In 2012 I became hooked on horses. At 45, I was bringing my daughter to riding lessons and just starting to get the courage to get in the tack myself. In the evenings I would scour the internet looking for a horse I could ride and maybe even make my own. And then it happened. In one click – Midnight. Midnight was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. He had a shiny black coat, white blaze, and feet as big as a scrub bucket covered in the finest horse feathers God created. His back was strong and sleek, and he had a kind face and eyes that said he loved humans and his job. I emailed his owner, James Tonery of Galway, Ireland, about him. Sadly, Midnight was not for sale; he was the barn favorite and incredibly talented, not to mention he and James had a once in a lifetime connection. However, James offered me an invitation to come ride him.
It took me five years to get over to Ireland to finally meet Midnight. In the spring of 2017, I made plans to travel in the late summer and spend a week in Ireland. However, in July I received some terrible news – my Mother was diagnosed with stage 4 bone cancer, and I spent the month traveling back and forth to assist with her care. I remember telling my Mom I would cancel my Ireland trip, but she insisted I go, as our family is Irish and I needed to see “ where our people are from”. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I gathered my dearest equestrian buddies, watched a rare lunar eclipse, and headed for the airport. After a fancy dinner, we boarded the flight from Atlanta to Dublin and off we went.
When our group arrived in Dublin we were excited but also jet lagged and ready to catch the bus from Dublin to Galway, where we had planned a lunch that included a Guinness Beer. At the luggage conveyor, I soon realized my suitcase that held my riding boots, breeches, and everything one would need to ride was missing. Delta had put my suitcase on the wrong plane, and it would not arrive for two days. That did it. The grief of what was happening to my mom and the fact that I had spent all this money and effort to meet Midnight and it was not going to happen broke me. I could not control the tears. My wonderful friends took me to the only tack shop in Galway only to find out it was closing/moving and had bare shelves with hardly anything for sale. The tears continued.
I am blessed beyond measure with the best girlfriends ever; they knew exactly what do to. They called James and he insisted they bring me to him. As we approached the meeting spot, the ladies pushed me out of the cab as James grabbed me and gave me the biggest hug of my life. Then James looked at me and said “C’mon, let’s go get Midnight”, and off we went. My friends went back into town and began shopping for things like underwear, pajamas, and a toothbrush for me while I was off to meet my dream horse.
My first thought was that Midnight was everything I had dreamed he would be. My second thought was “Why doesn’t his halter work?” It turns out the buckles they use in Europe are different. Once we got Midnight out of the field and to the barn, or Livery, I had the pleasure of meeting Ciara Walsh, James’ business partner. Ciara had gathered riding boots and gear for me to borrow. From that day on, Coopers Hill Equine became my Irish family.
Fast forward to another trip to Ireland after eight years of friendship to now – our world was hit with COVID-19. James was in dire straits; without tourist rides and the hunting season, funding was not available for the feed and care of Ireland’s best horses. He would have to close. Three weeks ago, James called me and told me the news. I couldn’t believe it. Cooper’s Hill Equine was his Dad’s dream, passed down to him and a great success. James is a trainer, a coach, and an unbelievable equestrian, and his world was drastically changing. My heart was broken for him and my friends in Galway. James asked if I wanted Midnight. I asked him to repeat himself, as James and Midnight are best friends. He asked again if I was interested. How could I refuse? It was meant to be.
After a few weeks of planning, vetting, and working with two of the world’s best Equine transporters, Midnight was brought to me in Atlanta, on Mother’s Day no less. The good people of Ireland were able to get this lovely 1600 pound horse to me in less than a week (Amazon could take lessons from them). I am lucky to have such good people around me.
Please keep our friends at Cooper’s Hill Equine in your prayers and, if they open up after this pandemic, go see them – you will have the time of your life. And if you live in Atlanta, come meet the Marvelous Mister Midnight and count your blessings. I certainly have.