Most know that when I was a wee little girl I fell madly in love with horses. This is a love affair that has trancended many men and many years...and thankfully I found the one man to marry who not only could tolerate playing second fiddle to the 4 legged men in my life but could also cherish them almost as much as I do. When my horse Shimmeree, a delightful gray arabian with a very happy nature snuggled up to him 30 plus years ago I knew that he was the one. That horse was always a fabulous judge of character.
One of my first trainers when I was a little girl was an Irish woman name Noreen Bailey, who like most Irishmen and women that I've known had a way with horses that was absolutely magical and at times downright infuriating. I spent well over a decade with her and became known for my ability to speak with a bit of a brogue. I loved and hated her at the same time...I'd be having an issue with one of my ponies and she'd hop on and whisper to him in a bit of gaelic and he'd be eating out of her hands..doing whatever she wanted him to do which was usually exactly what he'd refused to do for me seconds before. Mrs. Bailey taught me many things and was perhaps my first introduction to natural horsekeeping. She made all of her own linaments and boiled down flaxseed on the stove to make a jelly that is still far superior as a gut and coat remedy to anything that you can buy. She'd toss pine boughs out into the pasture to keep down the worms and at least 3 times a week would fix a bran mash for the horses that you or I would eat happily. Lameness, diabetes, laminitis...all of these things were rare in her barns because she knew how to keep her horses in as natural a state as possible. They were outside morning ,noon and most evenings when it wasn't too buggy. They lived a life unlike most horses that you know today because for the most part they were free.
I used to love to spend the night there before a horse show...her apartments were right on top of the barns so I could fall asleep listening to snorting, snuffling and the occasional wall kick. The warm hay smell would follow me up the steps and I'd settle happily on her couch with a bowl of soup. Sadly her culinary skills did not transfer to humans but I loved her cooking just the same! However she did make a mean hot toddy which really could cure whatever ailed you. Several times I'd have a cold the night before an important horse show and she'd mix me up this drink. It would go down the hatch easily, I'd fall asleep and in the morning I'd be ready to go! I didn't question her wisdom of giving it to an 8 year old and of course my mother never knew, but to this day I'm grateful and it's what I drink when I'm under the weather. It's also what I put into my flask when I go to hunter trials or foxhunting as it's a perfect sip for a cold fall morning when the leaves are falling, the horses are fresh and the air is sweet and brisk. It's really quite simple....Bushmills, Honey , lemon, cinnamon, butter and raisins in whatever proportions you like! If you need a toddy, add some hot tea (she used Constant Comment ,a blend which this author still admits to enjoying!) and if you want it for your flask, put it all into a bottle and let it steep overnight , shaking the bottle every now and then. If you don't like lemon and butter you can use Baileys...It's pretty good either way!
Although she's been gone for many years now, I've never forgotten her.Although she could be quite mean, I could never have been the rider that I am today without her. She gave me my seat and she ignited a passion that's lasted a lifetime. Here's to you Mrs. Bailey wherever you are...Happy St. Patricks Day...I'm hoping that all of your horses are fresh and your men are young and that you know just how much I loved you!