Not just riding in Ireland. I went cross country schooling in Ireland. Why? Because CROSS COUNTRY IN IRELAND.
I rode this adorable bay mare called Twix who was giant. I did not realize how giant until I got off because the whole thing leading up to riding was just a sort of haze of excitement. But like. Her withers were just about at the top of my head. Anyway. She was a rock star and if I could’ve taken her home with me, I would’ve.
We started in an arena to warm up – and for the Irish to presumably make sure this American stranger wasn’t going to fall off at the first bobble. And bobbles, there were. Dear Twix decided that running out to the left was the best course of action and made me ride pretty hard to get her straight and over the fences. Thankfully, once we were out in the cross country area she (mostly) stopped these shenanigans (unless I put her on a bad line, which is not her fault at all).
Real quick I should introduce two more characters into this story: James and Ciara. James is the gruff Irish trainer and Ciara is a rider/trainer, who gave lots of good pointers and rode with me. And also loaned me almost everything I was wearing, including the pants. (Thanks, Ciara!)
We started out small, popping over logs and some tires. I came through this little line, which was a stone wall to this log or larger brush, to another log or a larger ramp. Ciara said I could choose which ones I did, so I picked the smaller stuff to get acclimated. James’ immediate feedback? “Come through again but you have to do the bigger ones.”
YA DON’T HAVE TO TELL ME TWICE, JAMES!
We did a bunch more stuff that got progressively more challenging. One of my favorites was a little house, 4 strides up a hill to some tires, three strides down a hill to another little house. Here’s the house after the downhill slope:
Not that jump height matters – but I have a disclaimer. The grass was, like, crazy tall. So I feel that this photo makes the jump look quite a bit smaller than it actually was.
It was a tiny drop on the back side, but even still…a good portion of the jump is hidden in the grass that reached well above Twix’s knees!
We did that a couple of times, and then added in a bending line of two barrels on their sides. We went to a far field and strung about five jumps together and then did our final combination, which was … awesome. I wish I had more photos but I will try to paint you a word picture.
Imagine a grassy field with a stone fence. Jump one is a brushy log set right alongside the stone fence, so you gallop parallel to the fence, making it a nice easy and inviting approach. Then you bend right to a gap in the stone fence, where there’s a narrower brushy log that lets you jump into the next field over. Now, bend left to what were some of the larger banks that I’ve jumped. Up – one stride – down.
Again. The grass was super tall. They told me later that it was an Open level combination – so each bank was around a meter or slightly over.
It was such a blast! And to top it all off, I was given the greatest honor. James handed me his card and said I am invited back to go foxhunting in the winter – and that he doesn’t invite just anyone, but he knew I could handle it. I didn’t get teary eyed or anything.
So the moral of the story is, I’m definitely going back to Ireland to go foxhunting.