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!
EAST CLARE FARMERS DRAG HUNT… dipping a toe into the water
With the weather turning colder, the days getting visibly shorter it is time to prepare for the season ahead. Hunting season will begin in the next few weeks here in Galway, and as I sit in a cold tack room, cleaning saddles and bridles all bundled up from the cold, I am reminded of my first foray into the wonderful world of hunting in Ireland…. My first attempt at foxhunting in was in the not so distant past, with the East Clare Farmers Drag hunt. Why a drag hunt? My foolish notions that somehow it would be easier than a live hunt, and back then i was mistakenly under the impression that foxhunting equated to animal cruelty. Oh how wrong was I? My opinion was based on the usual rhetoric that one would hear and read about. Always one sided information and horror stories. Never in my wildest dreams did I envisage myself drag hunting, never mind hunting. I didnt even understand the difference between the two activities. It never occured to me that drag hunting and hunting was a family activity, and both kinds of hunting compliment each other. Over the years since my first drag hunt with the East Clare Farmers I have evolved my opinion, witnessed for myself the cunning skill of the foxes, enjoyed the company of fine people, with this pack and other local packs. One cannot make the mistake to judge without knowing, which i was guilty of. But that is a story for another day. Today it is about reliving the glory of my first day hunting. D-Day was to be 16th January 2011….. Location Oranmore, Co.Galway. Research and some snooping on the chosen was hunt was performed. I reached out to others who I knew were going to attend this particular hunt, and everyone said “you’ll be grand, great day out”. The morning of my first hunt started off quite unremarkable, but on arrival to the yard I realised this was a big deal. Just like a live hunt, the proper attire had to be worn, horses needed to look clean and smart, and all the chores needed to be completed before we even thought about getting any horses ready. My mount for the day was Flame, a gorgeous chestnut Connemara pony. She had seen me through some rough scrapes on my journey to this point so she was put in charge of keeping me safe for my big adventure. I was lucky that the meet was to be held close to the yard, 40 minute hack, so I could use that time to settle my nerves and gain a little confidence. On arrival at the meet with the my two fine companions, we signed our lives away! Such a great start to the hunt… I was introduced to the people in the hunt, welcomed, encouraged and had a little bit of fun made of me, all with the aim of calming the nerves. It worked for a while until the off was heralded. Remounted, hounds let loose to follow a scent of raw meat with Perno poured over to give a strong scent. There was no turning back for me. The field was huge that day, 100 riders if not more, all riding to raise funds for a local charity. I stuck close by my two stalwart companions, James and Mike, seasoned hunters that had taken the job of introducing me to hunting very seriously. We all queued for the first wall, which to me, looked very innocent but it caught out a few good riders in the field, and it also caught out me. I wasnt the first to go down, I certainly figured i wouldn’t be the last. After being given a leg up , I thought the hardest part of the day was over, the first(and only) fall was behind me… before me was 4 fields with huge walls and bushes to navigate. By gosh, I went for it then. My pony was a seasoned hunter and I let her do all the hard work, she chose the spot on the wall, I tucked in behind another horse and we sailed over 10 walls in a row! BEST RUN OF MY LIFE… the only run of my life up to that point! The hunt circled back to the first field and we all had a breather. I was joined by James and Mike to see how I had gotten on, and a few others from the hunt to congratulate me on my “balls” to keep going after the first wall. One really couldnt have asked for a better first run. Feeling so proud of myself and like I could take on the world I was eager for more. My smugness lasted up until the moment I realised that the steward trying to reunite a phone with its lost owner was acutally holding my phone. Rookie mistake! I had forgotten to zip shut my pockets. With my head held as high as I could manage, I trotted over and retrieved my phone. If the entire field hadn’t known before then that it was my first time, they all did now. What was to follow, was to be one of the most memorable days. There was walls, ditches, drops, some fallen tree trunks, and the odd double of walls. It was at one of these obstacles that I witnessed first hand, the great spirit that is embued in hunting, be it drag or live. I had positioned myself in the middle of the field to give me a better chance at the walls. My hope was that others would knock the walls and fell a few stones. Good plan that was working for me up until one wall. I had tucked in behind James and his mount for the runs, but they were faster so I was being left further behind. Eventually I was following a complete random stranger who refused the second part of a double of stone walls, and naturally I didnt jump either. It was our first refusal, and with it I wondered did i have the guts to be able to do this on my own. With the crowd watching we retraced our steps and the combination in front of me sailed over the wall, but Flame refused again. I found this situation very confusing as she hadnt refused before. This was all new to me, James and Mike were ahead with the rest of the hunt and I was left trying not to get in everyone