Horse-Fair at Cahirmee , County Cork

The horse was the most vulnerable animal in traditional Ireland , and accordingly many folk beliefs and superstitions centred on it. As well as sickness and injury , other dangers threatened the horse , for it was thought that an envious neighbour could harm it by a glance of ‘the evil eye’ or that the fairies might wish to spirit it away into the otherworld , leaving only a useless nag in its place.

In order to protect it from such misfortunes , a red ribbon or a twig of rowan might be attached to its mane while it was in the stable , or one might spit on it before releasing it into the field.

Much of the lore of horses can be learned by attending a horse-fair. Good luck is sealed into a bargain , for instance , by spitting on the palms before the handshake , and the seller should always retain the halter so as to preserve his good luck.

There are many maxims concerning the colours and markings of horses , some thought to be good portents and others bad , but people seldom agree on all of these. One very old way of judging the best qualities of a horse goes as follows: ‘Three traits of a bull – bold walk , strong neck , and hard hoof; three traits of a hare – light ear , slanting eye , and quick turn; three traits of a woman – broad breast , slender waist , and short back!’.

One of the best known traditional horse-fairs is held annually at Cahirmee , halfway between the towns of Buttevant and Doneraile in County Cork. Many a good farmhouse , pony , and hunter were bought at this fair , including – it is said – the charger ridden by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. According to another tradition , Napoleon’s famous horse , Marengo , was bread in County Wexford.

To visit this traditional horse fair contact us now to organise your tours of Ireland.