Leschi resident and recent Whitman graduate, Cello Lockwood, won a Watson Fellowship which allows her to travel globally to see how climate change is affecting horses. We will follow her travels in the Leschi News. Her first stop is Ireland.
Days in Dublin
The first two weeks in Ireland have provided a wholesome preview to the coming 11 ½ months, featuring an impressive array of ups and down, surprising connections, wonderful new friends, lots of opportunities to learn about horses and horse cultures, and the birth of more questions at every turn.
My excited arrival in Dublin was immediately halted when the border patrol officer, unimpressed with my enthusiastic explanation of my un-structured itinerary for exploring her country, cut my intended 60 day stay in half. Deflated, I decided I deserved to splurge on a taxi ride to my first Airbnb… and thank goodness I did! My cab driver, Timmy, quickly made up for the less-than-warm welcome as he enthusiastically offered to connect me with his best friend who is one of the top dressage trainers in the country. We gave Karen Raleigh a ring as we wound through downtown Dublin, and she immediately invited me to visit her. (Upon telling this story, everyone exclaims “how Irish!”)
[Spoiler Alert: I had a lovely cuppa at Karen’s two weeks later and it turns out she trained under Jeff Moore, the dressage maestro who my trainer, Bryan Beymer, is also a loyal student of. A brilliant small world moment thanks to a taxi ride.]
The first few days in the city were spent searching for ways to entertain myself as I waited for the commencement of the internationally famed Dublin Horse Show. I visited the National Museum, and for the first time in my life, felt productive in a museum as I meandered the halls solely paying attention to any artifacts that were equine-related. On display were the ornate bits (mostly snaffles) from the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron age that were used for processions and ceremonies as well as for draught horses harnessed to wheeled vehicles. There were also many hand-crafted metal spurs (introduced by the Vikings), but surprisingly no stirrups. An evening Google session led me to discover that Irish warriors were known for riding without saddles or stirrups in battle, they were often bareback and barefoot. Stirrups were invented in the Middle Ages to help anchor a knight to his horse as he charged into battle, allowing him to use his horses’ momentum as shock power as he braced his weapon against his enemies. The Irish riders, on the other hand, were lightly armed and steered battles away from open plains and into the forests and bogs where their sturdy mounts, predecessors of the Connemara Pony, could traverse much more easily than the stockier mounts of the opponents. Foreign knights also had a much more trying time navigating their large weapons, such as spears and javelins, in the tangle of the forest.
A lovely day was spent in the National Library drinking up specialized equine literature. I poured through breeding bibles by various Irish men who preached the importance of maintaining the Irish Sport horse bloodlines and claimed the popularity of continental warmbloods to be sinful. I managed to snuff out some interesting economic data about government involvement in breeding programs but ended the day dwelling on the gender disparity of historical horse-related records—there were no female authors in the catalogue on the subject.
Being a devoted sustainable fashion advocate, I couldn’t resist stopping by Ruby Ruby, a sophisticated second-hand shop tucked away behind Trinity College. The small boutique felt like home after working at Jules all summer (the fantastic designer-consignment store in Madrona, Seattle). When I mentioned to Laura, the kind New Yorker behind the counter, that I was in Ireland to study horse cultures, she exclaimed the phrase that is honey to my ears “I have someone you need to be in contact with.” She rang up Suzanne Macdougald on the spot. Suzanne is involved in multiple facets of the horse world, and her sister runs the Dublin Horse Show. I left the shop with my second exceptional and unexpected contact in Ireland and a new “lucky ascot.” Coming soon, I’ll explain why I haven’t taken my lucky ascot off since...
Stay tuned for the next post in which I will attempt to offer a glimpse into the sensation that is the Dublin Horse Show.