The Ballivanich Reel/ The Boy In The Boat/The Stone Of Destiny by Lúnasa from the CD Sé
When I was a young girl my parents occasionally used load us into the car and pack us off to some remote country fair. To be honest, I have no idea how my folks even knew where half these events were, but they managed to find them nonetheless. Upon our arrival they’d press a few dollars into our outstretched, sweaty palms and send us on our way with a curt warning to mind our P’s and Q’s. They’d tack an additional parting addendum to my warning, reminding me to stay out of the way of the farmers and not to be a pest. They knew the minute I was unleashed I’d bolt for the pony pulling arena, where I’d stay glued to some poor hapless farmer for the next five or six hours.
I don’t remember how old I was when I first realized I adored horses. I think I was born that way. I don’t recall ever having any fear of horses and my earliest memory of being around them is strongly linked to fairs. I was the kid who begged my parents relentlessly to do the pony ride again and again and again, until eventually my parents simply left me to hang out with the poor attendant who was in charge of the ride. I say “poor” because at the same time I was also a relentless chatterbox. I’m fairly certain I drove the poor attendant nuts with my horse and pony related questions. Between rides, that is. I do remember being told (on more than one occasion) that I had to give the other kids a chance to ride!
When I got a little older I discovered pulling. The pony pulls typically started in the afternoon and were immediately followed by the horse classes that ran late into the warm summer night. As much as I fantasized about owning my own horse some day, I really grew to love the pony pulling the most. Ponies tend to be more animated than their larger cousins and their unique personalities seem to compensate for their lack of size. To put it simply, ponies just have more pluck. Not to mention that their smaller stature made it much easier for me to pet and brush and …. well, pester them as they stood tied to their trailer or hitched to the rail. By pester I don’t mean irritate. No, my idea of a good time was to simply be around them so I could shower my love on those ponies.
The farmers who owned the pulling horses and ponies were incredibly tolerant. Back in those days parents didn’t hover over their kids and so I was loosely supervised by whoever was around the pulling arena. The outsider might think pulling is just a fun form of country entertainment, but it’s serious stuff to the folks who are involved. While the camaraderie may be abundant, the competition is fierce. Every contestant is there to win! So there I was, a child, smack dab in the middle of all the betting, cursing, chest pounding and laughter and they were some of the happiest times of my life.Several farmers took me under their wing. Many of the same teams and owners do the summer fair circuit and so I got to know the men and their horses well. They began to teach me how to handle myself properly around horses and gradually allowed me to do more and more with their teams as my confidence and experience grew. By the time the end of the summer rolled around I was spending the better part of the afternoon and evening at the pulling pens. And I couldn’t have been happier. I didn’t care a whit about the rides the food or anything else, I just wanted to be with the ponies and horses.
I never outgrew my love for summer fairs with horse and pony pulls. I don’t get involved in the politics of pulling, I just enjoy watching the dynamics between the teams and their drivers. Pulling was one of the very first events I tried to shoot when I bought my camera and I had a fair amount luck considering I was a rookie photographer at the time. The next summer my plans to get out to shoot some pulls fell through and I didn’t get a single picture. This summer I’m hoping to get back out there and spend some time at the pulls. I can’t wait!