This time last year, a friend and I were keen for an adventure on horseback so we headed down to Mount Juliet Estate in Thomastown in Co. Kilkenny for a cross country ride out. I had been to Mount Juliet before for a side saddle hack organised by the side saddle association and I was keen to head back to try out the equestrian facilities astride.
The stable yard at Mount Juliet includes a large stable barn and two outdoor arenas. We were introduced to our mounts – grey mare Maggie for me and chestnut gelding Prince for my friend. I knew that Maggie was the stuff of legends having heard tales of her from some of the side saddle ladies who have ridden her before.
We mounted up and had a quick spin in the arena with some fellow riders and our instructor Jenny before we set out around the 1,500 acre estate. I won’t lie, the tree lined immaculate golf lawns on the way up from the stables are tortuous for riders as they are so smooth are just asking for a gallop! I managed to keep myself in check and keep off the grass as we rode down past the main house and set off across the bridge.
The Mount Juliet bridge crossing is always daunting for me as I am a chicken with heights but the horses don’t bat an eyelid and took us across the river Nore to the grassy banks on the other side where we had a spectacular view of the house and estate. We trotted along the river and then hacked across the land through the woods and across a network of roads. The woodland is a wonderful sight in Spring as crops of bluebells surprise you around every corner.
We ended up in the cross country field where there are all sorts of fences from logs and hills to banks and solids. Maggie was really keen to get going and we started off over some small fences and banks. We progressed up the field jumping different fences and then took on a small course suggested by Jenny. Maggie had a wonderful confident feel and simply wanted my permission to head off and jump whatever was in front of her. It is rare that I am on such a confident cross country animal so I challenged myself to take on some of the bigger obstacle options on our last course and I was delighted that I did.
Cross country finished we headed back up the river. We finished our hack with a canter along the riverside. Cantering along the river with the sun on my skin and the wind blowing between the horses ears was a lovely feeling. After our ride we said goodbye to the horses and set off for a walk around the grounds.
The whole estate is simply and we had a really relaxing time taking a stroll with my friends dog around the grounds. From the splendour of the main house to the bluebell strewn woods to the walled garden Mount Juliet is just asking to be explored. The venue also offers accomodation, golfing, archery and a spa. For more information please visit http://www.mountjuliet.ie/equestrian/
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