All The Pretty Horses


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Scenes from the Ballinasloe Horse Fair 2015.

By photographer Donal Moloney, who writes:

On a sombre October morning as our small island was waking to the tragic news that 10 members of the same extended family perished in a blazing inferno, I was already on the road to Ballinasloe and the annual horse fair. Many of the people I went on to meet that day bore more than just a connection by name to the Connors family.

Understandably the mood was a little subdued and reflective. But anyone who spends time around high spirited mares and their playful foals, miniature falabellas, working shires, ginnetts, mules and donkeys is bound to be lifted by their quirky personalities and mythical beauty. As symbols of passion, personal drive and freedom, their longstanding connection to the traveller community is a tradition worthy of preservation.

Lots of standing around is the order of the day as owners socialize, buy, sell and trade livestock. It is all fairly serene apart from the odd equine scuffle that breaks out, whinnies resounding across the bowl shaped village green. At one point a skittish mare frantically breaks loose and it’s all hands on deck as 50 men give chase, mothers and onlookers concerned about the wellbeing of the children and the horses. Luckily things are restored to order within minutes and the day returns to it’s slow dander, stretching it’s neck out with slackened reins to the slow rhythmic beat of hoof fall on dried earth.

Among the crowds are as many different characters as there are breed of horse. For some it’s following a tradition, for others it’s a business opportunity and for many “it is just a hobby” jokes Patrick Cusack. “If you gave me clubs and membership to Westport Golf club sure I wouldn’t know what to do with it.” The one thing they do have in common is their pride and their love of the horses, demonstrated by the welcoming bronze man and his 16 hand high horse standing pride of place in the village square.

Sure, it’s not perfect in every aspect but nor is any sports or social event that I have attended over the years. But as Officials for the fair are keen to point out, the standards have improved substantially year on year and the appointment of a committee across the community has certainly helped in it’s smooth running. Fair play to ya Ballinasloe for keeping the spirit of the tradition alive.

Donal Moloney

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37 thoughts on “All The Pretty Horses

          1. Neilo

            The photos! *Clutches pearls, faints but is revived sufficiently to mix a few grains of laudanum in tincture of Tio Pepe*

  1. Wayne.F

    Am I the only one uncomfortable with the photo of the horse surrounded by lads aggressively waving sticks?

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      Possibly. Do you think they were hitting the horse? Or do you think the horse had a bit of a tantrum and that’s a group of lads either scared pooless and/or trying to calm him down?

        1. John E. Bravo

          Talented bunch that can shout without opening their mouths. As good as yourself who can see without opening your eyes.

    2. John E. Bravo

      I think you need to get your eyes checked cos a regular exposure can’t show someone ‘waving’ anything; and maybe your brain too to see how you can see having your hands up as an aggressive stance.

  2. Paolo

    The Ballinasloe Horse Fair is hell on earth for horses, dogs and every other animal that has the misfortune to find itself there. It should be shut down immediately.

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      Not into animals so I found it incredibly boring – so much so that I went to a stupid fortune teller just for something to do.

  3. fluffybiscuits

    What has the fire got to do with the photographs? Can him and Harbo not just move in together in Antartica or some other place where we will never see their posts again (Mullingar maybe?)

    1. Charlie

      Fluff. Seriously? You can’t work out the connection? I’ve got a three year old child who could work that one out. Once again you crawl out of the woodwork to bully and bitch. Did you have a difficult childhood?

          1. Charlie

            Stumpy. So, you’ve obviously never met him. That was your one and only communication with the man? A link that is two years old. Seriously? You’ve a vendetta? A grudge? A mission? You’ve elected yourself judge and jury on one solitary fiery thread that occurred two years ago. You should make the effort to meet the guy if it eats at you.
            I was here that day to witness a select BS gang bullying despite his good intentions. Two years later, the same group are still bullying and insulting him at every opportunity. A nasty nasty group. It’s disgusting.

  4. Peter

    @Mr. T.
    Just shut up. If you’re unclear on why you should shut up, here are some reasons for you to shut up:
    1 – They’re great photos (Kudos photographer man)
    2 – (Apologies to the photographer ) But you shouldn’t have to rationalise your photography morals in a preemptive bow to the trolls, that might, and from the ignorant fool above, ludicrously conceive your personal endeavour as some sort of ambulance chasing, paparazzi stunt! You are simply documenting an iconic rural event. And very well documented at that! Whether you left before hearing the tragic news or after is completely irrelevant!
    3. Just pure speculation here, but why do you berate a photographer that documented an event. An event, that could have been very legitimately canceled in the wake of such a tragedy within it’s ‘associated’ community.

    @Mr.T point your angry finger towards your hole and politely go f yourself

Comments are closed.

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