elses way. At this point, 3 hours into the hunt, my legs were like jelly. I didnt know where I was going to get the strength to squeeze Flame on. She refused a couple more times, I was disheartened, and by now I was the last rider, bar the safety steward. Hats off to the crowd, they got behind me, clapped and roared as I made yet another final approach to that wall. Two strides out, Flame skidded to a stop, I just had nothing left in me! All the adrenaline and confidence I had built up just flooded out of me. The crowd had witnessed me at the highest point, and now at my lowest that day. A collective groan rang out as she came to another stop in front of the wall. Yet again, I couldnt believe that I couldnt get over this wall. It wasnt even the biggest I had faced that day. There was no other options out of this narrow strip of land, I had no choice but to turn around and try again. Another lesson was on the cards! Never, ever give up…. The whole hunt had halted for me, the crowd were there shouting support, no one was leaving until I had made it through the other side. It was only me holding Flame back at this point, I knew she could jump, I just had find the guts to ride on through and do it. Facing the wall again, i urged her into a canter, squeezed my legs on her belly and tried to picture us landing safely on the other side. This time I refused to look at the wall, I kept my eyes firmly peeled on the hunt group patiently waiting in the next field. I shouted at Flame to keep my nerve, and to give myself a boost. Somehow I had made it over this time. From the crowd rose a cheer so loud, they were clapping and everyone congratulating me. I took a bow as gracefully as I could from the saddle. Flushed from the effort I rejoined the hunt. I had learned a valuable lesson at that wall. Never, ever give up and to always ride through. The rest of the hunt whizzed by at a glorious pace, jumping dry stone walls and hedges. With my confidence as high as it had ever been, I didnt have another stop or fall for the rest of the day. Many other riders during the rest periods came over to congratulate me on my ride that day. I was truely sad that the time had come to hack on home with our horses. It was the people, on foot and on horseback that had made my day. While each rider wants to ensure their own safety, no one was left out, and the whole hunt banded together to get anyone, mainly me, through a tough spot. I am thankful that I was encouraged to participate, to keep steady and canter on. It certainly gave me courage, the inspiration, and confidence in myself and my abilities. I would recommend that everyone come hunt with the East Clare Farmers Drag Hunt. Since the beginning of our yards association with this pack they have welcomed everyone we have brought to ride with them. Truly a great pack that deserves recognition for their activities and endeavours. The East Clare farmers hunt was formed back in 1992 by a large number of local people who love to follow and take part in other hunts in the area. It comprised of mainly farming families and local equestrian owners. On the night the hunt was formed a committee was elected and officers of the hunt selected. One of those officers is also one of the Hunt masters, Mr. Tom Hannon . Others involved in setting up the hunt now have children and grand children hunting on a regular basics with the East Clare Farmers Drag Hunt. The Hunt is hugely lucky with the vast amount of varied countryside that’s on offer to them. They start the season off in October in Bridgetown, Co. Clare , where there are lovely bitches, dykes and some stone walls on offer. Hunting territory is varied and stretches from Clare, Tipperary and Galway . If you visit their Facebook page(https://www.facebook.com/eastclarefarmers.draghunt?fref=ts) you can enjoy many photos of each meet, see the different land and just how popular the drag hunt is. The land has mixture of stone walls, ditches, dykes, man made fences. The sent is often some raw meat with Perno poured over to give a strong sent which the hound follow. The pack is comprised mainly of dog hounds and some young pups. Their bitch Rosie breeds pups each year and they are brought on and trained when the time is right and the older dogs retired. The pack if picked by the Hunts man. anything from 10 to 14 half couples would hunt each week. Over the past number of years many different charities have being involved in raising money in charity rides with the East Clare Farmers Drag hunt. DSI Ireland , Irish Heart Foundation, Milford, local organisations in Oranmore and Claregalway. Drag hunting is organised weeks and days before it takes place, all the farmers are asked and the route is sent , ditches are marked so we know where we jumps. the drag is either pulled by horse and rider or lad on foot. They would set of 15mins before the hounds and followers. As a live hunt the hounds lead the pack giving tongue as there always a scent to follow. Following the hounds are the huntsman, whips, then hunt masters, the field including field masters, members and visitors from very young age of 7 to riders in their 70s. From families comprising of both parents and there children , to mother and father bringing on their sons and daughters and the individual who just loves to join in. The hunt is mainly family oriented. As the route is set for jumping each week, it can suit all levels of riding abilities . Often jumping being optional for all. We find drag hunting suits an awful lot of people. You are always guaranteed jumping, always varied jumps, you have great fun for hours each week. Its not an expensive sport to join. The experience a young rider and horse can gain is invaluable for their future.
