An Irish Steeplechase

01 May 2012

We spent Sunday afternoon at the local Steeplechase

a horse race dripping in history

which is run from one point

to another point

over fences and hills

in the raw Irish countryside…

We were in awe of the young, powerful thoroughbreds

crashing over fences woven with willow branches

…leaving dust in their wake,

and struck by such stunning beauty in the strength and condition of maiden horses

As for the spectators,

there were some very serious betters

with some serious bookmakers at their disposal…

Onlookers of the canine variety were welcomed as well.

We admired colourful jockeys

gathered together before each race,

and spotted the lone female rider

all dressed in white.

Cups of hot whiskey

with lemon, sugar and cloves

were sipped by many

for warming protection

from the brisk, stirring wind

that accompanied the afternoon sun.

Unforgettable.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos by Imen McDonnell 2012.

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Are You Horsey?

02 Apr 2010

The first time someone asked me this question I was foolishly offended.  It was broached while I was at my first Irish fashion show which was being held at the Dunraven Arms Hotel in Adare.  Modest fashion shows are de riguer here for fundraising. You will hear about 30 fashion shows a week in Ireland and when your first beautifully designed invitation arrives in the letterbox you feel so privileged that you’ve been included in the guest list of such a stylish, upscale event. But, then you turn up to find decorative tchochkes scattered about on tables and your friend’s teenage girls modelling clothes from the “The Fancy Faery” boutique/deli down the road.  A little different than expected. Still, fair play to them because these type of fashion shows raise loads of money for charity and are definitely a form of entertainment of one shape or another….especially for those who live in small villages or rural areas.

But back to the question of horsiness. While I was mingling with the crowd of fancy ladies…and by ladies I do mean Ladies. Lady Dunraven, for instance, could be found perusing the crowds in her sophisticated manner at such affairs. I started chatting with a particular group whom wondered if I was horsey. One lady rather emphatically asked me “Are you horsey?” (pronounced HAWR-SEE) I honestly hadn’t a clue what she meant by that and I just stood there looking at her questioning face with an equally questioning face. It almost seemed like a secret question in which I needed to know the password…a password for access to some type of secret society.  Then, after a 30 second stare-off, my friend finally nudged me and said, “you know, do you ride?” I honestly thought the woman was asking or implying that I was fat.  After all, I had a 8 month baby at home. Whew, not fat! {well, yes fat, but that’s not the point here}. But, alas, not horsey either. So when I said “oh no, no, no, not me”, I suddenly found myself alone in the middle of the room. It was definitely a horsey fashion show. And I was definitely not horsey. It’s worth mentioning that riding is of a different ilk in the States where Western riding seems to be more of the norm. Cowboy boots and denims prevail versus the tailored look of jodphurs, riding jackets and velvet helmets here.

So being “horsey” is admired in Ireland. I didn’t know this before I moved over. If I had, perhaps I would have spent more time riding with my friend A.T. before leaving.  Point to Points, The National Hunt, The Irish National Stud…if you’ve anything to do with horses I’d say you definitely get a gold star approval rating in this country. The most famous horsey events are the big races, and the fierce fashion competition that goes with them, called “Ladies Days”.  For example, the world renowned Galway Races have discerning judges that not only judge the racing, but also how stylish the ladies in attendance are….and the winner gets a prize too. The society pages of Irish magazines are chock full of photos featuring all the fancy “ladies” dressed to the nines from top to toe in gorgeous designer headpieces to Louboutin heels as they walk around and graciously pose for photographers on the grassy racecourse grounds.

R gave me Clonshire riding lessons for Christmas so when it warms up a bit I will keep you posted on any upcoming riding adventures….and any hints of horsiness that might ensue.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photo courtesy of Stella McCartney

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