Horse riding in Connemara was supposed to be a treat for the kids, because they love horses and we had nothing else planned during our trip to Ireland that instantly screamed fun. But as it turns out, we all enjoyed exploring the beaches on the back of a horse and this adventure was the highlight of our trip.
Falling in love with Connemara
The two of us first visited Ireland on our honeymoon, 12 years ago. We drove around the whole island, trying to fit everything in. Everything humanly possible. It was 7 days of constant driving and sightseeing, sleeping in a different place every night. We returned exhausted and kind of depressed, because there was no time to enjoy the beauty of the Emerald island.
There was one particular place that we wished we had more time to explore. The incredibly wild and stunning Connemara. We vowed to one day come back with our kids and do nothing but soak up the scenery.
Thus the plan this time around was to fly to Ireland and spend seven days in a remote cottage by the beach, overlooking the vast Ocean. Once we arrived, we contemplated not moving at all, except to drive to town when we needed supplies. The two of us brought books and the girls were impressed with the bucket and spades and direct access to the beach.
We didn’t need anything else, but remember I mentioned how beautiful the region is and there’s lots to see: cliffs of Moher, Galway, Kylemore Abbey, Connemara National Park, Ballyconneely Castle…
We just couldn’t skip it all. In the end, we decided to compromise, a bit of relaxing in our secluded cottage and a few hours exploring the best of the region. But since none of the sights are something the kids would go mental over, we decided to spice up our adventure and add horse riding to our to do list.
Horse Riding in Connemara with kids
As it turns out, this was a treat for the whole family. And it is also something this region is famous for, because of their own Connemara ponies. We spotted them, when we were driving around, but this was better experienced.
You can plan horse riding in Connemara whether you are traveling with kids or without.
There are lots of stables to chose from. We picked Carrowholly Stables and their offer of one hour riding on the beach. This is how it went.
We got there a few minutes before the scheduled time. We filled out a document where they ask you if you’ve ever ridden, how well you ride, etc. Be honest with the info, because they figure it out once you are on a horse. And they pick the horses according to the information you’ve provided. Our youngest got a really tame and small horse and was accompanied with a person on foot, who held the reins of the horse – so it was perfectly safe.
They also provide you with the helmet and if needed riding boots. If you have your own Wellies, bring them, especially for the kids – as they might not have all the numbers. And remember, if you aren’t careful – I wasn’t – the boots go in the water as you ride with your horse over the beach.
Once equipped we hopped on our horses. There was a group of around 10 of us and we were accompanied with guides, who gave us clear instructions on what to do.
Then it was show time.
Fun but scary
I used to ride a horse when I was a kid, so I was fairly confident. Once I got on the horse, I was second guessing it. But I believe I was the only one scared, my kids were beside themselves as was my husband.
I am just a scaredy-cat to be perfectly honest. But as we rode from the stables to the beach, I got the hang of it. I learned how to lead my horse, who for a few moments believed he could boss me around. After a few minutes passed and I was still on the horse, I finally relaxed and enjoyed my surroundings.
The sky was leaden with clouds, but there was no rain. It looked like it could start any minute, but I didn’t particularly care. In Ireland you learn that you shouldn’t let the weather bother you or mess with your plans. It rains, then it stops and so it goes. Instead I moved my gaze from the sky to the beach and rolling hills around us. I tried to snap a few photos, only to almost fall off the horse.
How in the world, did cowboys manage to shot the rifle and ride is beyond me.
And sorry, the photos aren’t perfect but as you’ll see I risked my life for them.
We rode around enjoying this adventure when the guides said, let’s try some trotting. I was game. But I wasn’t prepared. I was wearing my hoody and I put the mobile in the front pocket. And when the horse picked up speed, I got scared for the phone, almost letting go of the reins, which in turn almost threw me off the horse. I leaned forward draping myself over the horse like a corpse, clinging it, my feet got out of the stirrups and danced around. I was begging the horse: Please stop. Please stop. In the moment of sheer panic I managed to forget everything they taught us. Then the horse mercifully stopped and I heard laughter in the back. My husband and older daughter thought they were going to burst laughing watching me wrestle with the horse.
But in my defense, when we trotted later on, I was better prepared and I stuffed the phone in the pocket of my pants. I think I did a way better job then. But to be really sure, I’d have to try it a few more times. And I’d love to. We all would. Maybe horse riding or rather exploring a place on a horse should become part of our travels.