Horse and Gig Ride – The Best Day Ever
For the last two weeks I’ve been so caught up in my construction projects, I haven’t had much time to relax and enjoy Ireland. Last Sunday changed all that.
Although there are still plenty of details for me to share from my yard/floor/phone experience, on Sunday I was twelve years old again. It was one of the best days in years!
My neighbor Mikey asked if I wanted to join him for a ride on his horse and gig. A gig is a small two-person carriage pulled behind a horse. Now, in all my years in Knockahopple, I have NEVER ridden a horse and gig. Corey has. Tony has. But I never had the chance to climb on board. This was a dream come true.
Before setting out on our journey, we stopped in at Mikey’s cottage and had a sup of the amber… which I hoped would help build my courage. To be honest, I’m quite intimidated by horse flesh… these animals are as big and strong as they are beautiful.
Mikey reassured me, “She’s a quiet horse… only fifteen hands.” Whatever that meant. I know it has to do with measuring the horse, but I’m not sure what the the phrase calculated… length… height… hands broken.
Mikey began strapping the tacking on the horse and asked me to hold the animal steady by sliding my hand around the straps that secured the bit. This was like asking a ballerina to hold a great Dane. The horse knew I was nervous and kept pulling his head to the left, and I was dragged a half-step with it.
“Woah, horsey,” I said like a terrified horse whisperer. Then with the gear half-attached and me holding the straps, Mikey walked away… just walked away.
His brother Pat was getting his horse and gig ready across the yard, and Mikey was going over to help him and Tom the caretakerman. There they were, three local lads who were all raised with horses, and they left me alone with a finicky equine.
I kept thinking… that’s all this beast has to do is give one good shove into the wall, and I’d be crushed. Now wouldn’t that be some craic. I can read the headline now… “Yank crushed by small pony… very small pony… only fifteen hands.”
Tour of Toor
Eventually, Mikey returned and completed the series of knots and loops that held the gig in place. Off we went… down Knockahopple road, passed the old creamery where the local farmers used to deliver their milk, all the way to Toor.
We called in to my cousin Mary and her son Tim. We only stayed long enough for Mary to shake her head at my giddiness. “Now, Liam, you’re sure to want yerself a right pony and trap.”
She was right. I’ve always wanted a pony and trap, “Or maybe I’ll get a nice sidecar,” I called back down to her, envisioning myself in a wagon like the one Michaleen rode in “The Quiet Man.” She put her crooked finger to her lips and shook her head, “Oooh, I’d say you’ll have… one day you’ll be pulling into the yard with yer sidecar.” One part of her thought my enthusiasm was childish, but I know another part of her longed for the old days when the horses on the road outnumbered the cars.
From Mary’s, we made a bee line for the pub in Toor. It’s exactly what you’d expect from the only pub in the village… walls that hadn’t been painted in decades, a shelf stacked with a few loaves of bread, a basket with eggs, a cooler with milk, a bar that also served as the grocery checkout and two locals already on their stools.
We each sipped a pint as the horses waited for us outside.
On the ride home, Mikey asked if I wanted to take the reigns. “Really?” I asked. For a good thirty minutes, I was commanding the horse and gig, even though it was clear the horse knew exactly where to go. I didn’t mind this “auto pilot;” it gave me a chance to look out over the hedgerows and enjoy the scenery.
I had driven down that road hundreds, if not thousands of times, but I must confess, it looked entirely different from the seat of the gig. The slow, steady pace of the horse, clop… clop… clop, the extra height, the entire ride was a bit of cinema.
We returned to Mikey’s just as the clouds had rolled in and started to spill rain. Before I climbed down from the gig, I looked over at Mikey, “Let the Lord take me tonight, because I will die a happy man.”
Believe it or not, this was the only day I didn’t have my camera with me. Mikey snapped a photo with his camera. Hopefully, he can send it to me, and I can post it. As much as I would love to share the experience with you through photos, I’m truly happy I didn’t have the distraction, and now I have the entire experience set to replay in mind whenever I want.