Devon and two of her fellow American "Sideways Sister Wives," Maureen Britell and Bernadette Boland, went off to Ireland for a week to get in some hunting and catch up with the Irish Sister Wives, Amory McMahon and Joanne Quirke. Devon did a write-up of each day's events. We hope you enjoy them!
Ireland Hunting Trip Day #1: Barely off the plane and out with the Ward Union Staghounds. Maureen and I went side saddle, and I received a stunning 17.2hh gray IDSH hireling who had never before gone sideways, while Maureen got a bay hunter that had carried one previously. We came to the first drain, which was good size with a lot of overhang, especially 2 huge tough branches that were causing many rider casualties, one being British rider Susie Nodder, who looked like she got into a fight with a leprechaun afterwards!. Some kind men attempted to break the offending branches, then we proceeded on (ok, well I attempted to proceed on!). My horse jumped the drain, but fell left on landing, going down, and I jumped/rolled off, but he then just lay there like a donkey on my right foot/ankle. Thank God the ground was so soft! After several men managed to get him to move enough that I could slide my leg out, and then convince him to get up, I remounted; however, he then refused to go through the next walk thru ditch, despite various attempts to "coerce" him. ;) Joanne Quirke then was unbelievably kind to lend me her unbelievably fantastic mount, Mossy, and I proceeded on astride, where we hunted the hunt, attempting to catch up, and jumped loads of WIDE drains, including a boggy one that caused Bernadette Boland to look like a mud monster after her pony went in to his belly and was struggling to get out, causing her to hop off her to give her more of a chance. We finally caught up with the remainder of the hunt at a check, who upon telling them what we had jumped while trying to catch them, informed us that we has jumped more drains than them that day and must have been following the staff's tracks. Lol! Oops! Pictures: https://www.facebook.com/devon.zebrovious/posts/10155820117919745
Ireland Hunting Trip Day #2: We were out with the Galway Blazers, on outstanding horses provided by Tom and Maria McNamara. After a hot port at the pub, we tacked up, mounted, and were off. After a brisk trot down the road to cast the hounds into the covert, we waited in a lane and listened to them work for about 10 minutes, then we followed once the fox headed out into the fields. The majority of the day was spent jumping clean stone walls out of good to deep footing. My horse, Operator, was one of the best I have ever been on - impeccably behaved (as-in, he could hunt in America tomorrow...), beautiful jumper, soft mouth, and cat-like on his feet. Maureen ConroyBritell's horse, Sportsman, gave her a careful yet bold go over some good sized walls, and BernadetteBoland's horse, Chance, used his huge canter to get her one of the coveted spots at the front of the field so she could jump the walls at max height. Joanne Quirke had a cracker of a grey, and every time I looked at her she had a huge smile on her face. Amory's gem of a horse, Fred, was as always foot perfect. The hounds worked beautifully, and were spot on the lines, enabling us to have 2 amazing views. We arrived back at the pub thrilled with the day, and had a few drinks to celebrate before driving back to Amory's farm to have a shower and get our hair done while snacking on seafood chowder and brown bread, before changing into our gowns. It was then off to MaeveCarty's house for a gracious pre-ball drinks and appetizer gathering. The ball itself was lovely, with a champagne cocktail hour, delicious food including leg of lamb, and a band playing good 70s music. We left relatively early at midnight to head back to the house and get some sleep in preparation for hunting on Sunday with the North Galway Hunt. Pictures: https://www.facebook.com/devon.zebrovious/posts/10155823907624745
