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An account of a journey through western Ireland made in 1984 that centres on the growing bond between the author and her Connemara pony and the many challenges they face before the tragic conclusion in the mountains of Kerry. It is a portrait of rural Ireland, built up from conversations with local people. The journey takes them through Counties Galway, Mayo, Clare and Kerry, the obstacles to their progress ranging from bogs, stone walls, and the River Shannon. "I've never tried hitchhiking with a horse before" ...
An account of a journey through western Ireland made in 1984 that centres on the growing bond between the author and her Connemara pony and the many challenges they face before the tragic conclusion in the mountains of Kerry. It is a portrait of rural Ireland, built up from conversations with local people. The journey takes them through Counties Galway, Mayo, Clare and Kerry, the obstacles to their progress ranging from bogs, stone walls, and the River Shannon. "I've never tried hitchhiking with a horse before" comments the author. "It's not easy." She travelled with no set route.
Most horse owners are familiar with the rage and despair that accompanies the trudge round a large field of long dew-soaked grass in pursuit of their animal. Mollie kept on with her eating, an ear cocked for my soothing pleasantries and a sneer on her lips, until I was 10 feet or so away, then took off at a brisk trot. I’d left her head collar on just in case, but she understood the just in case perfectly well and made sure I was never within grabbing distance. “Come on Mollie, good girl!” I said in gentle horse-loving tones as I walked towards her with equicide in my heart.
...Filling a bucket with horse nuts I went back to the field and got exactly the same reaction. Mollie let me get a little closer and showed interest in the bucket’s contents but however stealthily I reached out my hand she always saw it coming and trotted off. However, my arrival with a bucket hadn’t gone unnoticed by the herd of bullocks in the neighbouring field and they galloped up and down the fence bellowing encouragement whenever I seemed to be approaching them. Eventually Mollie’s greed got the better of her and I managed to take hold of her head collar. Typically, once caught she accepted the situation with equanimity and I was able to clip on the lead rein and start for the gate. Here I was confronted with a new problem: Mollie’s gate led into the bullocks’ field where another gate, at right angles to the first, opened onto the road. Both were secured by the same piece of rope so either both were closed or both open. The bullocks were clustered excitedly by the gates waiting for me to deliver the goodies in the bucket. I had to tie Mollie to the gate-post and leave her eating her horse-nuts while I unfastened the rope securing the two gates. Then I propped both gates shut and started to climb back over the stone wall into Mollie’s field. The top boulders gave way. I fell heavily with a squawk of pain, Mollie took fright, pulled back and broke her lead rein, the gate swung open and three bullocks escaped into the road. I was near to tears.
There were three rooms, so the kitchen/sitting room was also a store room, with bags of potatoes and farm implements stacked by the walls. The only furniture was a table, two or three hardback chairs and a settee. The floor was cement and tea water boiled on an ancient turf-burning stove. Apart from a religious painting and a calendar there was a 1940’s wireless that didn’t work and an even earlier clock with a loud tick. We spent such an agreeable evening together, drinking tea and eating brown bread. Mum sat snapping sticks for kindling while we discussed hospital care (“Oh God, I thought my heart would stop there and then”), the evils of television (“Oh Lord I wouldn’t have one in the house!”) to farming, marriage and whether politicians should tell the truth.
Prologue The Adventures of this Book
Chapter 1 A horse-mad child
Chapter 2 Travels with horses in Peru and Africa
Chapter 3 “My bags are packed, I’m ready to go”
Chapter 4 Mollie
Chapter 5 Getting to know you
Chapter 6 Riding through Connemara
Chapter 7 Co Mayo
Chapter 8 Co Galway
Chapter 9 The Burren and Co Clare
Chapter 10 The Cliffs of Moher
Chapter 11 Crossing the Shannon
Chapter 12 Co Kerry
Chapter 13 New shoes and Annascaul
Chapter 14 Finale