We love our horses in Ireland and throughout March I have been very conscious of all the big racing festivals in which Irish horses, trainers, owners and jockeys have been doing so well. Cheltenham was the biggy but The Irish Grand National in Fairyhouse in Co. Meath is also a very big affair.
While all these were going on, I found myself looking at horses grazing the fields while I was out and about and one pony kept catching my eye.
I’ve christened him Pensive as he always looks like he’s deep in thought. Clearly he’s never going to be featuring at something like the Cheltenham Festival but he has an appeal that I can’t quite explain.
It’s got to to with having a charm and a certain poise in spite of not being a celebrity in the horsey world. I’d stop and have a little chat with him on days when the big Festivals were on and think how he is so like the vast majority of people. Only a tiny percentage rise to the top and become household names around the world but that doesn’t mean that they are any less special to those who love them for who they are.
In a world in which ‘celebrities’ are more and more talked about, it is all too easy to forget the wonder and unique qualities within ‘ordinariness.’
I don’t care the Pensive didn’t win the Cheltenham Gold Cup; I don’t care that someone isn’t a world renowned writer….. What matters to me is that they bring joy by being who they are; that they make me think; and that they reveal the extraordinariness that lies within the so often taken-for-granted ‘ordinariness’ that is both within us all and all around us.
You’ve got to understand that the mere mention of the word Ireland conjures up very different images in people’s minds ~ everything from greenness to Guinness.
As I was driving to Kilfarrasy Beach here in Co. Waterford for a dip this morning, this was the image of Ireland that presented itself to me:
Yes, a grey horse looking seaward with its mane billowing ever so gently. Horses are an integral part of the landscape right around the Irish countryside. I always feel a sense of incredible good fortune to be part of that countryside and to be able to touch nature with such ease.
The thought of being stuck in the middle of a bustling city with no hope of ever seeing green fields and grey horses fills me with dread and I know there are many Irish people, not to talk about people living in far flung metropolises, who never get the chances that I do to commune with nature in all her glory.
What image flashes before you when you hear the word “Ireland?”
Horses are a fundamental part of Ireland and Irishness. We stand tall on the world stage when it comes to horse-breeding, horse-racing, show-jumping and so many great names and places comes to mind when horses are mentioned in the Irish context. How about Arkle, Redrum, Dawn Run, Moscow Flyer, Nijinsky, Shergar, Australia, Vincent O’ Brien, Tom Dreaper, Aidan O’ Brien, Jim Bolger, Capt. Michael Tubridy, Eddie Macken, Paul Darragh, Coolmore Stud, The Curragh, Punchestown, Fairyhouse, Pat Taaffe, Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty, The Royal Dublin Horse Show, Laytown Races … just for starters?
Horses have always been part of my landscape. I loved hearing my father telling me about his younger brother, Michael, who was a world class show jumper and nothing soothed me more at bedtime than Mother telling me about her happy childhood days on a farm with her beloved pony, Jock. I must have read every single book that was ever written about young girls and their ponies and was fortunate to be brought to places like the Dublin Horse Show and race meetings all round the country.
I have what I consider to be my very own ‘horse show’ here in Tramore every day when I bring the dogs out along Cliff Road to Newtown Wood. There is a field, with a spectacular view of Tramore Bay, which is the grazing place of the friendliest horses I know. These are horses that trot gently over to the gate to be patted. I could spend hours there running my fingers through their manes and gazing into their big brown eyes.
I guess most Irish people have a special field such as this in which noble, nuzzling friends reside and ones that evoke thoughts of echoing hooves and contented whinnying.