There are many different ways to purhase an equine, almost as many ways as there are breeds. You can buy anything from a Falabella to a Shire, first pony to Grand Prix dynamo, with many people specialising in their favourite breeds.
Horse sales specialists and the traditional fair, are still seen as viable means of selling and buying a quality horse. Some horse fairs in Ireland have a history dating back as far as the 18th century and the largest and oldest in Europe. Ballinasloe horse fair held annually in Co. Galway in October attracts up to 100,000 people to the event. This festival is one of the most important social and economic events in the life of the town. I should know as my family have visited this fair yearly to view, buy and sell horses. I purchased one of my best horses ever at the Ballinasloe fair. I was able to do this because of our family knowledge of how to buy a horse and I knew as I would be the rider of this animal what kind of horse I wanted – a hunting horse big and bold. It just so happened that the biggest and most robust of the animals I saw was a two year old gelding which, after seeing his papers, movement and conformation put a price on. The man that was leading him seemed a genuine sort and we tangled but no deal was made. “Not enough money,” he said ! I gave him my phone number right there and then I walked away and further down the road, looked at a few more. None took my fancy. Then out of the blue thirty minutes after our conversation I got a call from the man that had the horse I was interested in. He asked for more money. I split the difference of where he was at and what price I had settled on but I added a condition. I told the man I had no trailer to bring him home, which I hadn’t, and for the deal to go through he needed to deliver the horse to my yard. He asked one further question. He asked if it were a cash deal I dutifully exclaimed it was and within an hour this fine animal was delivered. I was never so happy. Once the man saw the yard and where the horse would be kept he was happy too, because the horse was his daughter’s pride and joy. She had bucket fed it from a foal. The man’s family, wife, daughter and the farmer himself have since visited our yard on many occasions and we have developed a lasting relationship often sending his friends my way with potential deals.
As one can imagine. the fairs have been hit hard throughout the years with the recession. Ireland, a proud horse nation, finds itself struggling to deal with the casualties of the recession. Fairs are over run with poor quality animals, fewer buyers and more hoof kickers. Horses, even your run of the mill, kind cob horse are proving harder and harder to sell at fairs. Finding that rough diamond with the potential you require is more difficult as we have to navigate through the surplus animals no one wants. A buyer has to be more determined and have a steely focus on what it is they want. Sales may be harder to come by at the fair but quality will always sell, and the buyer will always have the money somewhere for the right horse.
Still the pinch is felt by sellers. We all know that the buyer has the better end of the stick in the current climate. This can translate to sellers losing a few potential buyers, and being reduced to finding other outlets to sell their animals. Many traditional types of sellers and buyers have chosen to turn to the mart with a new set of rules and regulations which are not present when selling at the fair. Books, chips and vetting is not sought at the fair – rather you take the animal and seller at face value.
Understanding the psychology of the seller and knowing he must be desperate to go to a mart can result in low priced animals and animals that really have no place at mart sales. The price can be reasonable to the buyer but the animal may not. It may not be exactly what you want but it might do because it’s cheap. A common error made by many and rued by many more. The mart sales tend to deal with the unbroken or for example a mare in foal and foal at foot. Not what one would really want to go competing at the next gymkhana or cross country in the upcoming year.
At marts all animals must have a book and personal ID chip and there are fees to be paid by the seller and often a commission too. Most of the mart transactions are done by cheque and this can be extremely off putting for the seller and often seen as a last resort for selling an equine.
There are many disadvantages of the mart and one is that you don’t get a true look at the animal because there are obstacles to its movement everywhere, unlike fairs, or horse sales where special matting is laid out to judge the movement and conformation of the animal. Many large specialist horse sales like Goffs have an arena which is very helpful in order to view the animal jump. The sales themselves unless you are local tend to be a big financial undertaking for the seller. Financial considerations such as entry fees, sales commission, transport and stabling costs are inhibiting factors preventing many horse owners from attending. These factors tend to dissuade many sellers of the reasonably priced animals between the €3,500 – €5000 range and tend to favour the €10,000 – €20,000 sale.
The “modern” horse trader may be considered the more astute seller, because they are using other means like the internet to sell their animals. We at Coopers Hill Livery find merit in Facebook, and the followers of our page come to buy horses from us. They travel from the US, UK, Northern Ireland and may other far flung locations. For internet advertising there is very little regulation apart from having the correct phone number sell an equine on line. You can add video and photos of the equine to most paid adverts. The opportunities for equine sales and purchases on the internet are limitless.
