For two solid days everything from my socks to my “nickers” to my helmet were drenched, making the experience of horse riding in Ireland all the more authentic and endearing. The first driblets of rain were refreshing. They were like little gentle reminders that the world is peaceful from the clouds above and that they were nourishing the world from the trees down to thus clone the sentiments.
We began our first soakingly enchanting day in Fermoyle Strand, which boasts the Connor Pass, the highest mountain pass in Ireland. The spectacular sight of the Dingle Peninsula, its turquoise sea mystified by the absence of sun and shrouded fog, not only inspired me but inspired Blasket to move forward through the streets onto the beach. For miles we walked, trotted, and then cantered along the beach to Castlegregory. Then, as though it were the end of the Britney Spears music video of “Till the World Ends”, the sun began to shine through, making the sand sparkle and the water translucent.
Yet the rain quickly returned, and this time it wasn’t a refreshing, sweet pitter-patter on my cheeks. These dollops of raindrops pounded on me like the “drums of war”, the rain growing heavier and sharper, which certainly wasn’t helpful when galloping across a beach. We quickly headed to our lunch destination, a quaint pub with a dummy hanging out of a keg of beer at the entrance. Because it was our luck, the pub was closed, having arrived a couple hours too early. The saddles were soaking, and the horses even were feeling a bit grungy. So we carried on in the rain along Aughcasla Beach to Camp, my saddle, wet britches, and soaked nickers going squish, squish all the way as I posted up and down from the beach to the street and then finally to the field where the horses kicked up their legs in glee to relax. They spent the night relaxing and joyfully grazing. After securing all the horses’ needs, we, feet cold and numb, literally stumbled into Ashe’s pub. Soup and tea never had tasted so wonderful, making our wet clothes tolerable and putting our blood-flowing feet back in business. Not to mention, we were some of the few people that did not stumble out.
The next morning was heaven on a pillow: I woke up in a comfortable, soft bed at Seaview B&B with just a few ominous clouds waiting overhead. Naturally breakfast was equally as lovely as the bed with freshly bread, jam, and butter along with a bowl of fruit and natural yogurt. I bit my lip nervously, though, as I noticed the rain clouds thickening and moving along our road. From the rain and hours in the cold, my throat had begun to hurt. Serendipitously, I chanced upon meeting a very kind family vacationing from Florida who bolstered my spirit and sent me on my way with lozenges.
And thank goodness for those lozenges! The throat wasn’t doing too hot soon after the sky started crying again. But really what can you do at that point? Holding true to one of my favourite creeds, I heartily laughed to keep from crying. So boots zipped up and helmet under my arm, I proceeded to face the elements all in the pursuit of adventurism activism. I’d take the pain if it would alleviate the pain of even just one animal (or in this specific case, just one horse).
So Blasket valiantly rode from Camp across the Bog Road to Gleann na Geaillt, which is Gaelic for Valley of the Mad, and I can assure you that this name was adequately given, as my “hearty laughter” only strengthened. The valley got its name from a romantic tale. An Irish king fell in love with a French king’s wife and thus kidnapped her and the king’s daughter. The French king, angry as ever, summoned a commendable army from forces across Europe to attack Ireland and retrieve his lady and princess. (Ringing an Ilyiad meets Ireland bell?) Long story short: the French king went mad after fighting in Ireland for a year and a day until he came to the valley. He drank from the boggy marsh water and suddenly became cured. Interestingly, people across the world presently still come to the Valley of Mad to supposedly “cure” themselves of any “maddening” difficulties/diseases that they have.
The clouds in the Valley of the Mad were so low, and Blasket and I were so elevated that we walked through them, causing the rain to hurt a little less. After the white-puff walkthrough, we cantered through a forest until we reached Inch Beach, a magnificent stretch of sand so wide and long that you lose sight of it around the bends of the mountains. The wind became gruesomely fierce, and the rain became so heinous that it was more like mini paintballs slashing at my face rather than little pearls of water splashing it. We didn’t want to stay in those conditions too long, so we pushed onwards as safely and swiftly as possible.
Soon enough we arrived at Annascaul, the birthplace of arctic explorer Tom Crean who chanced to be on the explorative ship of Robert Scott that got locked into the ice of the South Pole. Although I can hardly begin to imagine the conditions Crean may have endured, I still was dripping wet and shivering like a Chihuahua. After a nice pot of tea and an hour-long session of warming my Armenian buttocks by the fire, the chill subsided, the horses were boxed up back to the base in Dingle, and the wild one smiled at the triumph: facing the odds, grinning and bearing it, and putting mind over matter.