The one thing that can be hard working for ourselves is having to take the bookings when they come, even if it means missing a competition or show we would love to enter. Sometimes the bills are more important. After the personal success at last years Galway County Show, we had hoped to take other horses and have a bit of craic widening their horizons and showing them what fun horses can have too. The kids took turns doing the photography, the results of which can be seen in full on our facebook page here!
The Galway County Show heralds in the summer showing season here in the West of Ireland. Up and down the Wild Atlantic Way horse trucks, lorries, little trailers load up their horses, dogs, cattle, & sheep for the chance to shine at the Ballybrit Racecourse on the outskirts of Galway city.
Our interest is naturally in the equine classes, but even those not enamoured by our four legged friends can find something of interest for themselves and the family. There was the amusements located close to the entrance but cleverly placed away from the animals to avoid unnecessary hardship and competitors. The screaming from the waltzers could upset even the best trained animals.
The 2 day affair is not one to be missed, and thankfully a contingent from Cooper’s Hill ,managed to sneak away late Sunday afternoon to grab a hours at the show. We were not disappointed. The Grand Prix Jump Off had just started, and we got up close and personal to some spectacular horses jumping over huge obstacles. We briefly watched the Connemara Stallions, Connemara Mares some with foals, Coloured Hunters but by far my personal favourites were the Side Saddle ladies. Horses so well turned out, that you have to wonder if they are wrapped in bubble wrap or clingfilm when not showing. I cannot imagine the time, patience and effort that goes into making horses that fabulous. I crazily wondered if maybe the horses were hoovered because no matter how much I bathe ours, or groom them I can never get them looking so good.
Sadly, our disappearance was noticed after a couple of hours. The dreaded phone call came and we had to make our way back to help sort the horses out for the night.. Not before we had one last spin on the waltzers though.
For scientific purposes, and general curiosity I did investigate if you can hoover a horse… apparently the answer is yes!
So this is Samson, well on his way to being a truly great allrounder. He has a nice sensible attitude to work, and importantly new situations.
This is a video of his first time out on his own….
Samson has previously hacked out on these roads with another horse to babysit him. We repeat this until the horse is so comfortable hacking out that he can do it automatically. The next big step is for them to perform the task on their own.
There will always be a few goofy steps as they get used to the big bad world all on their own, but I think Samson did a good job.
Cooper’s Hill organise different packages for those wishing to hunt in Ireland.
During August, we can organise exercising the hounds with the huntmasters. This is mounted and no jumping is involved.
Cost is e150 and allow at least 4 hours for this option.
In September, there is cubbing. I would allow at least 5 hours in your schedule for this option. It is an early morning start, attire is casual but neat. If there is jumping it is usually just small obstacles. Cost is e170
From October to March, it is the hunt season proper.
Your day will start at approximately 9am and continue until 5pm..
Total cost including horse hire is e350.
To help riders prepare for foxhunting in Ireland, either for their first time or to brush up on some skills, we can also organise clinics.
Cost of the clinic is e150 and they are organised throughout the year, not just during hunt season, for groups of 4 or more riders. Allow at least 3 hours in your day for this option.
It was a promising start to the morning as the heavy showers abated. Two of Coopers Hill horses and riders were to hunt at the Moyvilla meet. It is popular meet every season, as it brings out the best in the Huntsman and Master David Burke. I guess everyone has their favourite meet for their own reasons. I am still forming opinions on which hunt on our card is best but, Moyvilla would be among my favourites.
As we drove up to the meet, the skies were clearing nicely with the air temperature considerably cooler than previous days. Coopers Hill had a first time hunt participant from North America, a Canadian to be more precise. Andrea Ypma, was exceptionally excited to be part of the foot followers. She had just arrived in Ireland two days previously for three long weeks of immersing herself in the Irish Hunting culture with us at Coopers Hill Livery. The wall builder was tasked with the very important job of escorting Andrea to all the finest places to watch the fox bolt and view some of the horses jump walls.