A seller if clever and wily enough knows where to go to reach the maximum number of potential clients without having to spend a small fortune. In this respect, the horse trader hasn’t evolved much from the prehistoric days before the internet. You still have to go to the places that many people congregate and can see your horse be it mart, fair or sales. The benefits of advertising online are that even the least tech savvy of dealers can advertise their animal for thousands of people to see in the click of a button. Relatively speaking the seller doesn’t need great IT skills to post an advert. The skill is in developing the relationship. Letting people know how you treat your animal, showing how they perform and often letting people into the funny side, the “cute” aspect of life at a working horse yard. Posting and showing real life at a yard and the animals as they work helps in the developing the relationship with the follower. This is where the skill is needed – Facebook, social media sites, chat rooms and forums answering questions that are troubling people with equines.
We at Coopers Hill Livery have tried all means of sales and have had good results with everything but the mart and horse sale specialists. The latter tends to be commission based and often favours neither party. The internet sales on the other hand, at best may have video and pictures. But this is akin to an electronic book. There is an absence of tactile senses and other information you pick up from having the real thing in your hand, ready to view and inspect. We try to nurture the senses by providing lots of video at Coopers Hill and by inviting people that follow us on Facebook to ride and enjoy the animal for themselves. We love it when people inquire and then come and get their hands dirty by riding and tending to the horses with us. There is never an obligation to buy, only a desire on Coopers Hills’ part to demonstrate what we show on video with our horses. Many of our fans take holidays with us, do our cross country boot camp, take beach rides, trail rides or come hunt in the winter months with us. All of this activity showcases the animals and often results in sales. Experiencing the equine in the flesh is best, at least from my point of view it is. The internet is a good avenue to look for the type of equine you want and opens one up to all sorts of potential purchases. It offers buyers the time, and comfort to root out exactly what they require and the ability to disregard horses as unsuitable without ever leaving their home.
Once you find the animal that may suit you. Find out where the individual resides and if any contacts of yours know the seller. Failing that, show up unannounced, an old buying trick, and see what the seller does for the animal on the days someone is not there to buy. Previous experience has taught me that a buyer must always be cunning, and a seller must always be honest. I once answered an internet advert for a horse, travelled 50 miles with children in tow, only to be shown a different horse, while the one advertised was being groomed in a different stall. Needless to say there was an angry exchange only to be abused by the seller. This was just one negative encounter out of dozens of happier occasions. On the flipside, I went to see a horse advertised on the same site and wasn’t that pushed about the horse when I saw him. I then asked if the seller had a more commanding animal. He did and let me trial the animal for a week and I ended up buying both animals, the original horse I went to view and the horse I was allowed to trial. The seller was willing to deal, trade and more to the point bargain. We developed a relationship and trust and I’m delighted to report out of the many animals we have at Coopers Hill livery the two I bought rank up there with the best horses we have ever bought. It is said that when you strike a deal everyone must be happy, I am and he was too. It goes to show that rough diamonds are there to be found. Time and patience will always serve a buyer and indeed a seller well.
Our first foray into the world of internet sales was quite an interesting affair. We are lucky enough to have people around us who are snap happy with cameras and videos. All our horses, from the moment they arrive in the yard are photographed, documented, recorded doing all sorts of activities, from breaking them, to riding and jumping them or simple being shod or cutting loose in the fields. This snap happy activity was beneficial for us and potential buyers enquiring about our horses over the internet. It allows potential purchasers a feel for the horse they are interested in without physically being in the animals’ presence. We decided that an 18hh gelding called Business was going to be our guinea pig and was the first horse we ever advertised online. He was sold based on the pictures and video we had used to promote him. The client never came to ride or stand in the animal’s presence. Within an hour of the phone call being made about Business and a little more information provided to the buyer, he was sold. He was a super horse that I hunted with the local packs, and he always took his jump well. A gentle giant that had proved himself well, honest and trustworthy with children, adults, and nervous riders. Within a week, we were loading him onto the transport company’s truck and watching him disappear up our laneway exit. He was our first horse sold using the internet and thankfully not our last.
We have been lucky at Coopers Hill Livery to have sold horses to many different regions of North America and Europe. Since our success with our first internet sale, we took the chance and started advertising more on the internet and it has opened a whole new world of possibilities.
We sold a coloured cob similarly to Germany. The client never was in the animal’s presence and wanted only the cob’s main quality – that he wouldn’t hurt a fly – “Bomb proof.” Others come on vacation to ride the animal they have been following on our Facebook page on the net to buy shortly thereafter often their first horse.
