By Jane Shortall

Walking along an old track, in the magical countryside that is Connemara, stone walls on either side hung with swathes of red and white Fuchsia, like hundreds of tiny ballerinas, I heard a whickering sound.

Scanning the fields on both sides, I could see nothing. On my right, the field was full of large ferns. Those ferns provided the backdrop for the scene that unfolded in front of me a minute later.

I heard the whicker again and out of the corner of my eye, I caught a movement, a flash of black, somewhere in the middle of the ferns.

Seconds later a black horse, a stunning, astonishing spectacle of nature came crashing through the ferns.

With a strong muscled body, striking, noble head and long, glossy black mane flying out behind him, he thundered up to the wall, stopped, looked at me, pawed the ground for a bit and then executed one of those marvellous stands, front legs up in the air, all the while neighing loudly.

I truly doubt that I took a breath, I think I simply stood, mesmerized with a mixture of sheer delight and wonder. Certainly, I felt enormously moved, honored to be a witness to such beauty.

With all four legs back on the ground, he shook himself thoroughly, his splendid mane flying out on both sides and then falling down his neck like black silk. I stood transfixed. Forty years later, it still gives me goosebumps.

Climbing onto the wall I sat looking at him. He looked back, marvellous eyes gazing into mine. He was special, no doubt about it. This wasn’t your usual, ordinary, perfect little pony. This fellow was a star, and he knew it. For me, he might have been the inspiration for Black Beauty.

In a fantasy, I would leap off the wall onto his back, saddle, stirrups and reins being unnecessary in dreams, and gallop off, across the countryside, all round Lough Corrib.
I felt I knew who owned him. I was sure he wasn’t broken in yet. If I was right, then grandfather Geoghegan would soon have him eating out of his hand.
Suddenly, he turned, kicked up his heels and galloped away, back to his ferny domain, and disappeared.

Reluctantly I got off the wall, went back down the track, and stopped at the Geoghegans farm to ask if I had been right. I was.

They were delighted that the girl from the city was getting to know her Connemara ponies and their owners. Some years before I was introduced to Oughterard by friends who had a house on the Corrib. All the magic of the west of Ireland enchanted me. Connemara remains, for me, a place of dreams.

Now, I live in France and have ridden ponies called The Black Princes. I’ve even been to Mongolia and ridden with the Nomads on the Steppe, but nothing quite compares to a special black horse, seen in a field of green ferns, on a quiet Connemara morning. ÷