Ireland has a long history with horses. Whether it's trekking across the rocky Mourne mountains in Down or placing bets on racehorses in Kildare, any equestrian buff will find something to do in Ireland. Standout locations to ride include the flat sandy beaches of Galway and Portstewart, or through the Wicklow mountains on a day-long trek. So go on – saddle up.
Planning an equestrian holiday to Ireland
Not an experienced horserider? No problem. Across the island you’ll find almost all equestrian centres are happy to take on any level of expertise. You can also rely on qualified instructors to help you quickly establish balance and confidence on a horse that has been specially selected for you. The instructor does this by taking into account the rider’s weight, height, courage and fitness. Adult beginners need have no worries because the horses they ride are steady and sensible and will be doing their very best to please, while younger riders can be led on trails.
It’s difficult to translate the charm and magic of Ireland on horseback
And if you’ve ridden a horse before, with the choice of expert tuition on offer, you can polish off your already existing skills, but this time surrounded by Ireland's countryside. For the most part, equestrian centres in Ireland will have all the tack and gear you'll need. Still, like any active plans you may have for your visit, it’s always a good idea to bring comfortable tracksuit bottoms, rainproof clothing and a decent pair of walking shoes or sneakers.
Longer treks and cross-country routes
One thing Ireland isn’t short of is landscape, so yes – there are plenty of options for longer treks. Once you’ve got your bearings on the back of a horse, treks and trails bring you over peaceful and scenic landscapes at a leisurely pace.
Cross-country riding, meanwhile, combines speed, agility and precision as you tackle banks, water obstacles, drops and wooden logs around some of the island’s excellent cross-country courses. For more advanced riders, there is usually the option to bring your own horse. Or if you fancy improving your skills, you could treat yourself to a cross-country lesson. A qualified instructor will help you to tackle the obstacles and build your confidence. Safety is of paramount importance, so always listen to the instructions given.
A day at the races
Horse racing is in our blood in Ireland, so it's almost hard to choose just one place to go. Summers are definitely made all the better by the Galway Races, while the lazy days that linger after Christmas are perked up by meets at Leopardstown in Dublin and Down Royal Racecourse, County Down.
Punchestown in Kildare is a rite of passage for thousands of race-goers in the surrounding counties every year. Navan in Meath, the Curragh in Kildare and Downpatrick Racecourse are also justly famous for their feisty atmospheres.
Horse Shows in Ireland
The cream of Ireland’s shows are the Dublin Horse Show and the Belfast International Horse Show – both bring equestrian fans and general audiences in their droves. There are other Irish Horse Shows that don’t take such a huge international stage, but are well worth checking out.
If you want to see where it all begins in the thoroughbred world, a trip to a horse sale will give you a glimpse into the lives of some of the top names in Irish racing: Goffs in County Kildare, Goresbridge in County Kilkenny, Tattersalls in County Meath, Sweet Wall and Laurel View in County Antrim, and Ballintaggart in County Armagh are names that are known in racing circles worldwide.