The first horse purchase for a family is precious because the whole family gets so excited. This is without doubt the hardest sale. There are a lot of questions and what ifs. Is it safe? Will it do this or do that? I always say that the only way to figure all that out is to come see and ride the animal for yourself.
When clients from foreign countries are involved, the purchasers want assurances. They want to know every detail of the medical history of the animal, and their insurance policy is to conduct a full vetting before making a price and transporting the horse. A condition to the sale, it must pass the vetting before the animal is purchased. The US market generally takes the most x-rays and tend to go all out with vetting. Booking a vet that can send electronic data quickly is very important so that the purchasers vet can take a look at the x-rays. General vetting costs €100, which involves an exercise test, joint and movement test, breathing, cardiovascular and lung scope tests. The vet will also check the reproductive organs for any abnormalities. These tests will show anything up that may require further study and the purchaser is then informed of possible issues by the vet. A vet cert is not issued unless there is a clean bill of health and this test is done at the purchaser’s expense. Most animals will need a clean vet cert in order to be transported, especially if the horse is moving outside the UK and Ireland. The more extensive test with the most x-rays cost €500 and again the same procedure is followed, no cert unless there is a clean bill of health.
So how do you know what animal works best for you. The hardest animal to buy is the all-rounder. You have show jumping specialists who you couldn’t trust to walk on a road, they can only work well in an arena. You have cobs that won’t jump and those that will – trekking cobs verses hunting cobs. So it’s down to the buyer to know what they want.
So what type of animal are you looking for? One needs to consider; mares versus geldings, a kind eye, colour, feather to the leg, breeding, the animals carriage, and age of the equine. Remember, an aged animal doesn’t necessarily mean steadier. The buyer must know what they want. If the buyer doesn’t know what they want, how can sellers know if they have a horse to suit.
Equines with a lot of work done tend to be more expensive and if you are keen and able at bringing a horse to its potential then you can consider younger animals. Horses with a lot of work done are best suited to the more novice rider. The work done, experience and age of a horse are not interrelated. A good all-rounder i.e. experienced horses need not be aged. A young horse can have a lot of work done in dressage, show jumping, hunting and XC. But this is down to the man you are dealing with. What does he do with his animals? Is he an active rider? Is he a member of a hunt or club? Does the individual get involved in hunter trials or pony camps. As a buyer this is the information that is most valuable and at Coopers Hill Livery we back up what we say with video and pictures. We have a five year old pony that show jumps, competes in hunter trials, hunts and lots more. We can let potential customer see all this with the touch of a button over the internet.
So how do you decide how to find the horse of your dreams? You have been to marts and not impressed, to the annual fairs and are unsure and are apprehensive about the horse sales. Well like any good buyer develop a relationship, an understanding with whom you are buying the horse from. Schedule a few rides on your potential purchase. If you are after a happy hacker, take the horse on hack. If you require a safe hunter, ask the seller if it is possible to try the animal over a few walls. Good sellers will accommodate buyers in their requests. If it’s your first time dealing with a particular seller, do a back ground check on the seller. The internet is a fountain of knowledge in this regard, but sometimes nothing beats local knowledge. Go to a local pub and ask if they know of the person you are about to deal with and what he does with his animals. How he feeds them and what exercise they get. Then make your mind up. Would I be happy dealing with this individual and will he sell me what I am looking for?
Purchasing an equine should never be an overly stressful ordeal. If it is pull out and calm yourself and see what options you the buyer have. Talk to the seller, will he trial the horse for a week, will they let you come ride at their yard, can you take it on a cross country ride or through a town in traffic or to the beach and into the water? A confident seller will allow this but buyers beware. Always protect yourself have someone ride the horse first or wear a body protector. You can never be too sure of an equine or how it was treated.
Now that you are satisfied with the animal you need to consider the deal. You (the buyer) try to get the best deal as possible. Haggle and don’t be shy. Once the deal is done and the horse is purchased, how do I get it to the UK or elsewhere? The seller usually has a number of contacts that you can consider and once the vetting is done and the animal is well then it’s a mere formality. Call the numbers given, get a quote and schedule the transport. From Ireland to the UK the transport costs are usually between £300 – £400. There is good value to be had out there and if not in your area jump on the internet, look at the Irish market, set your sights on an animal here, develop a relationship through Facebook or with holiday visits, or horse rides at the horse farm and get yourself the animal you have always wanted. Have the horse delivered to your door step as you wrap up your vacation in Ireland. Let’s just say I like to kill two birds with one stone. Happy hunting folks!
The first morning of December was unremarkable for many reasons. It was a dull day, the cloud cover was low in the sky for this time of the year, the weather had not borne her wrath upon the farming community. Many farmers exclaimed that, “we have had it easy so far,” with predictions of the worst still to come.
