Sunday, 19 July 2009

Swine 'flu

Well wouldn’t you know it, I’ve only gone and gotten feckin’ swine ‘flu! It’s them yanks comin’ over here on their family tracing trips who brought it over. As a result, Derby training has been worse then sparse. I am losing weight, which is the good news, but I think I am dissolving hard-won muscle. Then again, only five more kilos to loose!

I did manage a good six hours in the saddle at the weekend before the symptoms took hold, lots of working on the passage and turn on haunches on my friend’s 17hh Danish Warmblood. Alas my ride on a Kerry bog pony was somewhat less successful.

Upon mounting my tough, fit, workmanlike and enthusiastic (and yes, little at 12hh) horse who is intelligent enough to eat grass, hay, drink water and get comfortable when it is not working, well it’s little legs went a bit sideways….I confess, it buckled and lay down beneath me. I really don’t see this as much of an obstacle though as I’m sure that once I loose that last 5kilos it should be no problem for one to gallop 40kms with me and 10kgs of stuff.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


Hello dear readers! Well I cannot express how happy I was to discover a man from New Zealand taking part in that other Derby who has more than a few similarities with my good self! Like me, he is havin' to loose 12 kilos to bring himself into the weight limit range. I myself have a mere 10 left to loose, also like me this fellow describes himself as "a relatively inexperienced rider". Well my dearies, that might be enough to get you through Mongolia but it won't cut any ice in Connemara!

I find it awful queer now that people are complaining that them lads out East are lacking water supplies. Sure my problem is an overabundance of the stuff! Rain galls, mud-fever, pulled tendons from soggy ground, slippery ground, sodden bogs, we've it all ahead of us. What do them lot have to worry about but a few wee "flash floods". Well if you ask me, if you can't see a huge flood coming then you're a bit of an eejit and had it coming. I'm sorry now but their "adventuring spirit" just ain't up to scratch if you ask me....

For one thing one of them other riders had the cheek to whinge:
""They're going to give us GPS locations to the wells, where we'll be able to get water, and they don't guarantee that the wells will have water."

I don't see what the fuss is about, the horses hooves'll have a nice bit of time to dry out and get a bit of a crack in the heel. Also I envy this lot in that they shall be able to see this thing that I heard about: if you pinch a fold of loose skin for a bit, there's a story about it not springing right back! Well I wish I could see that.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Irish phrases

Are there man-eating sheep in this area?

An bhfil aon caoire a itheann daoine san ait seo ?

Could you lend me a whip? My pony is too slow.

Tá an capall seo ro-mall caithfidh me sprioc a thabhairt do

I have a pain in my arse

Tá pian i mo thoinn

Call your sheep off!

Coimead na caoire sin uaim

Why yes, I would be most interested in seeing your prizewinning herd

of cattle!

Tá suim mhór agam i do chuid boanna, (chuala me gor bhuaidh siad duaiseanna)

My fitness regime

My fleet of veterinarians with tractors waiting to be deployed should I need them.


I have been training my ponies to ensure their welfare and fitness for the ride, after much consideration I have decided that making my ponies swim from the mainland to Inis Mór every other day. This is how the islands were originally populated with the ponies swimming behind the boats as they were guided with a rope. I think it's a great way to get the ponies fit.

As for myself, I have been sandpapering my arse and thighs daily so as to toughen up the skin for my ride. I have also devised a personal fitness program, I'd rather not divulge all of my secrets here lest those other derby riders steal my ideas. Suffice to say that I have done plenty and it has all been suitably arduous. I have also been walking my dog over the hills for an hour each day when I take a break from the pub. Not only that but I have been conditioning myself to be able to consume up to a liter of Poitín per day I have ALSO been digging the fields at night to build up my arm muscles. The point of all this agony is that I will know what it feels like, and not be unduly stressed, if I encounter my physical limits on the Derby. If I can move those limits back a bit too, that will be a big help.

