called simply Horse Holiday Farm, but it‘s more than
just a farm, it‘s more than just another holiday and
the horses offer much more than the average riding holiday
In fact Horse Holiday Farm is quite simply unique - and for all the best
reasons! Where else would you get the chance to create your own adventure
on horseback - given your own horse for a week, saddlebags for your belongings
and a map with which to find your way riding through breathtakingly scenic
Irish trails, stopping off each evening at a welcoming guesthouse in
the wilds of Donegal before moving on the next day to explore new trails.
No guide or leader to set the pace -you make your own. No stable staff
to feed and groom your horse - you do that yourself. No restrictions
or schedules to stick to other than that you treat your horse with care
and respect and turn up at the guesthouse some time before dinner. No
need to ‘check in‘ each evening to report how the day went,
you‘re trusted to get on with it - although help, should you ever
need it, is only a phone call away.
Consulting the expert - Astra
the only people we know who offer these self-led trails,“ says
Tilman Anhold, who along with his wife Colette has been
running riding holidays from their base in Sligo for over
25 years. “Others have tried it, but it hasn‘t
worked out for them.“ And indeed it‘s a daring
concept – how do they know if their guests are even
capable of spending long hours in the saddle, let alone
taking care of a horse? What if there‘s an accident?
How can they be sure the riders will actually find their
way to the guesthouse each night? And in return, what if,
far from the farm, a rider becomes dissatisfied with or
is unsuited to their horse? What if a rider pushes their
horse‘s pace unfairly, or treats him harshly in other
ways? So many ifs and buts...
The success of Horse Holiday Farm - and it undoubtedly is a huge success,
especially with visitors from America and Europe - is in no small way
down to the singular talents of this exceptional husband and wife team.
Tilman and Colette are the archetypal amiable Irish hosts, although Tilman
still carries a strong hint of his Germanic roots in his lilting brogue
and German is spoken frequently in the yard as he converses with his
hard working staff, many of whom come from Germany or other Eastern European
He and Colette are welcoming, relaxed and keen to do everything they
can to make you feel at ease at Horse Holiday Farm.
Behind the scenes, however, they and their staff work hard to ensure
everything runs smoothly. In reality, not much is left to chance. On
the day of your arrival, Tilman takes you out for a beach ride (the farm
looks out over the sweeping sands of Trawalud Strand) and quietly assesses
your riding ability. You must be a competent, experienced rider to do
the self-led trail, and Tilman will be the judge. But don‘t be
put off -‘rusty‘ riders or average ‘leisure‘ riders
like myself are fine.
and Colette have built up a good working relationship with
the owners of the various guesthouses you stay at and the
warm welcome and fabulous food we received at each was
You will be shown what to do with the horses on arrival, offered
help if you need it, and given some useful advice about the next
day‘s trail. This network of hospitable hosts keeps an eye
out for their guests: should you not arrive by evening, it would
not be long before the ‘jungle drums‘ alerted the local
countryside - and Tilman. And if the horses came in totally sweated
and exhausted, I would image that a quiet word might be had with
The routes are well worked out and much of the riding is off road. Riders
are given detailed maps of the area and helpful arrows providing directions
have been painted on paths and wooden posts to help keep you right. Besides,
just about everyone you meet along the way knows Tilman and his horses
so you‘d never be lost for long.
And what of the horses themselves? It was rude of me not to mention them
earlier, for the part they play is critical to the enjoyment of the whole
holiday! Perhaps the very fact that I have taken their role for granted
is a sign that all was well.
My trail-riding partner for the week, Megan, was given a young chestnut
gelding called Busky while 1 rode the more experienced ‘ginger‘ mare
Astra. Both fine looking Irish hunters, they knew their job inside out
(Astra even guided us into the correct guesthouse each evening) and were
an absolute joy to ride.
So much so, that we soon took their co-operation and good manners as
a given, allowing us to enjoy the wonderful scenery to the full, to chat
easily riding side by side, to be able (while holding our horses) to
eat a picnic lunch in peace, to stop off at a pub for a refreshing drink,
knowing our horses were happy to stand tethered, to ride safely past
the odd traffic we did encounter and to give us glorious gallops across
deserted beeches and tracks.
And this is largely the secret of Tilman‘s success. The horses
are exceptionally well trained and selected by Tilman specially for the
purpose. Some he breeds (he now has over 100 horses) and others he buys
as young horses and trains up himself. This, he feels is essential in
developing the particular kind of animal he - and his clients - require.
The horses are not used for hourly rides with beg inner and novice riders
as they sometimes are at other establishments, and remain unspoilt and
responsive, with a reputation for easy handling and safe riding, combined
with the spirit to give you an unforgettable, exhilarating beech ride
the moment their hooves touch the sand.
trail riding options are available, staying at guesthouses
or pubs en route, or basing your riding from the farm it
self, from which you can venture out each day either on
your own or with a leader for some great riding, which
also includes cross country and hunting.
Getting out on trail, meandering across remote bogs and mountains
(on tracks inaccessible to only the most enthusiastic walkers) brings
its own sense of tranquillity and solitude. The ever-changing landscapes
are mood enhancing and the challenge of finding the trail an added
adventure. (If only we‘d listened to Astra at the first fork
in the trail we would not have added those few extra miles on the
The highlight however, must surely be riding by the sea - equally
loved by riders and horses and part of the package, whichever one
Horse Holiday Farm Ltd.
Grange County Sligo Ireland
Telephone : (071) 9166152
Fax : (071) 9166400
From Europe Telephone : 00 353 71 9166152
Fax : 00 353 71 9166400
The Horse Holiday Farm is Bord Fáilte (Irish Tourist Board) approved
a member of A.I.R.E., the Association of Irish Riding Establishments.