Ireland Hunting Trip Day #3 - The North Galways. Fresh off of 5.5 hrs of sleep post-Blazers hunt ball, we arose to a chilly, misty, foggy day (aka, typical Irish weather in February) and were faced with the realization that we still had to clean our side saddle habits and left boot of the accumulated dried mud from the previous day. After passing around the antique clothes brush set and getting the habits sparkling, we were treated to a home-cooked, farm-fresh breakfast by Amory's mother. Then, armed with hand-drawn directions, we set off to Tom's yard to help tack our horses and ride with he and Maria McNamara to the meet of the North Galways, with whom Tom is a jt-MFH. After playing with some adorable terrier puppies, the horses were loaded onto the lorry and we began the 2 hr journey north. Bernadette and Maria took the opportunity to catch some shut-eye, while Maureen Conroy Britell and I caught up online with friends. We arrived at the meet's pub and parked next to the hunt lorry, with the hounds eagerly waiting for the day to start. Heading inside, we met the huntsman, staff, and other MFHs. While we waited for everyone to arrive, Maureen and I had several (cough, 3, cough) hot ports to fortify ourselves against the chill (no judging), while Bernadette Boland, in response from a dare from a MFH, swiftly downed a hearty Guinness following her previous 3 hot ports -- thus earning the admiration of all hunt staff present. Liquidly fortified, we were soon attired in habits and hats and thrown up on our horses. Bernadette and Maureen rode Chance and Sportsman again, while I was on Arthur, the horse Tom had hunted the day prior. The terrain was completely different from our previous Irish hunting experiences, with hills, gorse brush, ruins, and ancient covered walls overlooking the water, all covered in a film of mist and fog - simply magical! About 30 minutes into the hunt, Arthur jumped a downhill banked wall but scraped his tummy on the way down, snapping the stitching on my balance strap. Once we were off the hill and back on a road, Maria and I swapped horses, and I continued in her side saddle on Clover while she rode back to the lorry to put a cross-saddle on Arthur. Upon catching up to the hunt, Tom brought us up to the front. We continued the rest of the day in the huntsman's pocket, thrilled to have such unbelievable views of the hounds working. The day saw us traversing up and down some steep hills, swimming in the water, jumping clean and banked walls, and taking a spin through a xc jump school area. However, the best part of the hunt was halfway through when the family of a long time hunt supporter, who had died the previous month, invited us all to their house at the top of the hill overlooking the water for whiskey, sandwiches, chips, and, to those of us who had 3 hot ports prior to hunting - a loo! ;) After the hunt the pub provided us with sandwiches, soup, and an opportunity to swap hunting stories with the hunt members over a few drinks. It was then time to make the long drive home, and we took advantage of the warm blankets on the bed to nap. Arriving back at the yard, we gathered up our gear and drove back to Athenry to Amory's farm, to scarf seafood chowder and pizza, before heading off to bed. Pictures: https://www.facebook.com/devon.zebrovious/posts/10155828803704745
Ireland Hunting Trip Day #4 - Off Day. After 3 days of hunting, we had booked ourselves in for a half-day of relaxation at the Loughrea Hotel & Spa, with a deep tissue massage and spa time for each of us. The morning's weather cooperated in making us glad we weren't hunting as it was lashing rain. Once face-down on the heated massage table, the therapists commented to each of us that we had huge knots in our upper back/shoulders/neck, and spent a good portion of our booked h...our getting them worked out. We then spent a lovely hour or so alternating between the sauna, hot tub, and solarium, before changing and heading to the lounge for a glass of bubbles. Seeing the rain had stopped, we then were off to the famous Raferty's Blazers pub for lunch, before meeting up with Amory McMahon to drive over to Maeve's farm for a school on her stunning Irish draught stallion, Cappa Aristocrat, and Amory's famous gelding, Fred. We all took turns on both of them, and Maureen Conroy Britell not only rode astride for the first time in over a year but managed not to fall off (considering she fell off 2x the last time she was astride, that was quite an accomplishment, lol), and Bernadette Boland did her first big bank as well! We then toured the barn, getting to see Maeve's 6 day old foal and stunning 5 yr old middleweight hunter. Finishing up with tea in her kitchen, we then headed back to the farm for a glass of wine and some cheese before going off to dinner at the 300+ yr old, 7th generation-owned, Moran's restaurant and pub off the Kilcolgan for a delicious seafood meal at Moran's. It was then home to bed in preparation for our last day of hunting. Pictures: https://www.facebook.com/devon.zebrovious/posts/10155832002549745
