There’s something magical about taking a horseback riding vacation in Ireland. When my husband and I drove up to Dromoland Castle we couldn’t believe that we would actually be spending the night in this fairytale castle hotel. Then when a horse and carriage pulled up front I actually looked at my husband and started giggling. Was this a dream or was it true that you could fly to Ireland, stay at a five star castle and then go horseback riding on an Irish Cob in the rolling green countryside?
The concierge at Dromoland Castle referred me to Ballyhannon House in the village of Quin, near Newmarket on Fergus when I asked about horse trekking in County Clare. Owner and race horse trainer Johnny Hasset was leading a dapple grey horse by as I walked into the cobblestone you-shaped courtyard. This stable, with 14 lesson horses, also housed its own race track. In fact, two young men were walking their horses back to the barn after stretching their legs on the race track. I’m not familiar with the term “breeze ups” but my understanding is that Hasset and his jockeys take yearlings and turn them into race horses. I also learned during my time in Ireland that horse racing is very dear to the Irish people; so much so that all activity stops when a race is underway on the television.
But today was my day to race (truthfully, we only trotted) in the Irish country side. I had the pleasure of riding on the trails with Stable Manager Aislinn Lysaght of Limerick, Ireland. “I have been riding at Ballyhannon House for over a year and liked it so much that I have recently started working here,” said Lysaght.
With my two hip replacements, I’m always concerned if the stable will have a mounting block and a horse that will stand still for a painfully slow mount. I had nothing to worry about with the horses of Ballyhannon House. Johnny had selected Soldier for my morning trek. At 15.3 hands Soldier was a fine example of an Irish Cob horse. The breed is referred to by several different names, including Gypsy Cob, and is a true pleasure to ride.
Lysaght guided me down country lanes, all the while telling me about Ireland’s local history, providing insight into Ireland’s horse community and explaining an Irish horse fair. Horse fairs are popular events throughout Ireland and are typically held in the summer. One more reason for me to return to the Emerald Isle!
As we entered the ancient Irish woodlands, our horses hooves tread softly. I imagined fairies living here, swooping and diving amongst the trees. The tree trunks and limbs are covered with velvety, sponge-like moss and the ground is carpeted with tufts of green the color of leprechauns. Truly, this is a magical place in Ireland that is meant to be explored on horseback!
“I have been riding at Ballyhannon House for over a year and liked it so much that I have recently started working here,”
Far too soon we head back to Ballyhannon House, past the River Rine, and return to Dromoland Castle. If you have a chance to go on a horseback riding vacation in County Clare, Ireland, you’ll want to check out this riding establishment in Quin; the horses are great and the scenery is dreamy.
Need to know:
Ballyhannon House offers one, two and three hour horse rides (or horse trekking) through the Irish forest and countryside. Additionally, Ballyhannon offers riding lessons and a pub trek. I highly recommend the woodland trek for its scenic beauty. All rides start with a cup of coffee or tea in the Garden Gazebeo (how civilized) followed with a short equine safety lesson. Guests are given helmets and boots, if necessary and escorted with a guide on the bridal paths.
If You Go:
Ballyhannon House Horse Riding School 353 86 440 1777 http://www.ballyhannonhouse.com/
County Clare, Ireland
Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip. I was a guest of Ballyhannon House Equestrian Center while researching an article for Dromoland Castle.