It was Sunday, the day to hunt with the Grallagh Harriers. Cooper’s Hill did not have a mount involved on the day. But that would not deter us. We decided to go watch the side saddle spectacle. There promised to be a lot of international riders and some locals too getting involved in the extravaganza.
Chores completed car radio on, fuelled up and we belted out the motorway towards Loughrea. As we sped down the highway heading for the meet the sounds of “Driving Home for Christmas” were blaring through the speakers. There was a real Christmas feel to things and now a real sense of festive anticipation. It was the first day of December and the day of the extravaganza, the palpable feelings of joy for what was about to come, filled the speeding vehicle . My sincere apologies to those that I passed along the way using my tour of Ireland rally skills.
Thoughts of the side saddle display and the craic, an Irish word for fun was all that we could talk about as we wondered would these side saddlers be able to jump the walls in this part of county Galway. These walls were not for the fainthearted. Horse and rider were required to be brave, straight forward and honest.
The convoluted road to the meet saw many trailers come into view as we rounded bend after bend on our way. Closer to the meet there were horse boxes and trailers abandoned on the grass margins as we crested the hill passing the pub where the meet was to begin. “Oh my, what a spectacle, “I exclaimed on more than one occasion. So many beautiful women in their finery exquisitely turned out. The attire was second to none a real throw back to the times of yore. The main attraction was the side saddle riders. Plenty of locals came out to watch and many supporters came too. I counted one hundred plus visitors. There was a carnival atmosphere, swelled with anticipation and excitement. A day out for this lot seemed a tall order for the Huntsman David Burke to fill.
Setting off amongst the field were many side saddle ladies from far and wide. This was to be an opportunity for the ladies to show off their skills. The event was being hosted by the Grallagh Harriers of Galway, and Susan Oakes – Master with the Grallagh Harriers and world renowned side saddle rider.
The turnout was amazing considering these hardened lassies had already spent the day before hunting in Meath, celebrating afterwards and making the journey early on a Sunday morning to Galway. One couldn’t determine if these ladies were committed to the cause or insane, I wasn’t sure nor was I about to ask? Only time would tell. The clock was ticking down towards the blow of the Huntsman’s horn and the start of the meet. The meet was scheduled to commence at 1pm departing from the Hill pub in Kylebrack, Co. Galway very close to the Kylebrack woods and quite close to the kennels of the Grallagh Harriers in Allie Cross.
There were many jubilant and well-oiled individuals propping up the bar and the hearth was aglow with a roaring fire in the Hill pub. Many hot ports were ordered, the odd coffee, a brandy and the trusty hot whiskey. The crowd was growing outside and many carried their pints out to see the assemblage. Friends we hadn’t met in many years were about to witness this fantastic equine side saddle event. There were many different accents and tongues to be heard. Most of all people were looking for the super star and master of the Grallagh Harriers Susan Oaks. It’s not often that a world record holder would frequent these parts of our remote Galway area. Susan did not disappoint and was turned out immaculately on her impressive black steed.
As only one can imagine the elated atmosphere was building and building. Time seemed to crawl slowly as the meet was about to get started, all adding to the nervous anticipation. I decided to take up a position in the woods of Kylebrack as I was informed that the field would be passing a certain way. I had my famous, trusty little camera at the ready and from over the hill came an unusual sound. To me it sounded like a horned melody of sorts and the clamour of hooves and cries of the Huntsman to his hounds, come along get in and so on was echoing throughout the forest. The clamour of hooves the sound of the horn and the cries of riders and huntsman was a crescendo of hunting excitement as Huntsman David Burke lead the field into the wood.
The field was instructed to follow closely and not to get lost in the wood. Master Nick Hadley had to account for everyone in this large field of over seventy riders. Not an easy job and there were a few who opted out of the jumping. I could totally understand why and while not all were side saddle riders that decided to take that option it was a fair option to take none the less. The walls were bloody big and many of the riders visiting would not be used to walls to begin with.
Once the field had passed I promptly took up my next position to the rear of the Sleve Aughty Complex. It was not long before the crowd which gathered heard the sound of the Huntsman and his merry bunch of followers with the hounds in toe. They burst out from the wood for a few quick jumps of some natural and manmade features and put on a show for one and all. There was a lot of fun to be had as riders astride and side saddle riders took their chances on the various obstacles on offer. Some took more chances than others and all in the name of exhibition riding and side saddle display. A spectacle was on offer and the supporters gorged themselves on the various jumping techniques of the side saddle ladies. Some of the ladies rode ponies and others rode horses. To be fair some of the jumps were not text book some of the techniques were never seen before but all were executed with success. I personally was aghast at the fortitude of the ladies who rode side saddle. I could not believe my eyes. Ladies you were without doubt or exception brave to a fault. I toasted their exploits at the half way point several times and ceased when my legs began to give way.
