Since the weather is still sucking I decided that this is a good time to share a story with you.
Several years ago I took on a second job. I became a trainer in a specialized program for Speech Language Pathologists. It was a lot of fun- I got to meet all sorts of people and travel to places. In 2008 I had the opportunity to go to Ireland. The plan was to travel to Cork and teach for three days, have a three day break and then teach in Dublin. I was over the moon - Ireland was a dream place to visit.
Upon taking the assignment I immediately began to look into options for horseback riding. I found a place on the outskirts of Dublin that looked promising and was highly rated. I contacted them and after numerous emails it was determined that I would contact them when I arrived in Cork and we would set up a time. Except that they never returned any of my calls or emails. None.
And I began to panic. On my third evening I went onto the internet and found another place (Belair Manor) and sent a message. The next day after work there was a message for me and I returned the call. I spoke to a lovely woman who's name escapes me now (it has been a while) and explained my plight. She said that they could probably do something for me and asked when I would like to. I gave her the date I could do it (in between my teaching) and she said 'oh no dear, we have no room for you. We need more notice'. I was so disappointed and I explained about how I had travelled to Ireland and it had always been my dream to ride there and I had no idea when/if I'd ever be back. She was silent for a moment and then said "okay dear, leave it with me. I'll get back to you".
I was not sure if I would ever hear from her again but the next day she called and said that they could fit me in on Saturday at a 11:00. I thanked her profusely and asked what train I should catch to get there. '
Oh, there is no train to here. You need a car'.
'oh' My voice was small and disappointed. 'I don't have a car and I'm terrified to drive here' (no joke, driving in Ireland is not for the faint of heart).
'*sigh* Leave it with me'
A couple hours after the woman whom I was starting to consider my best friend called back with a plan. And here's how it worked: Saturday morning I caught the 7:30 train from Dublin to Bray. At the train station in Bray I mean a woman named 'Maeve'. I recognized Maeve becasue she was in breeches. She drove me to the Manor. In the car she explained that she was not driving me back because she was riding before me and had to head right back, but they had worked out a plan. I didn't care, I figured I would cross that bridge when I got to it.
I hung our at the Manor taking photos while I waited for my ride. Check out the website- this place is unbelievable.
|the stable yard|
Soon enough my time to ride came. I was mounted on a huge Irish sport horse named "Charlie" (hey Emma!). I had brought my boots and half-chaps and they loaned me a helmet.
|do I look excited or what? Charlie less so|
Before we left on the ride I was taken into a small ring so they could evaluate that I actually could ride. After a walk and trot around I was deemed okay and off we went. There was a small group of veterans riding with me and we headed into the Wicklow mountain. It was so beautiful and I cannot despcribe how full my heart was. We then picked up a trot and then I was told 'Teresa we're going to have a wee canter- just keep your horse behind the one in front of you and it will all be fine'.
The 'wee canter' was a flat out gallop over the mountain. Charlie was big and powerful and I really felt like was a flea. I had this moment of 'oh my god dying is a real possiblity right now' and my next immediate thought was 'And I don't care'. I truly didn't. In that moment I was flying across the countryside and it was a moment of pure and unadulterated happiness. If I had died at the moment I would have died truly happy to the core of my soul. I got into a two point and loosened my hold on the reins. He flicked an ear back 'really?' and I was 'YES, LET'S FLY'. So we did. Until Charlie started to feel like this was really all a bit of work. He was used to (I think) terrifying tourists not having some crazy Canadian on his back urging for more.
We stopped half way and all shared a flask with brandy. And then we rode back, with moments of flying. Back at the manor I slid off and my legs almost collapsed under me. The adrenalin was still flowing. A groom took Charlie away to wash off and cool down. I offered to help but was turned down. In the manor house we all shared a lunch of brown bread, ham, potatoes and baked beans. It was the best meal I had ever had. We all talked about horses and it didn't matter what country we were from because the love was the same.
Lunch was over all too soon and I found out that I was being driven back to the outskirts of Dublin by 'Carmel'. She lived in a suburb and was going to drop me at the train station. She apologized for not taking me back to where I was staying but I was honestly fine with it. I know we chatted on the way home. She was the wife of a former diplomat (retired) and had grown children and some young grandchildren. I think, looking back, that she and her husband were 'very important people' but you wouldn't know it by her manner. I was still in a daze and probably sounded very dull and uninteresting.
I took the train back to downtown Dublin. As I was making my way back to my B&B I saw that the Art Gallery was having an exhibit of Impressionist Art. I detoured and went in.
And that is how I had the most perfect of days riding in the mountains in the morning and looking at incredible art in the afternoon. All because of the kindness of a number of women who worked hard to make a stranger's dream come true. I will treasure this memory forever.
There are very few moments in life of pure joy. This was one of mine.