When all the pleasantries and New Years greetings were bid to each and every member, followers and staff, the Master then made for the first cover. It was no more than 200 yards from the parking area. The hounds were putting in a good effort at Tommy Ford’s covert.
The master pushed the hounds to find, encouraging them to do their level best. There was no result even with all the extra persuasion. Nothing to bolt in this covert. The next option was to move on and head to a new covert about a mile away heading north east to the Moyvilla castle, negotiating an upward jump out on to the road landing in the grass margin before gingerly moving onto the asphalt. All riders and horses got out onto the road and a nice hack ensued to the turn into Ray Bohan’s and onto the Moyvilla castle covert.
The hounds were screaming inside the covert there was a considerable amount of tongue. We suspected there was more than one fox in the covert. The foxes set inside, out of view, but now moving by the sound of the direction of the hounds tongue. It’s a brace hollered one of the riders. The hounds were about to split. The shout of “leave it” was promptly verbalised in order to prevent what seemed like an inevitability, a split pack, and this shout kept the pack together on the most favourable scent. The fox then bolted. Pandemonium ensued and the hounds were off, quick on his tail. “Come along“was the call of the moment, uttered by more than one of the field and by the master. I suspected the field was seeing the action unfold from the bluff on the north side of the castle as the fox first headed west to the railway lines of the Dublin Galway train. The master played a blinder in turning the fox east and preventing him from crossing tracks and ending our chase. The fox doubled back heading east and later west again. Fearing the wrath of the master and his hounds in pursuit, the fox promptly made a swift swing north east to avoid the pack. This very healthy, quick Charlie with the hounds in toe was making good sport of the chase with stone walls coming into view in rapid succession. Wall after wall at a full gallop the field was getting strung out. I was in the field giving chase when there was a stopper at one of the walls.
Heels down, I burst through on my ISH, Seamus, and helped the field continue; only taking a check at a sharp bend and steading at walls in order to hit the sweet spot when traversing the obstacles of Moyvilla country. The fox by now had turned north east and ran from Paddy Fords farm yard back to the covert in Tommy Ford’s field where the Master marked the den that Charlie entered. I was astonished with the speed of the hounds and fox. I was in awe of the masters skills in preventing the fox from putting the field and hounds in danger by turning Charlie back from the train tracks, bravo Master Burke.
Once marked, Master Burke gathered all his hounds, took a headcount and congratulated some of his hounds by name. Preacher and Prancer were praised. Not even an hour in and we had some fantastic sport. The day was panning out to be one for the record books.
We again jumped out onto the road and headed back to the castle. Within ten minutes the hounds had bolted the second fox which had returned to the covert after the brace earlier. This time we chased hard but this fox did not turn back from the railway tracks. Charlie headed for a covert the far side of the railway tracks in Hughie Higgen’s covert. It seemed only like minutes before the hounds found again. Another brace, calls from both sides of the covert. One of the calls would allow for more sport. The master was on to the better call, but our progress was hampered by young cattle getting involved in the proceedings so care had to be foremost in our minds. We had to walk until we were clear of the herd. The hounds were swiftly on the way and out of sight by now on to the next covert about three hundred yards away with six walls to be negotiated, each one stronger than the next. I had hardly time to catch my breath. The record books will tout this day, a day full of sport for huntsman hound and field. This was a glorious and exciting day for one and all, with hardly a moment to catch up and socialise with friends in the field as we were constantly on the move. We were off again, drops, hedges, ploughed fields, mud and rock, it didn’t matter. Some shoes were lost but still hunting- bulls in fields, wire fences- there was nothing to stop these hounds this day.
