“The feeling of freedom and the adrenaline continue to boil inside us for hours afterwards”.
To feel such tremendous horsepower beneath you and nearly fly across the beach while the Atlantic is crashing against the shore...Yes, it can make you cry.
The knitted sweaters were used for generations of Irish fishermen. Legend has it that every family had their own design. If a fisherman went down and was lost at sea and then found, the family could identify him based on his sweater. So while the storm was at its worst, we felt safe knowing that wearing Mary’s sweaters, we could be identified.
You can come along as well.
“Bloody hell, now I really regret that I didn’t bring my fringed royal blue jodhpurs”, Hege squeals when she sees my brown leather ones.
Our bodies tremble with excitement. Nothing is left to circumstance when Hege and I stand at the starting line before a ten day ride along the Northwest coast of Ireland, riding from one inn to the next. Just the two of us, two horses and a map.
All we have been thinking about for the last two weeks is horses. Numerous e-mails have gone back and forth about silicon pads for our behinds to prevent stiffness, heating mats in case of injuries, and extreme weather riding gear. And now here we are, in the stable at Horse Holiday Farm in Sligo, Ireland – Hege in country style browns, and I wearing black like Zorro, and we are waiting for our assigned horses who will be our best friends for a week.
“Do you guys want a calm horse or a real Irish Hunter?” Tilman Anhold asks. He owns and manages the stable together with his wife Colette. “IRISH HUNTER!” slips out of my mouth Hege is taken totally by surprise and gives me a reprimanding look. A moment later she is greeted by Trooper, and it is love at first sight. He is beautiful and huge, brown with a light mane and big, wise eyes. Trooper touches her cheek with his mule. Already they belong together.
Then it’s my turn. I look down onto some enormous hooves. Then I look up. Good Lord, Rover is bigger than anything I have seen. How in the heck will I get up there? The stable boy grins: “Very young. But good gallop on the beach!”
“How are we going to fit everything we need in the saddle bags? If you take the champagne, I will take the grooming tools”, Hege says. “Cool saddle bags, I say” “Um, they look like Mulberry purses”, Hege respond.
While we are grooming and saddling the horses, we remember back to the time when horses were our best friends, the ones we could confide in and whose soft mules we kissed. Back when we lay awake late at night and read horse books about riding on the Emerald Isle. Now we are here. I look over at Hege, and I see pure joy.
Together with the horses, we are driven North in a truck and left by the edge of the woods.
“Have a good trip”, Tilman shouts. Not long after we are in a landscape in Donegal that resembles Hardangervidda times ten. Everything is verdigris green and carpets of purple heather spreads over the green. Here everything really IS greener on the other side. The feeling of freedom is complete.
The best girl trip imaginable!
“You look the way I feel”, Hege says. After five hours we have reached the widow Mary, in a small house by Gauguin Mountain. The horses are attended to and are put out into the pasture outside the bedroom window. We get freshly baked scones with homemade rhubarb jam and tea. Outside it’s raining cats and dogs.
When evening arrives, Ireland’s wilderness turns into a real shopping Mecca. Mary knits gorgeous sweaters, hats and jackets in the old Celtic traditions. We become proud owners of jackets and hats that will always remind us of this trip. After a three course dinner and the best apple pie we have ever tasted, we say goodnight to the horses through our window.
The following day we ride over massive mountains that seem as if they have been taken
right out of Wuthering Heights. The storm hits us like a wet smack in the face. We are soaking wet in an instant. And still there are five hours until our destination. We struggle to keep up the mood, and we are aided by a miniature bottle of Jameson Irish whisky from the saddle bag.
After a couple of days on horseback, we see the coast. The ocean crashes in on the miles
long beach in Portnoo. As soon as the horses get white sand under their hooves, the ears turn
happily forward and enormous horsepower explodes beneath us. We loosen the reins and let them run. We fly past people and dogs and squeal and laugh intermittently.
“I have tears in my eyes”, Hege says.
The feeling of freedom and the adrenaline continue to boil inside us for hours afterwards.
It’s wild, desolate, and beautiful. We pass gates and marshes and ride into the wind in full
gallop over the mountain. There is nothing better than riding horses; it’s as simple as that.
On the eight and last day the stable boy comes to get us. Happy as a lark. “Good morning
boys”, he greets Trooper and Rover, and back in place inside the truck he turns up the stereo. “Let’s rock and roll, girls!”
We are at the end of our road. Our trip has been rough, raw, and absolutely fantastic.
“We though you would have called for a pick-up during the storm”, Colette says back at the
Horse Holiday farm.
However, not ten wild horses could have stopped us. We made it! With our throats all
choked up, we kiss the soft mules goodbye. And whisper into the horse ears that we will see each other again soon.