Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Travel Tails

Donkeys and Palm Trees

Manitoba doesn’t have a huge donkey population, not many mules either, certainly not like some countries have. Ireland has a very healthy population of donkeys. We never saw as many donkeys in one place, as we did while exploring Ireland. In fact, there was one right beside the bed and breakfast we stayed at in Ventry. Not only was the view from our balcony tremendous, palm trees and all, but the pony and donkey next door were adorable. We simply had to visit them, and found they were as sweet as could be. Oh, to be able to take them home. How wonderful would that have been? Still, there wasn’t room in our luggage for anything equine that was alive, so we had to content ourselves with petting and feeding handfuls of grass to them.
Eagerly looking forward to our ride the next day, it was hard to see the two buddies and wait. We wanted to ride. Still, morning wasn’t that far away. The sooner we went to bed, the sooner we’d waken and be ready for another day. Over breakfast the next morning, we met a couple of friends who were travelling with the daughter of one of them. They also wanted to ride that day, but hadn’t called ahead to see if they could. Luckily for us, they were planning on going to see if they could join a ride, and offered us a ride to the stables. It’s not like we couldn’t have walked, but a ride is always nice. Irish roads don’t have much of a shoulder to walk on, or most of the time, any at all. The prospect of a ride was pretty wonderful. We all packed into their rental car, their vast amount of luggage, themselves, and us with our backpacks. We were quite a cheerful lot, as we drove to the stables.
Unfortunately, they weren’t able to join our ride, but didn’t seem to put out by that fact. They planned on going out with a later ride. Sweetpea and I were part of a large group of riders. I was given Bliss, a rather small, black mare of unknown breeding that reminded me of some of my Morgans back home, my girlchild was mounted on a huge gelding that was most likely a part Clyde.
Off we merrily went. We made our way along the frontage road, then a trail over the dunes and tall grasses, to end up at a lovely, ocean beach where everyone was encouraged to take their horses into the water. Personally, unless it’s an amazingly hot day, or you can canter along in the shallows, I don’t see the point. We’ve taken our horses swimming back home, loads of times. To stand in ocean, halfway up a horse’s side, just doesn’t do anything for me. Cantering in the shallows would’ve been fun, but if I wasn’t going swimming, what was the point? All I kept thinking as I tried to see into the dark water is, ‘shark’. Anyway, after the little mosey into the ocean, the guides (there were two teen girls) said we were going to have a bit of a canter, but to stay together etc. Of course, there has to be one of what the Irish would call ‘an eejit’, who immediately begins galloping her horse randomly through and around the group. This one eejit was particularly ignorant of the trouble she was causing. She completely ignored the guides who were telling her to stop galloping. All the while, she waved to her boyfriend standing up on the dunes, to take pictures of her. Inexperienced riders were beginning to lose control. Their mounts thought, this was the cue to go! Poor girlchild, her horse, Charlie was unbelievably rough and impossible to sit. Just like many trail riding horses, Charlie hollowed out his back instead of rounding it, a common response to countless riders bouncing on him, over the course of many trail rides. He definitely wanted to stay with the rest of the group, and he was giving her all kinds of trouble. There was no point in fighting him. I told her to go with the group as the lot took off. There was no point in torturing herself. Through lots of crooning and sweet talk, as well as constant communication through the reins, I somehow managed to convince Bliss to remain composed.
“Good Bliss, good girl,” I softly crooned in a singsong voice, drawing the words out to calm and soothe, “You don’t have to follow the others. Reeeelax, calm down girl … no worries, slow down … ease up … ease up. You don’t have to follow them. You’re fine, no worries … slow down.”
Those black ears flicked back and forth from me to her friends, and she began to listen. Like the others, she wanted to go, but this wasn’t a good idea at all. There was one rider who was having an awful time with her horse, and clearly wasn’t comfortable with the idea of taking off at a mad gallop. I knew if at least one horse didn’t stay back with her, there was no way it wouldn’t race, to catch up to the others. I think she felt a tad guilty, as she suggested a few times that I could go. The thing was, not only did I know for a fact that she didn’t have a hope of holding in her horse if I was to leave, I simply had no need to gallop like a mad person. A lovely, casual ride along the beach and over the dunes was far more enjoyable. After a bit of time and coaxing, little Bliss thought so, too. Though I could feel her need for speed, she agreed to listen to me, more than she needed to run after her mates. We stayed behind with the woman and her horse, and any sort of catastrophe was averted. What happened wasn’t the fault of the stables, but of one selfish person who casually disregarded the safety of the group. That sort of behaviour is unacceptable anywhere. One doesn’t randomly begin galloping when in a group. There’s no racing and weaving between the other riders, no racing away or galloping up from behind. These are all actions that can cause other horses to respond in kind, and often result in injuries. So, when going trail riding, keep an eye out for the self-centred ‘eejit’, who has no regard for the group.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB