Vacation without sun and beach?
Seems impossible if you ask me.
And yet, this year's summer vacation, turned out to be just that. We changed sunny weather and beaches for green fields and rainy showers. We changed keeping still and reading for activity to the max. We changed our usual laying around in the shade for riding like lunatics in the woods and across solid fences. We went to Ireland for a long weekend of riding cross-country. And we loved it!
This, of course, was my crazy idea. Lennart, who hasn't been riding for ages due to horse allergy, also found the idea appealing.
So, last Thursday we got on the plane for Ireland and the Bel-Air Equestrian Centre. To me, this trip was terror. I am no cross-country rider, far from it, solid fences scared me. The brochure of the place said the fences were 75 - 95 cm high. I haven’t jumped more than 50 cm in years, and felt that it was quite enough. This trip scared me senseless, what had I gotten us into? What if it turned out to be really awful, what if one of us fell of the horse the first day and broke something? Broke everything?
I was scared out of my mind.
After a long bus ride we got off in Ashford and started our walk to the hotel. We had looked it up on a map and it was about 2 km to walk. No problem for people as fit as us, we thought. We might have thought differently had we known it was all uphill, with luggage, in the rain.
Sweaty and tired we arrived at the hotel, and immediately felt welcome. We got our room and as we waited for dinner to be served we took a walk in the surrounding area. We followed paths around the hotel and found a couple of fences. They were huge and I thought to myself that I would never dare to jump them.
Dinner turned out to be amazing, and we got a lot of it too. We ate until we could hardly walk.
Next morning the first ride started at 9.00. My horse for the morning was Fionn, a grey gelding with a lot of Connemara Pony in him. We started of in the arena where Helga evaluated our riding experience. First some ground work and then we ended with a smaller fence, Fionn jumped like a god and I fell in love with him then and there. This was really a match made in heaven. After that we tried jumping the bank in the field. First we went upwards and then downwards. The feeling when your horse disappears under you is quite scary, but I survived. When the instructors felt secure with our knowledge in riding they let us out in the woods where the real fences were.
I got to ride in the front, right behind Helga and Lennart stayed in the back with the other instructor, Noni. As we closed in on the path me and Lennart had walked the evening before my fear grew greater and greater. Oh no, they think I can jump those scary fences! Helga gave me instructions on how to jump each fence and off we were. Fionn got me over all the fences - such a marvellous horse! I did not only jump that scary fence, as we rode on in the woods there was a jump down that was about a metre and some other fences too we jumped. We also jumped in the field; tires, logs, and more fences I don’t even remember. The last hour Lennart joined me in the front and we had a lovely ride in the country side. After three whole hours of riding we got back to the hotel for lunch. Seldom has a couple of toasted BLT:s tasted so good.
After lunch we had a shorter break and then we were at it again. This time I got a big grey horse named Luigi. I am not only scared of jumping, I also have a fear of big horses as I feel like an ant on their backs. But no time to fuss about my fears here. We started off in the arena and Luigi turned out to not only be big, he was also a bit insecure and tried to tell me there were ghosts all around the arena. Me and Lennart got a private lesson in cross-country jumping out in the field. We jumped a chair fence, a gigantic fallen tree into a grove, a smaller tree inside the grove, some more tires, a gate and so on. After an hour we jumped our last fence and got a great canter up the field to the house.