Ireland Hunting Trip Day #5 - Galway Blazers. The alarm awoke us to a stiff breeze and a drizzle, and we were quite happy to sit inside, drink tea, and eat brown bread & butter while observing Amory McMahon through the window feeding the horses with the hood pulled up tight on her rain slicker. When she dashed back inside, we learned that Helena Hennessy Ruane would be there a bit later than expected, so we would see her at the meet rather than at the farm before we headed out. After putting on our stocks and boots, we gathered up our habits and hats and opened the front door. Whoosh!! The wind had gotten even stronger, and it and rain blasted us in the face. We glanced at each other in dismay, but shrugged and said, "Oh well, it's Ireland, right?" Once again we set off to Tom and Maria's yard to help tack up the horses. The saddler had been closed on Monday, so my balance strap had not been able to be repaired, so I would be riding in Maria's saddle on Clover. Bernadette Boland had Chance again, while Maureen Conroy Britell had a lovely looking grey cob, Rocky. After the horses had clambered up the lorry ramp, we followed it to the meet. Having previously gone out with the Blazers on a Tuesday, we expected big, clean stone walls and open territory, and the land we drove through confirmed that. We arrived at the pub, and were blown through the front door to the counter. Gratefully sipping on either hot ports or hot whiskeys, we waited for everyone to arrive and caught up with Helena, who was also hiring a horse from Tom. Getting the 5 min warning, we rushed off to the loo in an attempt to prevent the discomfort we were in on Sunday, then went out to the car to put on our habits and mount up. We headed into the field across from the pub, and before everyone was even fully mounted, a fox broke out of the covert and the hounds were off. We jumped a few stone walls immediately, and then checked while the hounds were valiantly trying to get the scent again in the face of the wind and rain. Opening again, we jumped back over the stone wall and ran the headlands to the left. Clover suddenly glanced to the right, and I heard, "Loose horse!" faintly from behind. That would prove to be the first of many loose horses that day, as the walls were big, had large drops, and there were many visitors out. Bernie, Maureen, Amory, Helena and I all acquitted ourselves well, with barely a drop of mud on our wet clothes. That was a close call for Maureen, however, as about an hour in, while watching the hounds working, Rocky decided he was quite wet, the ground looked very inviting, and he wanted to be brown instead of grey, so he plopped himself down, gently tossed Maureen on her feet to the left, and started to roll! We all began yelling at him, afraid he would damage the pommels, and got him up. None the worse for wear, Maureen was legged back up, and we continued on. However, at another check later on, we discovered that her overgirth had broken at the flap on the left side. It was quickly looped up, and she continued on. Unfortunately, the storm had intensified, with nearly gale force winds making it difficult for the hounds to find a fox. Between that, getting my silk hat blown off over a wall by the wind, and Maureen's saddle slipping left as her cob was so wide, we decided to call it a day as we were a reasonable hack from the pub. Untacking at the lorry, we struggled to open the car doors to load our things in the boot, and then gave up on taking off out habits and just piled into the pub, gratefully gripping our hot ports in an attempt to warm up our hands. Finally succeeding after 2 (or 3?) of them, we waited for the rest of the field to return about 40-45 min later. We were told we had made the wise decision, as they had not done much after we left. We stayed at the pub for another 30 min or so, then drove back to Amory's to shower, change, pack, and devour an amazing lasagna that Amory's mother made. Maureen and I soon had to load up the car to start our drive to Dublin, where we would be spending the night with Joanne Quirke at Tinkers Lodge about 25 min away from the airport. Saying goodbye to Amory, Kate, and Bernie (who is staying in Ireland for another 1.5 weeks) was very sad, but we all started making plans to get together again later this year both in the USA and Ireland. The drive to Dublin was a bit of a white-knuckled event, with the steady rain and wind moving the car around a bit. We were relieved to arrive at Jo's, and rushed inside to get out of the weather. We spent 45 min or so relaying the events of the past couple of days with a mug of tea & whiskey in front of the fire with a terrier snuggled up to us, then crashed into bed to get a few hours of shut-eye before we had to leave for the airport early in the morning for our 9:00 flight to Newark. Pictures: https://www.facebook.com/devon.zebrovious/posts/10155833154159745