it just so happens that Ireland is widely accepted as one of the most
perfect places, in climate and landscape, for breeding and raising
horses in the world. In fact, Ireland has often been called
"Horse Heaven." The Irish love their horses and the
country is well suited for horses. An old joke being that if a
good horse dies, it doesn’t go to Heaven…..it just goes to Ireland.
horses, just like the Irish people, have been exported all over the
world. Just like her people, Ireland’s horses are strong and
resourceful. There are three main breeds…..the Irish Hunter, the
Irish Draft and the Connemara Pony. The Irish Hunter is probably
the most well known of the three breeds. The Irish Hunter is
famous as a Hunter, as its name implies. It is used for Stadium
Jumping and Eventing, but of course it was bred to be a horse suited to
one or even two days of hunting per week during the hunting season.
It is a bold, intelligent horse with great stamina and jumping
ability, which is desirable due to the long hours endured by both horse
and rider during the Hunts. The Irish Hunter is actually bred by
crossing the Irish Draft horse with high quality Thoroughbreds, thus
producing the strength, size, and agility needed for the breed.
Just a personal experience quib about the Irish Hunter being a
really good horse for jumping. When I was on the Equestrian Team at
Judson College many moons ago, I sometimes rode an Irish Hunter that
belonged to Dennis Murphy. The horse’s stable name was
"Charlie." My instructor had me ride "Charlie" the
most because I had a quiet seat and hands. "Charlie" was
a huge animal, at least 17 hands, and he would jump anything, I mean
literally anything. He was big enough to do it quite well also.
He was a tribute to his breed, and because of "Charlie,"
I personally have a high opinion of the Irish Hunter’s abilities.
second breed on the list of three is the Irish Draft. It is
sometimes called "the horse of the countryside," because it is
used so much on the small Irish farm. Due to the rougher terrain
of the Irish countryside, the Irish farmer developed a more adaptable
horse in the Irish Draft, one that could ridden, driven and worked in
the fields. Their massive legs are hard and strong with large,
round hooves, and notably there is no feathering around the ankles of
this Draft horse. This horse is an "easy keeper," yet is
very active and willing, with a natural ability to jump. It can stand as
high as 17 hands and, of course, is well muscled. The Irish Draft,
as we have said, is crossed with the Thoroughbred to produce the Irish
third horse of the Irish breeds is the Connemara Pony. Don’t let
this pretty little horse fool you, it can and does compete with the big
boys. The Connemara can stand between 12.2 and 14.2 hands, but is known
as an excellent Hunter and Jumper. Certain Connemara’s have won in
large competitions, clearing seven-plus foot walls. Legend has it
that this pony descended from Spanish horses rescued from an Armada that
wrecked on the coast of western Ireland in 1588. The Spanish
horses mated with the local stock to produce the sturdy, hardy,
adaptable and pretty pony of today.
Ireland, Ireland… exceptional horses, exceptional people, an
exceptional place…..one that I hope one day to actually visit. Indeed,
it would be ever so nice to visit the "Horse Heaven" of
Ireland. So, during the month of March, as all of us are
celebrating our Irishness, whether by blood or at heart, let us remember
what a mysterious and marvelous country the Emerald Isle is…..ancient
and beautiful…..having given birth to some outstanding horse breeds.
again I would really like to know what horse people want and need to
know about their animals. Please feel free to send suggestions,
questions, and comments to the mailing address: Cooperative Farming
News, P. O. Box 2227, Decatur, AL 35609-2227, or fax 256-560-2605,
or email: [email protected].
Bryant is a freelance writer from Oneonta, Alabama.