A very unique event is taking place to support the Irish Horse Welfare Trust (IHWT)
“Irish Equus – a Living History” on Sunday July 9th in Blessington, Co.Wicklow. Amongst others, it has a cast of a Norman knight, Napoleonic cavalryman, Celtic Princess and Highwayman.
The show is a short 1km farm walk where spectators walk around a series of large storyboards and are told of the Irish horse in mythology, sport, transport, farming and war. Supported by riders in costume, part of this “show and tell” will include, the Kerry bog pony, Irish hunter, Connemara pony, Clydesdale and Thoroughbred.
Organising the event at Buttercup stables Blessington is Ronan Wilson who had run a history on horseback trek a number of years ago. “I was clearing out a shed when I came across the old posters and had the idea it might work as a charity walk”. The trek venture (now closed) was popular with tourists and on Trip Advisor rose to number one of things to do in Wicklow. Ronan who had ridden horses in Braveheart took an interest in equine history after his film experience, “One day I was sitting on a horse at the back of Mel Gibson’s army. Before me were 200 horsemen and 700 foot soldiers in full costume. I remember thinking, whatever about heroes like William Wallace, what about the horses? What was their story?”
Local riders have volunteered to help and are being put through their paces, some wearing chainmail armour as part of their turnout. Ronan makes the point, “the show is not about re-enactment, due to welfare and safety there’ll be no crossing of swords! Ultimately, we’re telling the story from the horses point of view and trying to join a few dots. For example, the link between hunting and racing.” Ronan’s favourite is the highwayman, “When people think highwayman, they think Dick Turpin, but he was a boy scout in comparison to our Irish ones.”
Ronan contributed to the RTE Radio 1 documentary on the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1. The documentary “They had no choice” in 2014, told how over 70,000 Irish horses were sent to their deaths during the Great War. Ronan comments, “Although tragic, this number is probably small in comparison to the thousands of farm horses sent for meat after the introduction of the tractor in the 1940’s, but they all deserve to be remembered”.
Centuries before this, King Henry VII banned the export of Irish horses, as he didn’t want his army meeting them in the hands of his enemies in Europe. Today, the Queens household cavalry is composed of 98% Irish horse. And so, the great equine tradition of Ireland deserves to be told.
The 90 minute event will have a limited number of 50 tickets available with prices of €10 for children, €20 for Adults or a family ticket for €50. Bookings can be made on line at buttercupstables.ie