I have lined up a record six different mounts to ride over the weekend, first my own two Connemara ponies, then three donkeys kindly leant to me by a policeman neighbour in return for my now retired third bicycle, and last but not least a Kerry bog pony! Of course all 6 mounts are highly trained in dressage and show jumping and so I feel that if I ride each one in a school for an hour a day this will ensure I am well prepared for riding 25 feral unbroken ponies over the wilds of Connaught.

I have also been polishing up my Irish phrases for any chance encounters with the exotic locals, more on this later!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

I'm not joking about them sheep.

I am aware that there are some people out there who find it comical that I am comparing the dangers of wild sheep on the bogs, to the dangers of wild wolves on the Mongolian plains. Well to these naysayers I would like to present two photographs, the evidence speaks for itself and I hope that the matter is now settled.

Now, which would wild beast you prefer to meet, alone in the wilderness? A solitary wolf or a large herd of sheep?

I rest my case.

Open letter to Horse and Hound magazine

I am writing to inform you that I shall be taking part in the Connemara Derby, the other toughest race in the world! I know that this is something that your magazine Horse and Hound shall be interested in covering, and of course I shall allow you to provide links to my blog and publish my progress in your illustrious magazine. The race, which runs for the first time this year, is over 1,000km of wilderness and bogs in Connaught, and I am taking the liberty of billing it as the "biggest, baddest equine affair on the bog".

The ride will follow the historical "Galway to Clifton" rail route which was closed as of 1937, with stops to change ponies every 40kms at a "shebeen". As the wilds of Connemara fail to cover the same distances as the wilds of Mongolia I shall be re-riding the same route 6 times out of Galway and 7 times back. Each venture being more treacherous than the last, as the muddy bog becomes every more trodden on and water-logged.

While I am an experienced rider, I have no experience in endurance, just like every single participant in the Mongol Derby, that other big bad race. Neverthele

ss, armed with 25 ponies I shall be racing across the bogs and facing such dangers as drunken farmers brandishing shotguns, tourist busses blocking our path and not least of all hundreds of wild sheep that gather by our drinking water supplies. I realise that sheep lack the reputation that wolves have for ferocity but I feel that to discriminate against the danger that they present is inequity and downright speciesism.

On my ride I shall utilize the "tough as nails" Connemara pony, and to make the ride as authentic as possible; I shall only ride ponies under 14hh and five years old and those which are preferably unbroken. As they are a native breed, I feel that horseshoes are superfluous and unnecessary for the 40kms that I shall gallop with each pony. Of course I shall follow strict weight restrictions, I shall diet myself down to a sprightly and nimble 85kg, and in addition only carry 10kgs of luggage with me which I think should be no problem for the hardy little Irish ponies to carry at speed. As the breed standard dictates that a true Connemara Pony should weigh no more than 430kgs, I think that 22% of the pony's weight should pose no problem. Additionally, going by the standards of your good publication it should be no problem for the 13hh ponies to carry only 27% of their body weight, which I am sure you will agree is as fair as the Mongol horses loads.

I am aware of the fact that my ride may lack the additional, exciting challenge of the Mongol derby in so far as that their derby is taking place in summer when temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius shall be the norm. However, you can rest assured the West of Ireland has many meteorological challenges of its own. To ensure that I can prove myself to be a true adventurer I shall complete the ride in the first two weeks of January when there should be some nice gale force winds to accompany the blasting rain and hail so as to prove I am a true adventurer.

There are two types of veterinary support for the ponies on the Connemara Derby. The

first is a long term health checking program to ensure the horses are prepared and

healthy for the event. What this means exactly I’m not quite sure but I’ll keep you informed! The second is our support network to provide expert on-call

veterinary support to all the horses during the race. I shall have a fleet of tractors with vets ready to come to my assistance as needed. They will be stationed in Waterford and as they lack the necessary licenses to drive on the high ways, they shall be traveling through the back roads of Ireland to me should I need them.

As I have seen the keen interest and promotion of that other Derby that your magazine has admirably published, while brilliantly covering up the pesky protests of the Long Riders Guild, especially when you managed to refrain from publishing a word of detail about the outlaw equestrian traveller who nearly killed his horses on his mad dash from Russia to Paris.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours Sincerely,

Amadán Ní gCopaleení