The hounds found again near Sean Keane’s and quickly chased for the Derrydonnell forest. There was a national road between both points and there was no way to cut the hounds off. Master Burke was on Charlie’s tail and he did his best to prevent any harm coming to the hounds and road users alike. The pace of this hunt was frantic, everyone was all a bustle to give chase. We had jumped five or six strong double and triple wide stone walls. Horses were failing under the strain as they had to negotiate a nice four foot drop from the main road into the forestry property in order to give chase. Master Burke explained; “I am not about to spend the afternoon in the woods I have called the pack off Charlie. There is more sport to be had elsewhere. “
Coopers Hill was having the day of their lives. I couldn’t imagine that it could get any better. We traversed the national route and we went back to Jim Dwyers, the last property on the way to the wood and the first back to the covert on the other side of the road. We found again and the field gave chase, jumping wall after wall until a loud cry “hold hard.” The cry was reinforced by other members in the field. Something must be wrong! The secretary jumped from her horse and hurried back to a fallen rider. I stopped to gather up the horses of the riders that had dismounted. There were three responders which hinted that this was a serious incident. A rider had crashed to the ground and was not moving. What we all fear. A seasoned rider, we all respected, just go it a little wrong at a wall with a hedge covering the high stone structure. Minutes stretched out, and seemed to go on forever. I couldn’t see any movement from the fallen rider. Your mind can not help but worry and be thankful all at the same time that it wasn’t yourself lying there. Finally, I saw the rider’s lower arm rise up a little from the ground. Thank the lord. The responders seemed less concerned as the minutes passed from that point on, the rider stood up after a few more moments with some support from members of the field. At this point the Master thought it prudent to call it a day, a very good decision.
Andrea, our guest for the next three weeks, who was taking the National Geographic quality shots, rode the fallen rider’s horse home. Not the usual way to introduce a guest to hunting, but it was a reminder for Andrea that hunting in Ireland is very different to hunting in New York and for the most part, North America. A great day, a tough day and but for the grace of god, a day we can all remember, bar one member. Later on that day even the fallen rider began to recollect this marvellous day. It would have been a shame for the fallen rider if that hunt was a lost memory. What a fantastic master we the Grallagh harriers have. Sincere thanks to master David Burke and his staff who gave the field and followers a great days’ sport.
Hunting is an important part of the equine industry in both England and Ireland. In addition to the heritage associated with the sport itself, it also contributes to other facets of the equine industry e.g. improving the confidence and courage of show jumpers and helping racing trainers to test horses over the diverse terrains of the Hunting Field. Unless one is closely affiliated to traditional hunting circles, the continuity of hunting knowledge from generation to generation is scant at best. Although there is vast amount of literature available on hunting it can be difficult to interpret or translate the written word onto the Hunting Field. It is therefore very important to maintain the tradition of hunting and a core element of this is an understanding of hunting etiquette.
Budding young equestrian riders, many of who in fact begin hunting as an equine pursuit, are clearly critical to the passing on of hunting knowledge.
It is our firm belief that education is required to prevent the loss of this tradition and to help improve the day’s sport by assisting the Huntsman as a member of the field rather than hindering their efforts to hunt.
At Coopers Hill Livery our goal is to help riders that have never hunted in Ireland, improving their hunting etiquette from all aspects including dress attire, horse turnout and the ability to cross the country. Thus we aim to help them to enjoy the whole experience of a day’s hunting in a manner that will also help them to contribute to preserving the heritage of the sporting tradition that they are continuing.
Coopers Hill Livery’s inaugural hunt clinic took place on November 7th 2014 with our experienced team overseeing simulations of what an actual hunting day is like and how to negotiate the renowned stonewalls of County Galway.
The clinic has a realistic component that focuses on covering the ground at the correct pace, safely keeping the correct distance so that you allow the horse in front of you enough time to negotiate the obstacle. We go on several runs encountering natural terrain, which are predominantly walls, ditches and hedges. Everything is fully explained by our experienced team and there is an opportunity for questions at the end of each phase.
If you are looking to start hunting or brush up on your existing skills then the Hunt Clinic is for you. The Hunt Clinic gives you an insight of what to expect when you arrive for your first hunt and will give you the confidence to hunt well and safely in Ireland and most of all enjoy the thrills and spills of this wonderful country pursuit!