“The great baseball player, Rogers “The Rajah” Hornsby once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
Winter is a woeful season here on the west coast of Ireland. Storms tear off the dark North Atlantic, yanking down trees, stripping away roads. Any attempt to school a horse regularly is futile, and even the minor chore of walking to the stables leaves me rain-whipped, ice-cold, discouraged.
I tend to mope. I mourn. I see the dark side of things. I lose perspective. As the tragedy of another Irish winter unfolds, with its resonance of famine and plague, I forget that I am, in fact, just waiting for spring.
Practically the only thing that keeps me from leaping off one of the sea-bashed cliffs in front of my house is plotting my summer competition schedule. I slink round the internet, ogling the sites of summer horse trials… and the whole world brightens.
What goes into building these pleasure grounds? Who are the heroes whose dedication to natural obstacles and smooth turf makes my life worth living? I decided to find out.
Here in County Cork, we have a new cross-country course designed by the great Michael Etherington-Smith, designer for the Sydney and Hong Kong Olympics, the 2010 World Equestrian Games, the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* for the past 20 years, and many others.
After salivating over sunny photos on the website of the Millstreet Equestrian Centre, where the course has been built, I rang up Mike Etherington-Smith in a grateful mood.”
Then I published what I learned in Eventing Nation.