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Hurling & Horse Studding

May 23, 2008

Katie, the Mare and the Foal

corey says…This evening was gorgeous. The short rain earlier combined with the evening light to heavily saturate the colors of the landscape and provide picture-perfect views in every direction. The great weather and my need to get a break from the ladies (don’t misread this…after 4 days, I need a break from anyone)… Liam on the other hand never seems to need a break from anyone.

I opted for a long walk down Knockahopple road. When I reached one neighbor’s, they were separating calves and cows in the field. At the next farm, they were sending the milk cows across the road…usually this family only gets to see me from the car, so they were sure to comment that I was properly enjoying Knockahopple road by taking a walk. I was asked, “Are ye walking all the way to Glown?”

“That would depend on how many neighbors I meet up with along the way,” I said back.

I crossed Captain’s Bridge…the old humped, concrete bridge that crosses a narrow stream. Then I walked up the “s” curved hill that wraps around Pat Clifford’s farm…there was no sign of Pat. Then onwards to his brother Mikey’s house.

“Hello, Cour-ray!” I heard coming from the Mikey’s house. In the window, I saw his children Katie and James, aged nine and eleven, with their faces pressed against the window. I walked up and chatted with them a bit. Katie said, “Stay right there. I’m coming out.”

With Katie, you can always hear her before you can see her. “Do ye know hurling?” echoed from behind the house before she appeared in the yard with a hurley stick and slither (ball).

“I’ve seen some matches on the tellie, but I’ve never played.”

“I’ll teach yeh.” Katie proceeded to drill me with rolls, jabs and several other techniques as she reminded me of the system of scoring… “you get points one at a time, but a goal is worth three points.”

I thought my technique was pretty good…considering the only sport I was ever good at was running. Then from the house, Katie’s mom Mary shouted, “Corey, I’d say I could beat yee in a match.”

“Is that a challenge, Mary?” I yelled back.

“I’d say you’d regret playing me, I’m pretty good,” Mary laughed. “How much time do yee need for practice before I beat ye?” As you might expect, Mary doesn’t fall into the shy Irishwoman category and

Katie chimed in, “If yee come over every night for a week, I’d have yeh playing like a champ.” The confidence coming from this little girl was flattering but also very naive.

Just as I was tiring of Hurling, Mikey pulled his truck from the back of the house to the front where we were playing. He pulled a horse trailer and said, “Cour-reh (they all pronounce my name slightly differently…that is when they’re not interchanging my name with Tony’s), you’ll come for a ride.

Katie piped in, “Yes, yes, you’ll get to see my horse.”

I hopped in the truck with Katie and another neighbor Tom, and we went down the road to Pat’s. There we loaded a mare and her 11-day-old foal into the trailer. On the first attempt, the mare went in, but the foal was frightened and ran from the trailer. The mare was backed out of the trailer, reunited with the foal, and on the second attempt the foal was corralled into the trailer.

We then drove down the mountain passed the village of Silvermines. We turned on a very narrow road. The tree branches swatted the trailer as we drove up the hill. Part way up, we saw another trailer in front of us. The driver had his door open and waved us back…another truck and trailer was coming down the hill and we had to back up to a spot where the road was wider, so they could pass.

It took some skilled driving on Mikey’s part to keep the trailer on the edge of the road, and as the other trailer passed the mirrors of the vehicles seemed to “kiss.”

The fields along the road all had horses…many with foals. Knowing that horse studding is very big business in Ireland, I asked about the horses. Mikey explained that most of the people who keep horses in this area keep them as hobby horses.

Tipperary is definitely horse country, and on a clear day, Silvermines Scenic Drive and Keeper Hill Cycle (which Knockahopple is on) often have as many horses and carriages on them as cars.

At the top of the hill, we reached the stud farm. The place was quite busy this evening with about four other trailers either coming or going. We waited our turn, and then Mikey and Tom led the mare to the paddock (is that what its called?) with the foal following behind.

The rope attached to the bridle was wrapped around a post, and Mikey pulled it tight to keep the mare from moving. The foal suckled a bit, and the stud horse was brought in to the pen.

He approached the mare, licked her face and neck. Then he pushed his nose into her belly. She kicked him in the head so hard, he double back and held his head in the air for almost a minute as he recovered. Then he was back to her, licking her hind leg.

The mare then peed and the horse stuck his nose into the stream and sniffed the puddle on the ground. He then mounted her from the side, pushing himself against her ribcage. “I don’t this will work,” I thought to myself.

“Cour-ray, aren’t you going to take pictures of the teasing?” Katie asked.

The teasing, what a perfect name for what I was witnessing. The horse dismounted, sniffed and licked some more and mounted from the side again. Convinced that the couple weren’t going to consummate their rendezvous, the breeder returned the horse to the pen, and the mare was led to a lean-to at the side of the barn. She was led into a metal pen that was just large enough to fit her, and the foal was at her side outside the pen.

The breeder then washed up her backside and then left the lean-to for a few minutes. He returned with a vial. He then put on a plastic glove that covered his hand and arm all the way to the shoulder. He applied an ample supply of lubricant to the glove and then attached the vile to a long tube.

The tube was inserted into the mare and the vile was emptied inside of her. The breeder slid his hand into the mare passed his elbow. He moved it in and out as if mixing the injected material.

He slid out his had, rolled down the glove and the deed was done. If this takes, the mare will end up being pregnant for all but 11 days this year. The foal and mare were loaded into the trailer, and we headed back down the narrow road… again meeting up with another truck and trailer.

We drove back through Silvermines and when we reached Dolla, we stopped at the shop there. Unfortunately, the store was closed. However, Katie went into the attached bar and came out with crisps (chips) and ice creams for all of us.

After unloading the mare and foal, we then parked the trailer in Pat’s barn. Then we went into the house. Tony was there with his mom and dad, Liam’s cousin Mehal was there and Mary was there with James.

I was seated a the table where I enjoyed a ham sandwich and a salad sandwich (cucumber, tomato, ham and mayo). A whiskey and 7Up appeared next to…as well as a cup of tea. Then it was time for two cakes!

It was one of those wonderful evenings of visiting and laughs.

This Week’s Photo Album

My Ireland Expense Report

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