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February 07, 2011


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If England is bad, Ireland is even worse. The greed of a few has driven the country over the edge into bankruptcy (funny word that, since it's the banks that get the bail out and the rest of us can shed our blood, sweat and tears!) As a nation, we are now so deeply steeped in debt that with a work force of only 1.8 million it will take several generations to recover.
Things are bleak and over here it has an impact on the lives of horses, who are being abandoned every where as money runs out.

State forestry here is open to visitors on foot. If you want to ride your horse there, however, you have to buy a permit. I wonder how many people will be able to do that this year.

The idea of leaving it all behind is appealing.

White Horse Pilgrim

Sandra, I saw a strange situation when I worked as a travel agent a few years ago. Suddenly visitors began to appear from Ireland, not ones and twos (we'd always seen adventurous people from all about) but bus loads of very ordinary people with money to burn. New travel agents sprang up in Dublin. They became arrogant, wanting good margins, over-selling trips and telling me that 'my employees must express pro-Republican views as that is what Irish people want to here'. (This was quite odd as we lived in a republic that had itself only obtained independence in 1918. Personally as a transportation engineer having dealt with the aftermath of bombings on the London tube - which the agent didn't know - I wasn't too impressed by her attitude.) The visitors themselves were just normal people but with a lot of money to spend. It seemed as if they hadn't actually done anything to make that money, they'd just been in the right place at the right time (or so it seemed back then - it doesn't seem like the right place any more.) They told me about how expensive houses had become, but they were property owners on the beneficial side of that equation. (Their children couldn't buy homes of course.) The whole situation smelled of a nation thet was living way beyond its means - like England which was in a similar situation only Ireland had gone further and was more precarious. Friends in the travel business soon became as unenthusiastic about Irish equestrian tourists as with the English - there was a disturbingly large slice of the market with more money than ability and a fondness for drink. None of this is a reflection on the Irish or the English per se. It's just that something went awry, some people got their hands on money because others were borrowing steeply to buy property, it puffed up egos in both countries and hardly anyone paused to ask why. The bread and circuses were way too much fun.

I've heard that here all the animal charities are full. Animals are being euthased because there is no place for them.

Usually we have to pay to ride on state forestry land but its not a huge amount, a few pounds a day including parking. If the forests are sold then either the car parks will be shut to stop people visiting or the new owners will charge as much as they can get away with. If community groups buy forests (ones of no commercial value which will be cheap) then the walkers (who are the majority) may well try and exclude all other users knowing that their groups are powerful and that the gutless British Horse Society will just accept being trodden on.


Reading this topic made me think over two of the topics I have noticed also here in Austria and that I am sensitive to:

1. Overcrowding - coming from a city like Bucharest with around 15.000 people/km2 (in practice !!), I am glad that Graz has only 2.000 people/km2. However, related to the remark "The aim, I think, is to keep the population cooped up in towns and cities. That way they won't get in the way of wealthy landowners.", I think it applies also here, but only to another density population scale. According to Statistik Austria, this is how population density looks like: with Vienna, Graz, Linz, Salzburg concentrating most of the population. Considering how many blocks of flats I see under construction in Graz, as if the crisis did not even existed, I am worried that in next 10-20 years the city-population density will increase and the land outside cities will be available to less and less people.

2. Wanderreiten (trail-riding) - a situation that I also did not expected, but found out about it from 3 different sources: the guy with a small old stable I found near Graz and who is offering good horses for this kind of riding, another person from a riding stable and Gasthaus in north of Austria and by a remark I made when coming here and searching for stables.
From both persons, independently, I found that the laws here allows riding only on public roads and areas, which from private property point of view makes sense. If one wants to go with the horse on century-old paths crossing private properties, that person enters a gray-legal-area, more or less; so far I counted on 3-4 riding paths around Graz, 5 interdiction signs for riding, in private forests, plus another few that are forbidding in general crossing some private (small) lands. This seems to explain why, out of around 60 stables around here, with 20+ offering horses to rent - school or by monthly leasing - only 4-5 stables are offering also outside-riding; all the others allows riding of their horses just in the arena.
From the guy in the north of Austria, operating a riding-stable and offering trail-riding, I found out that he had to ask in WRITING permission from around 15 landowners there, in order to have suitable riding tracks for his clients in a legal fashion; together with some other 5-6 similar small businesses in the area, they have created a small association for trail-riding there, having in total around 130 such written papers with permissions !!!

Near a stable here around Graz, there is an owner of a forest that asks (I was told) 100 euro/year from each rider that wants to go with the horse in his private forest. Some other forests and lands of tenths of hectares at least, are clearly forbidden by the landlords under the penalty of 100 euro fine for each illegal riding - according to the law.

I am afraid that the outlook mentioned for potential "private" forests in UK could be more or less similar like here - making long-trail riding less and less possible - as long as the rider obeys the laws, of course :)

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