Galway County Show

Galway County Show

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!

Galway County Show
Side Saddle

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 jumpIMG_4942ing 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!

Check out this video link.. Vacuuming a horse

For more dates on agricultural shows in Ireland check out this website.

Irish Shows Association

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Thank you for reading.


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Horse’s first solo hack

Samson for sale

Samson  Goes  Solo

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.

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Starting a horse on his journey

Breaking a horse the Cooper’s Hill Way.

Samson is 18hs at 3 years old. Even for the tallest of men, breaking a horse this size is a little more challenging. Luckily Samson has the sweetest nature, kindness and gentleness runs through his core. He is naturally curious and eager to please. Samson was not handled much as he has lived in a field for most of his life, but all that is about to change. This is a video of how we start horses, and with Samson’s bigger than average size, he will be trained to help his future riders. We will teach him a few little things to help make the smaller riders tack up and mount up a little easier. After all, we love to produce good allrounders that appeal to any rider. This is a typical video of how we start off with all our horses. Samson has been bitted for about 3 days, had his front feet shod when this video was take, approximately 5 days after his arrival. Feel free to follow us progress on our Facebook page.

Horse riding holiday options at Cooper’s Hill Livery

Full list and description of holiday options at Cooper’s Hill Livery

  1. Beach Ride.DSC_0230
  2. Extend Beach Ride.
  3. Country Lane Ride.
  4. Island Ride(Depends on tide times).
  5. Haunted Castle Trail:  includes tea/coffee and sandwiches during rest stop at Castle.
  6. Cross country boot camp.
  7. Hunt Clinic(Saturday only)
  8. Hunting

More information on our website Cooper’s Hill Livery

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Continue reading Horse riding holiday options at Cooper’s Hill Livery

Grallagh Harriers in Moyvilla

Foxhunting in Ireland

Grallagh Harriers
Moyvilla January 2015
Galway

 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.

Grallagh Harriers
The field

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.

Seamus ISH foxhunting
Seamus, 17.2 ISH, foxhunting

  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.

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Darcy foxhunting with the Grallagh Harriers

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. “

Foxhunting in Ireland
The Grallagh Harriers

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.

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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.

Hunt Clinics with Coopers Hill

Hunt Clinic

Learning to Hunt…Irish Style

Hunt Clinic
Promotional Poster for Hunt Clinic

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!

Starting a new challenge…

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.