Slieve Aughty is my idea of paradise. It’s a riding center east of Galway way out in the countryside. With happy horses and organic meals and vegetable gardens. And fields of cross country jumps and miles of riding trails through fields and forests. Did I just dream this?
Slieve Aughty is the brain child of Esther, who came to Ireland with her husband in 1978 after the lease was up on their farm in rural Holland. When they bought the property that would become Slieve Aughty, the land was overgrown and untended. They began with organic gardens and made handcrafted cheese with milk from their own dairy cows and goats. Over the years, the farm got horsier, along with the guests. The goats are gone except for the one who hangs out with the horses. Slieve Aughty is now a haven for riders and groups looking for a special retreat in gorgeous rural Ireland.
For three days, I got to ride for hours through the green Irish countryside (and they don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing. One afternoon, I commented on the clear skies about five minutes before I was soaking wet.) On the last day of my visit, the trainer took a small group of us to the cross country field, which has a jumping course of logs and piles of logs and fences. Jumping is just my favorite thing and, gee, I used to do that before Gabe was born 24 years ago. So I was thrilled and also a little nervous. And I did fine for awhile. And then I fell off as I came off the jump because my helmet fell over my eyes. It’s true! It was an equipment malfunction! My sports injuries were minor — a swollen thumb and a little embarrassment. We were all rewarded with an amazing dinner of salmon in dill sauce, potatoes and salad from the garden, a plate of local cheeses and freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. What could be better?
“The grace of God is found between the saddle and the ground.”
Old Irish saying