A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

Editor Stephanie Church relives her trip to Ireland and one steadfast Irish horse. What is it that makes some horses seem more “durable” than others?
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A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse
Shanlara on after a beach gallop in Port Noo, Ireland. The 5-year-old Irish Draught gelding proved sound and sensible. | Photo: Courtesy Stephanie L. Church

You might have noticed this little fact, and perhaps this is why you visit our web site: Horses are magnets for injury/illness. Whether the cause is their complicated physiology, how we manage them, or Murphy’s Law, it seems like our beloved steeds are always getting hurt or developing all manner of bizarre clinical signs.

Sure, this can mean job security for The Horse’s staff, since all we write about/report on is health topics! But even so, it can be disturbing sometimes just how many things can go awry with horses.

So, imagine my surprise the other week when I rode a horse that seemed to defy all of these rules: the bionic horse that is managed quite simply, navigates all manner of precarious footing confidently, and passes Scary Monsters By The Road without injury

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Written by:

Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

23 Responses

  1. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    Thank you for all of your comments! I’ve enjoyed reading about your favorite breeds, and about your experiences with Tilman and Colette’s horses (and other Irish mounts).

  2. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    Stephanie, you can find the same kind of dependable ride this side of the Atlantic in the American mustang.  Once you gain their trust they will go the end of the earth with you.  I gentled Comanche as an un-ridden 5r year old from Salt wells

  3. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    First of all, thank you for the lovely trip thru Ireland!  This is one of the items on my "bucket list" – admittedly a bit far down the road.  

    The toughest horse I have ever owned was an Arabian stallion.  Bred and trai

  4. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    You discovered the wonderfulness of the Irish Draught!  And it doesn’t matter if they’re bred in Ireland, England or the USA, they’re all very similar.

    My own home-breds are fed from a tractor in the field from a few days old – and we never

  5. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    Wow! I love this article! This was EXACTLY my impression when I spent some time in Ireland cross-country riding a few years ago. Such hardy, solid horses, and yet super athletic! It completely changed the way I approach my own horse management. Thank y

  6. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    I had a similar Tilman and Collette experience 10 yrs ago on Kinvara, a steadfast mount.  He was slow and we were forever trotting to catch up, but he kept my safe.  Even through the treacherous slish wood ride, when my co-travelers came out

  7. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    I grew up o a farm, and perhaps had it better that some townies(LOL) in that our horses always live out in a herd. Our winters are usually fair enough, and our pasture keeps pretty well on rotation. We only give extra feed when the horses have spent ho

  8. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    I hesitated before but must say that the Paso Fino has an entirely different attitude towards people. They WANT to spend time with you & they honestly care how their human feels. They are very intelligent & are able to figure out certain things

  9. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    Susan, I love that you’ve been to HHF as well! Tilman and Colette are wonderful. During my first "true" beach gallop I had tears in my eyes–I’m not sure if they were from the wind and Shanlara’s speed, or from sheer happiness.

    L, tha

  10. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    OMG  Thanks for the story.  I had my first "outside the arena" adventure at the Horse Holiday Farm 22 years ago.  I was amazed by the terrain that the horses navigated without a care.  I rode for six days – my first true g

  11. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    Our horses lead very sheltered lives.  My horse (who lives outside in a run) is so much calmer after a trail ride.  I also make it a point to take her to check out any commotion around the barn.  Now, she can be relied on where more &quo

  12. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    Jean, I love how you articulated that concept! And I agree about the ulcers.

    Thanks, Maria. Your horses sound like a happy bunch!

  13. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    This is a really great article. I have 3 horses and they live out on a hillside. They are exposed to the weather and walk up and down hills, through mud and water. Only my 30year old mare wears a rug. They do have field shelter but prefer to be togethe

  14. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    I have always thought that we females put so much on our horses.  We want them to partner, join up and love us which is all so unfair to the animal.  We want natural but we insist that it includes us!   Once you respect your horse for be

  15. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    Thank you for all of your comments, ladies! I agree that horses do very well on varied terrain–more so than I expect sometimes.

    Marilyn and Barbara, I will have to try a Paso Fino sometime soon. I’ve ridden many breed types over the years, but

  16. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    I completely agree with Beverly.  24/7 turnout in a herd on natural terrain of hills, trees, bushes, etc. My horses have astounded me at how aware they’ve become of things.  A group got into the yard a while back. I have a clothesline (2 rope

  17. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    I truly believe a hands off method of care is best for the horse.  I have two Paso Fino geldings that have a nice walk in Barn/Carport that is available to them 24/7.  I clean out and scrub their very large water buckets every day, we scoop t

  18. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    One of the things I  have learned from my year owning an Irish draught, is the stink eye takes a while to go away, and the bond begins and grows and grows. After a year, we have become a pretty tight team. There is nothing like it. Nice article.

  19. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    I’ve worked with horses in different barns and in different parts of the country. Without a doubt, the soundest in mind and body were the ones who spent their nights turned out in a herd, and on uneven and hilly pasture. Hardly ever had to lunge one of

  20. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    The simple answer is that these horses are used.  My grandfather always said that a horse that is worked five days a week is a good horse.  A horse that is worked three days a week is okay.  A horse that is worked one day a week isn’t wo

  21. re: A Hardy, Handy Irish Horse

    Really enjoyed reading of your adventure!! Always enjoy hearing about the lives of horses in other countries. I have Paso Fino horses so I am terribly spoiled when it comes to riding in areas as you describe. My horses are allowed to come & go from

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