I don’t know if James Horan intuited that I spent much of my childhood watching and re-watching a VHS tape called Ballad of the Irish Horse, but he was right on the money when he thought I might like the book project he’s been working on, about the culture of the horse throughout Ireland.
Horan is self-publishing this book through Blurb; take a look at many more images on flickr. I hope this story gets picked up by some magazines in the States– lord knows horses (and unicorns) are hot right now. In any case, info from Horan, and some images:
I’m Irish and from a small town called Limerick. I studied fine art print
making in college and then decided I wanted to become a photographer. I
worked for six years with a news agency called Press 22; after this I
went to Sydney, Australia for four years and worked as a staff
photographer for the Cumberland newspaper group. Now I’m working in
Dublin, Ireland, shooting Press and PR.
came home to Ireland last June I found myself
looking at it with fresh eyes. With
so much change going on in the country
and the “Celtic Tiger” economy
in full effect, I decided to document one
aspect of my culture that has remained
largely unchanged but will most likely
fade into the history books.
From the tweed-suited old gentlemen and gypsies at the traditional
horse fairs of Spancil Hill and Ballinasloe, to the Adidas-clad youth
from deprived and working class suburbs of Limerick and Dublin, I have
met fearless, competent riders– all of whom are down to earth, kind-hearted people who love their horses. Most of the people I have
photographed have no formal equestrian training and keep their animals
in homemade stables or on green areas in housing estates.
The project centers on the monthly
Smithfield horse market; it’s one of
Dublin’s oldest traditions, dating back
to the 17th century. Dealers come from
around Ireland to buy and sell horses,
but the market is also popular with
local teenagers keen to show off their
ponies and their bare-back riding skills
on the cobbled stone square.
years the Smithfield area has been
redeveloped for modern high-density
inner city living with apartments,
cafes, hotels and a cinema– all of which
contrast greatly to the horse market.
introduction of The Control of Horses Act has effectively outlawed
these kids, and the closure of the market is a real possibility.
The Smithfield Horse Market.
Vicar Street Stables, Dublin, Ireland.
Vicar Street Stables.
A sunny day in Finglas, Dublin, Ireland.
ancient October Fair, one of the oldest horse fairs in Europe; bathed
in history, it dates back to the 1700s. Today the ever popular fair is
still held, along with a festival that attracts up to 100,000 visitors
from all over the world.
Buyers and sellers of horses and ponies gather each year on the 23rd of
June for the famous Spancil Hill horse. At one time, Spancil Hill was
said to be Ireland’s largest fair with buyers from Britain, Russia,
Prussia, and France competing to purchase the best stock for their