I was back at Mount Juliet Estate today, a beautiful old Irish estate in Thomastown, Ireland. Up until the 1980's, not too long ago, Mount Juliet was a private residence, complete with a staff of around 100. Last time I rode here was when we filmed Equitrekking Irish Countryside, in Equitrekking's second season. I rode a horse named Harold with trainer Elenaor Dwan. I was privileged to ride again with Eleanor.
Julie and I arrived just in time for some nice hot tea and a club sandwich in the warm main house. We sat overlooking the River Nore and Ballylinch Stud farm and the beautiful green Irish land. Down at the equestrian center, I was able to see the many changes that have occurred since my last visit. They've redone the stables. Mount Juliet now has two outdoor rings for lessons and training. If you want to brush up on your jumping skills, it's a good place to start. The stables are very neat and well ordered. I particularly liked the design, as there is a cubby hole right beside each stall for tack storage, which is really handy.
Julie and I warmed up to get used to our horses with some trotting and cantering in the ring before heading out. Eleanor accessed our riding and our match with our horses. Julie was able to ride Harold and I was on a nice strong Irish Sport horse named Chad, who excels at cross country and jumping.
Eleanor took us trotting and cantering to the cross country course, where there are twenty jumps. At Mount Juliet, you can try Confidence in Jumping and Cross Country Clinics, lessons and hacking and more. Julie and I had our horses step up on a higher jump for a photos and then leaned back with our feet in the stirrups as our horses hopped off. Just this act of stepping on and off one of the jumps helps the horses and us riders get more familiar with the course and really check out distances, etc. It's something Eleanor would do first when people access the course. We also trotted through a water crossing. I could imagine popping over this course, though some of the jumps would definitely be jumps you'd want to work up to.
We rode further to my favorite spot for riding on the estate, the 50 acre field. Two large open fields stretch up a hill and at the top, you can look out to the patchwork countryside surrounding the estate. Eleanor told us that the horses like to run at bit up this hill and we could let them go if we wanted. They wouldn't run off with us. Chad definitely liked to run, and I could tell that he is a true athlete, as we raced up the hill. It was fast and exhilarating!
Learn more about Equitrekking on PBS and the Equitrekking episodes on DVD and learn about exceptional equestrian vacations and horseback riding at Mount Juliet at EquitrekkingTravel.com. Follow Equitrekking on Facebook and @Equitrekking and @DarleyNewman on Twitter.