On to more jumping after a quick chat to Master Burke who said the going was soft. I was fortunate enough to speak with Master Susan Oaks. Susan expressed her delight at the large turn out and informed me that riders on invite came from Australia, America, France, Holland, Israel, Sweden and the United Kingdom. All having a wonderful time and enjoying the refreshments at the half way point. The French horn sounded again and the field got underway for the second half. The French Hunting horn was wielded by Martine de Possesse and Hubert Coispel Master with Neg de Cuir a Normandy Hunt. A hunt that hunts foxes with fox terriers and badgers too using the long spear or spike.
Again in the second half we saw some courageous jumping by many riders both side saddle and not. Truth be told I was getting the impression that these ladies and their flying machines were possessed. The extravaganza took on such a frenzied atmosphere that neither man nor machine could keep up with the frenetic pace. My poor trusted camera and myself wielding it worked feverishly to capture horse and rider combinations as they raced to the walls and sailed over. I feared for the carnage that might ensue if one fell and a domino effect occurred, with the remainder of the field riding on so hard. It was wild, it was frantic and it was truly amazing. I witnessed an extravaganza in my life time second to none and I firmly believe it will never be topped. The French horn lamented as the field was gathered and the day came to a close. Nothing to look forward to now bar refreshments and friendly conversation of the days event back at the hotel.
For the past few years we have entertained many guests from the trail rider to the cowboy. To say it has been memorable is an understatement. Legends have been made, and one particular legend we are proud of is Susu of Susu’s Bakery Boutique, Wellsley, Boston, USA. Susu had rarely jumped, never hunted her whole life in fact, only a little over a year previous she suffered a bad fall and injured her hand. To be fair we told her we would take good care of her and matched her to the perfect mount, a nice steady Irish cob called Midnight. He would be her noble steed for the weekend.
What can be said about Midnight that has not already been said…….Nothing really. He is a champ in every sense of the word, with his foamy mouth, intelligent face, dark good looks and standing 16 hands high he is guided from one joyous jump to the next in a snaffle bit. He measures every fence to a “T” and takes it all in his stride. While he may not be the fastest with his feather brushing the floor, he often leaves the faster ones in his wake at the following obstacle. You see Midnight is magic and he makes magic happen every time he is out hunting or jumping. He safely and honestly carries his charge from point to point picking his spot carefully so as not to give too much for the rider or himself to do. What they call in the business – a push button ride.
Susu was out of practice and had never jumped much in America. There never seemed to be enough time for her to devote to jumping, or the right horse, the right trainer to push her out of her comfort zone, instead she was a happy hacker. She had always wanted to hunt, but didn’t know the best way to get started. Susu was made aware of Cooper’s Hill through another foxhunting client. It was suggested that if she was going to hunt, she should start by learning with the best there is, the Irish.
Susu got in contact and asked us what she would have to do to prepare for hunting. We bandied around ideas such as glueing her butt to a saddle, tying her feet under the horses’ belly, getting handle bars for the saddle. Man we exhausted lots of options and laughed doing so.
I advised her to take the HUNTING BOOTCAMP. The boot camp is designed for riders that have some know how, the will to learn and succeed, but need a “royal” kick in the ass from a drill sergeant type, such as myself. I duly obliged Susu, often using some colourful language in the process. Not for the faint hearted but I must admit, I take questions, I give praise when it is due and I am fair. I push you to succeed to find your limits, I don’t know what you are capable of but it doesn’t take me long to find out. When you take it to those limits, nothing will beat that feeling of pride in your achievement.
As an instructor I had no idea of Susu’s abilities, and because of this I always take newcomers to the beach to see how they navigate the city traffic en route. It gives me a better idea of what each rider can cope with.
Bear in mind this ladies dream was to go fox hunting and Coopers Hill was planning to make that dream a reality. But hunting is a risky sport you can meet all sorts of obstacles on the road with traffic passing, big trucks full of horses and often hounds too parking at the start of the meet. You can also come across some unruly horses that are next to you as you commence your hunt.
