Sligo and neighbouring Donegal are really big an beautiful countryside.
Imagine mile-upon-mile of wide, fiat, sandy beaches (if you see more than
two other people, it‘s a busy weekend), towering cliffs, deserted
woodland paths and wild mountain trails. Then imagine yourself blasting
along the sand, salt spray in your hair and nothing to worry about except
wondering what‘s for dinner.
Oh, and there are some excellent pubs, too.
Tilman and Colette Anhold, of Horse Holiday Farm, have just the thing to
enable you to see all that countryside, first hand. Or more to the point,
they have a large number of them, in all shapes and sizes, to match you
and your riding style.
Horse Holiday Farm has one of the most impressive collections of friendly,
well-mannered horses you‘ll find in any stable yard, anywhere. And
in more than 10 years of long-distance riding, I can‘t think of anywhere
that offers a warmer welcome to the novice, or expert rider alike.
While the nation of a two-mile gallop through the surf of the Atlantic
Ocean might sound really attractive to the experienced rider, that attraction
might also be tinged with apprehension for the less experienced. But it
might come as some surprise to learn that out of the 600 or so people who
book with Horse Holiday Farm each year, an amazingly large percentage are
neither regular, nor necessarily experienced, riders. In fact, an my recent
visit, I was the only rider who actually owned a horse and out of the other
eight in my group, two had never been on a horse until the week before
and two hadn‘t been on a horse for 10 years!
This isn‘t pony trekking for beginners, however. Tilman, Colette
and their energetic yard manager Vitaly don‘t takeout absolute beginners.
However, by special arrangement, a local riding school does give intensive
courses and, as I was able to see with my own eyes, the results were impressive.
There‘s no danger of inexperienced riders being ‘railroaded‘ into
a mad gallop, any more than there is of experienced riders being forced
to jog along in frustration, waiting for beginners to catch up.
So is it a bit tame for really experienced riders? Not a bit of it. One
of the key elements of Horse Holiday Farm‘s success is Tilman‘s
knack of matching the right horse to each rider. When he asks, ‘What
sort of horse would you like?,‘ he‘s not asking you to describe
how many ‘hands‘ you want, or even the breeding — he‘s
asking you what sort of character you‘d prefer.
When, an my first visit six years ago, I announced that I wanted ‘a
big horse with a big sense of humour and a bit of go‘, the more experienced
equestrians in our group cringed. Tilman smiled. I got exactly the right
horse and had a great time. A couple of the others, having given Tilman
a more rigid ‘specification‘, ended up with fine animals, but
didn‘t necessarily establish a bond with them.
In my book, that bond is the best part of the whole experience. Aside from
having fun, taking in some wonderful scenery and feeling that you‘ve
done something really worthwhile at the end of each day, that is.
You can choose from a number of four-day, full week, or two-week riding
packages. These can comprise a mix of individual day rides (in some cases
being taken with your horse to a distant point by horsebox and riding
back to the yard), trail rides around the Sligo area or, for the more
adventurous, a selection of trail ride options up in Donegal. Here you
will ride between different B&Bs each day, looking after your own
horse each evening and carrying everything you need in saddlebags.
Most of the day rides are accompanied by a member of HHF staff, but the
Sligo and Donegal Trails are unaccompanied, so you‘ll need to be
able to read a map and have enough will power to keep to a schedule.
But what if you get lost? Don‘t worry, when I last did the Donegal
Trail, we took a wrong turn in dense forest. While happy to continue,
my horse made it clear we were not going in the right direction. And
when, after much discussion in our group, we finally did turn around,
the look of smug, self-righteousness on my horse‘s face underlined
that he knew he was right all along!
How to get there.
There are budget flights into Knock airport (a one hour taxi journey
from HHF) and Derry City airport, but for those who would prefer to drive
to Sligo, we have arranged a special deal with Stena Line to take your
car and two passengers across the lrish Sea.
Horse Holiday Farm Ltd.
Grange County Sligo Ireland
Telephone : (071) 9166152
Fax : (071) 9166400
From Europe Telephone : 00 353 71 9166152
Fax : 00 353 71 9166400
The Horse Holiday Farm is Bord Fáilte (Irish Tourist Board) approved
a member of A.I.R.E., the Association of Irish Riding Establishments.