Gabby Wild on Voodoo on the shores of Dunfanaghy (photo taken by Judy)

Today I stumbled into a fairytale. The earth was lush with emerald green grass, and dew coated the blades and flower petals. The air was cool and the sea beyond was quiet. The group of us on horseback (7 in total) left the stable after “test riding” our horses and made way down cobble streets inter-laden with gentle moss and fern. My steed for the journey is a black Irish Cob/hunter mix by the name of Voodoo. Either the name is perfectly fit for him or is his opposite: he’s doesn’t appear at all like evil black magic horse, as his name would imply, but, then again, if he truly is filled with “voodoo”, he has managed to mesmerize me using it. Regardless of his perfect disposition, though, Voodoo rides like a couch: deep, long, and steady. His strides are wide, and he represents pure freedom when you give him the rein to do so.

The goal of the day was to get up onto the top of Dunfanaghy, the town within Donegal province at which I am based out of, to get a gander at the terrain we will be traversing for the rest of the week. To get on top of the hills, we took that little cobble path described above down to the sea where the water was shallow enough to trod through but deep enough to get sandy water in between my teeth when I smiled- something that can’t be helped (nor should be helped) when on the back of such a gorgeous creature that is cantering into the wind.

The sand is white and soft in some places and firm in others, making the beach particularly fun to navigate through. Once our “pony pal” troop passed across the little stretch of beach, we went through the forests. Everything was eerily quiet. The tall trees, old and secretive, seemed to be foreboding. It’s always wise to pay attention to your horse at all times. I normally do this by looking between his ears to see which direction they are moving. Horses’ brains are divided and are not as-well connected together by a corpus collosom (the division in the brain that connects the left and rides hemispheres of the brain). Thus, what they see and hear from each eye and ear can be individually perceived. Thus when Voodoo began to bob his head up and down and move uncomfortably left and then right, I knew something was up.

As though a troop of fairies sent a plague to tease us travelers, a swarm of flies chased us the entire stretch through the forest. We tried outrunning them, but these little “buzzers” just stayed gung-ho onto our horses and helmets. At the end of the trail through the woods, the fairies seemed to have had enough fun and released us from our bondage of flies. Relief swept us all, and we jokingly thanked the forest fairies for letting us pass!

We turned the bend onto a road out of the forest. To our right was a field of horses: a hunter bay, three chestnuts (mainly Connemaras), and a mixed white/chestnut mare. They kicked up their heels at the sight of us and galloped to the stone wall separating us from them. They followed us along the perimeter of the wall until we were out of sight, neighing and bobbing their heads up and down for us to make a gallop with them all the way. To our left was a field of sheep, some nursing little lambies. The horses enjoyed the all characters along the journey, including a pen of pigs that sweetly oinked as the piglets followed their mother who insisted upon investigating us herd of horses and adventurous riders.

Suddenly as we were “awwww”ing at the piglets, a gunshot was heard, startling a few of the horses! From the sky fell a presumably “pesky” pigeon that had been troubling a farmer’s crop. The bird was not dead, but he did appear to be suffering from a broken wing. Unfortunately the bird was too far away (and in prohibited property) for me to go tend to it, though I regretted not jumping the fence the entire time (and currently) to help it…

Regardless, the trip was continued down a gravel road where perfectly clean and quaint homes lined the streets. Eventually the road met down at the sea, which is where we continued. We traversed the sand and made our way onto the shores of Sheephaven Bay. In single file, we flew along the beach for one long steady canter. The smell of salt permeated my clothes and the sand flung into my hair. To give the horses a little break at the end of our ride, we threaded in and out of windy, sand dunes.

Today’s ride concluded with another “roller-coaster” canter, interweaving between the tall grass of the sandy dunes until we reached the top of a hill that turned us back out on the beach. In a gentle walk, we rode the horses to the stables where they will chill until the ride tomorrow as the journey across Donegal continues!

Loving the adventure and, as always, Stay Wild,

Gabby Wild

PS I hope I’m not a bad talisman for horsehoes. The first horse given to me, Cassidy, lost his front left shoe, and then somewhere along the ride when I swapped onto Voodo, he lost his front left shoe, too! Today was mostly sand and soft, and he did not appear at all irritated when we reached the stable. Tomorrow, Voodoo should be perfectly well-shoed. What a name I chose for this fundraiser, though! Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we have more “luck of the horseshoe” for my horse’s sake as well as that for the ones we are trying to save in America!