National Geographic: Ballad of the Irish Horse


In Ireland, horses are

an indelible part of the landscape...

of history and memory,

of a past and present

where the ancient magic

of the horse

still weaves its spell.

Their presence is pervasive,

as if horses help to define

what the Irish people are.

Horses are the Irishman's sport...

Ireland is the birthplace

of steeplechasing.

Horses are Ireland's tradition.

Showjumping originated

on this green land.

Horses are Ireland's business.

This is the Irish National Stud.

Horses are Ireland's pleasure.

Here people still ride across

fields and farms to the hounds...

and thousands of families

keep horses for recreation.

This romance of the Irish

and their horses

was born of the land,

nurtured by necessity,

and fostered by ancient bonds.

It is one of the oldest

love stories on earth:

The Ballad of the Irish Horse.


Ireland of myth and mystery,

of wild shores and soft rains,

lush pastures and rich soil,

where the past still lives.

Even today, Ireland remains,

as it has been

for thousand of years,

largely agricultural.

Here, the story of man and horse

stretches over the centuries...

A saga woven of threads

of tradition and history,

custom and religion,

that binds them

inseparably in the fiber

of Irish life.

While the rest of Europe

was transformed

by the Industrial Revolution,

Ireland remained essentially

untouched and unchanged.

Until only 40 year ago,

most families in Ireland

needed a horse

to plow the fields

through the week.

On market days,

the farmer hitched the horse

to a wagon to haul his produce.

On Sundays, horse and wagon

took the family to church.

In remote areas of the west,

the old Irish ways

and language survive.

And the people of

Ireland keep horses

in their lives

and on their landscapes.

Here, people still go ton fairs

at villages

and country crossroads

to buy and sell horses

as they have for centuries.

In Napoleonic times,

quartermasters from European armies

came here to buy

the famed Irish horses

for their elite cavalry regiments.

Today at the Great October Fair

in Ballinasloe,

the flavor of a lost age lingers.

If she's there for 50 pounds,

she's there.

The trading is still punctuated

by the slapping of hands

a middleman still brings buyer

and seller together.

And a bit of earth

on the horse's hindquarters

still shows that a bargain

has been struck.

Like his father and grandfather,

John Daly is a horse breeder.

He came to this fair

with his father.

Now he brings his son, Alan,

knowing the boy

will follow in his footsteps.

And today he has come to buy

Alan a pony.

We'll go and see

something else anyway.

Stand back a minute there, lads.

What do you carry on

the book down there?

Fourteen two.

The man says seven.

I'll give you eight.

Give him 1,000 pounds.

Give him to him for 1,000 pounds

and that's the price.

And after that, say no more.

I'll give you 800.

Well, I look at it this way.

Your lad will be

getting a good pony,

and he's a good rider.

And I like to see him

getting the pony

If you tell me

you'll take it for them

I'll divide it

the last 200 pounds.

That's 900, right?

Give him 1,000 pounds.

Go on, give him 1,000.

I tell you what I'll do.

I'll go away and leave you

for an hour to think about it.

And you might get a better lad.

I'm here to sell him.

That'll be 1,000 pounds,

the both of yours.

You're fiddling around there

like a fiddler.

That will be 1,000 quid

and get the money.

Give him a check then

for 1,000 pounds.

Will you break the board?

Go on. Give him to him now. Sold.

Hold out, hold out.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "National Geographic: Ballad of the Irish Horse" STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 26 Jan. 2021. <>.

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