So the ride to the beach offers me an opportunity to gauge how the rider reacts and copes with a horse they have never ridden before in a stressful environment. The roads to the beach are busy, full of heavy, noisy traffic. There are many obstacles to pass before we arrive at the beach. Road works, traffic lights, roundabouts, bridges, trains and even an army firing range all have to be dealt with. Most people we have visiting us have only ever ridden in the safe, controlled environment of a barn, trails on a private property or show arenas. While our horses are immune to all the distractions en route to the beach, it is useful for me to observe the riders to see how they react. How they assess and deal with a situation they, more than likely, have never been in before.
The route to the beach has dogs coming out of driveways akin to a hound running from a hedge, a bicycle passing by at speed similar to the speed at which the hunts man makes his move and you the rider need to be orderly. You need to be ready for anything and the beach ride tests you reactions.
The next morning Susu came for a jumping lesson in our arena. To say it started out ugly was an understatement. I should underscore this. Wait guys the story has an almost Hollywood ending but definitely a happy ending. We practiced, she grimaced, I cursed, I explained, I demonstrated and always Susu said “I’ll do better next time”. Alas it was coming together. It’s Saturday morning and she graduated jumping class 101. Time for a celebration! Indeed not… it was straight onto the next class, Cross Country! But we did pause for lunch.
The cross country course is a daunting 50 fence mix of stiff and easy fences. Some fences are manmade, some natural features including; up turned boats, drops, multi-colored coops, roll tops, water features, bull finch, you get the idea. She had never jumped like this EVER in her life. Thoughts of her demise must have been passing through Susu’s mind at this stage as we rolled up to the complex and especially once she saw the massive water feature as we rounded the bend on our way into the parking lot. “Oh my God” was uttered several times, as only a good Boston Catholic girl can utter. I didn’t give her time to think. Right lets get the horses out and mount up and get our warm up done. In between all the hustle and bustle of getting warmed up I did encourage this dare devil and reassured her that if anything did go wrong we would give her a fine Irish send off.
Please watch the attached video to see her effort, not always pretty but she got it done and she was keen. She showed determination and guts over some impressive obstacles. Susu applied what she had learned that morning to these intimidating jumps, she was thrown in the deep end and she swam!! She made it! SUPER, she had made it. Susu got there in the end and received her certificate of completion. Afterwards a group hug was the order of the day and a strong drink. Not sure which was stronger the drink or her clasp around us all, the clasp a living person can only give after a mighty feat! So far the woman’s efforts were remarkable.
Now that Friday is done and Saturday is over you are all assuming a rest day follows for the brave lady. No chance! I am a monster! At least, that’s what I have heard said, tongue in cheek, for asking Susu to do a hunt after all that went before. But this was Susu’s dream she had set a goal for herself and was keen to grasp it with both hands. My philosophy is that if the rider stops to think what they have done, or are about to do, they would never do it. She had achieved so much in such a short time, I had to keep the momentum going.
Susu’s first hunt was scheduled for Sunday morning which commenced at 11 am. We arrived at the yard early, and I kept her busy getting her mount ready barking orders here and there more of a distraction tactic than anything else. There was no time to pause or think, only time to act. With a few careful words I prepared her for what lay ahead, and gave her a good confidence boost. Having confidence in yourself out hunting is a necessity. I gave her an extra boost and told her I would never leave her side. We loaded up our horses and were ready for the meet. Boy the walls were challenging that day. Like really tough. Aboard the trusty Midnight, Susu rode valiantly, took a fall or two but got up and kept riding. She set the bar really high for all Americans. She was so brave and committed to doing her first hunt. I did exclaim as she was about to stop and quit, at one point that there was no way out of the place she was in unless she jumped out either alone or with me. Out came the stiff upper lip and Catholic school tenacity and onward she went. That evening in the pub every rider was calling her The Legend. The hunt we rode with that day had never seen such hardiness, grit and determination from anyone especially when they were told of the ladies history. She had proved her worth with the hardest of them all, the Irish hunters.
She is now known as the legend and her picture from that day out hunting resides on the wall of Dover Saddlery, Wellsley, Boston, MA.
It took a long weekend to make that lady become a legend with lifelong memories and a renewed love for horses and their abilities. Since hunting with us she has competed in hunter jumper shows and has done so successfully. I saw the rosettes, they can’t be denied.
We would like to help book your weekend at Cooper’s Hill and do the same for you. Renew your interest in horses and riding or to make a dream come true for you. We book everything for you, all you need to do is just show up with your riding apparel. We organize shuttles from Dublin Airport, Meet you at the terminal in Galway and might even have a stiff drink to get your “braveometer” up and running. We organize your hotel and book your beach trek, jumping lesson, Cross country and make requests to the Grallagh Harriers Masters to allow visitors hunt with them. Call or email, our pigeon carrier service is out of order at the moment so you’ll have to do the electronic thing.