By Rose Barrett
Once the real horse power to carry out heavy farm work and deliveries in the UK and Ireland, the shire horse is now a dying breed.
Where England alone had circa one million horses before the onset of WW1, it is now thought the worldwide numbers are less than a couple of thousand.
These magnificent equine giants – an adult horse can weigh from 950 kilos to a tonne – are in danger of extinction.
But thanks to Stephen Carrick and his family, Balleally Shires in Lusk, north county Dublin has been breeding the gentle giants for the past 10 years.
His niece Maria Carrick told Dublin Gazette: “My uncle owns the farm and has been breeding shires for around a decade.
“Prior to that, he bred cobs, which are a general family riding horse. Stephen has always had a love of horses especially the shires and the way they were used to work the land.
“The Carrick family farm was mainly horticulture, which grew tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage but in recent years have started to grow and produce Chinese herbs and other crops.”
The family was born and raised in Rush and Maria’s main job is transport and logistics for a global company, but she loves spending time working with the horses.
She revealed: “The shire is such a gentle creature, massive in size, very placid and not bad tempered.
“We have brood mares here at Balleally and produce only pure-bred shires. Our mares go to Trem Y Wyddfa Stud Caernarfon (on the footsteps to Snowdonia National Park), Wales, to be covered by their shire stallions, and the mares return home when they’ve been confirmed by scan as being in foal (gestation period is 11 months).”
According to Maria, they are truly gentle creatures, as members of Swords Men’s Shed recently discovered.
Raymond Keeley, chairman of Swords’ Men’s Shed described their visit: “I am 68 years old and this was one of the most wonderful experiences, ever.
“It was exhilarating to visit the farm and to see these wonderful, gentle giants. I was not aware this farm existed at all.”
Private tours hosted on request. For more information, contact Maria at 087 624 1743 or see Balleally Shires on Facebook.