Dingle Peggy

Beach Peggy 1
My book Dingle Peggy will be published next month, a sequel to Connemara Mollie. It’s taken 30 years of hindsight to make me appreciate just how much I owe these ponies. When I started the trek, with Mollie, I was still in the mindset that the most important part of horse management was control. Was the pony obedient? Could I make it do what I wanted? By the end of the trek I had learned that it was as important for me to understand what the pony was trying to tell me as it was to impose my will on the animal. Mollie was a calmer, more phlegmatic personality, so it was Peggy who was the catalyst in that transition. As I’d remarked when I first had her, I’d never known such an extrovert, sociable horse. Communication was her thing, so communicating with me came naturally. I am ashamed now at how slow I was to learn that any strange behaviour was her attempt to tell me something, rather than sheer naughtiness.
Horses are perhaps unique in our animal-doting world. We love them, we try to bond with them, and then we sell them on. A talented horse will have several owners during its 30-year lifetime, and goodness knows how many riders. Each time it changes hands it is expected to make the adjustment and respond with generosity. Most horses do. That is an extraordinary and deeply touching fact.
My thousand miles through Ireland changed me forever. I learned how to cope alone with triumph and disaster, how to enjoy my solitary state and to live in the present as time slipped by. I learned about generosity, and about the old, old human attribute of hospitality to strangers. I learned about the history of Ireland and the uncomfortable fact of my country’s oppression, and I learned that this is one of the most beautiful places in Europe. But above all I treasure that opportunity to get to know, and be friends with, Mollie and Peggy.

The finale of the Horse of the Year Show is a Salute to the Horse. It has always brought tears to my eyes:
Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride, friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity? Here where grace is laced with muscle, and strength by gentleness confined.
He serves without servility; he has fought without enmity. There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent, there is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.
England’s past has been borne on his back. All our history is his industry; we are his heirs, he our inheritance.
Ladies and gentlemen: the horse.

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5 Comments

  1. Dr John S Hopkins 2 Bevan Court Winslow Buckingham MK183FA said,

    8 April 2014 at 3:58 pm

    For the last few days I have enjoyed reading your book which was recently given to me but on page 62 I became really amazed, and fascinated,espcially when I appreciated the exact time of your journey
    In August 1984 my wife and I were staying on Valentia Island.It was her 50th birthday.Looking for somewhere to have a celebratory meal we came across a rather non-descript looking restaurent which we hoped ,without great expectations might fit the bill.It was the “Gallery Kitchen”and as you can guess we had a monumental surprise.As you found we had a meal we have always regarded as one of the best ever.I have always kept a card from the establishment I have tt in my hand at this moment!

  2. Amy Slattery said,

    13 August 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Thank you so much for these wonderful books! My grandmother was Kathleen Hennessy whom you encountered when your horse died. It was so nice to read your portrayal of a typical night by the fire telling stories, it brought back fond memories of the many nights I spent there, scared of ghosts! Thank you so much.

  3. Amy Slattery said,

    13 August 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Hi Hilary,

    Thank you so much for these wonderful books! My grandmother was Kathleen Hennessy whom you spent some time with after Mollie tragically died. Your description of my grandmother and my Uncle Noel were so accurate it reminded me of all the nights I spent beside the fire with them discussing ghosts and various other stories from the area! My grandmother passed away in 2003 so reading your book brought back some fond memories. Thank you so much.

  4. 13 June 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I agree as well! Really looking forward to Dingle Peggy. Mollie’s story was a lovely, courageous, heartbreaking read – I hope I won’t need quite so many Kleenex for Peggy, but I’ll stock up just in case!

  5. Jane said,

    2 June 2013 at 11:13 am

    I do so agree. It’s learning to look at something with the animal’s perspective, rather than ours. I’m really looking forward to Dingle Peggy. Connemara Mollie was a great read.


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