
Spanish Arab horses that escaped from shipwrecked Armada
vessels off the Irish coast intermingled with the original Irish
stock, producing the draught, a taller, faster, and more elegant
placid, big-boned, athletic horses earned their name by pulling
draught beer wagon in the 18th. century.
Before World War II, there were about half a million of them.
With mechanisation, the horses were not longer needed by
farmers, so they were bred with Thoroughbreds to form Irish hunters.
World War II, older mares were shipped to war-ravaged France and
Belgium for human consumption.
Today, only 836 registered pure-blood Irish draught mares
and 99 stallions exist in the world, according to the Irish Horse
one draught stallion lives in the United States (its owner, Jim
McGinty of Houston, sells vials of its semen for $1000 and guarantees
a live foal birth). There
are only three draught mares in the United States, one of which
is owned by Martha Dupont, of Dupont family fame.
Fortunately, the Irish government is now attempting to save
our day trip with O'Sullivan, we trotted down country lanes in the
picturesque fishing village of Waterville (pop.440), where life
still unfolds at a gentle pace.
This was the setting for Ryans Daughter, and O'Sullivan and
some of his horses were extras in the film.
we arrived on a deserted beach, Pepsi went at a full gallop.
the backdrop was dramatic: Seagulls dive-bombed the gray
waves of the Atlantic, which pounded relentlessly.
With a little encouragement, Pepsi surged ahead of the other
horses to race through the crashing waves.
It was a wild ride.
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