From sturdy ponies to elegant thoroughbreds, horses are an indelible part of Ireland's history, work, and play. Now the Chieftains, who performed the soundtrack for the National Geographic television special, "Ballad of the Irish Horse," evoke through their unique style of music the world of Irish horses and the people who ride them, train them, breed them, trade them, and — most of all — love them.
Nurtured by the mild Irish climate and the grasses that spring from soil rich in limestone, Ireland's horses have always flourished. For centuries, even in recent memory, Irish farmers depended on horses to pull their ploughs as they coaxed a living from the land. Today, thousands of Irish people still make their livings through their love for, and understanding of, horses. The horse fair — so long an integral part of Irish country life — is the theme of "Going to the Fair," a hornpipe describing a farmer's journey by horse to the fair which by the time he arrives is a hive of activity with deals being argued, lost, and finally struck.
"The Birth of the Foals" celebrates the coming into the world of the small, wobbly foal. Depicted here are two scenes, one in the lonely far west of Connemara, the other in the more sophisticated and scientific surroundings of the Irish National Stud, but each a wondrous event. The distinctive atmosphere of the Irish race course is captured in the traditional work, "Galway Races," with its rousing lyrics. And of course the hunt is not forgotten — "Chasing the Fox" symbolizing the chase in vain of horses and hounds across field and stream, walls and ditches after their elusive prey.
All in all an album that is a fitting celebration of one of the longest-standing love stories on earth: the romance of the Irish and their horses.
Nowadays this romance is experienced at first hand by more and more visitors who come to Ireland annually. From the excitement of the race course to the unique native ponies of Connemara, from the horse-drawn holiday caravan to riding leisurely through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, the Irish as never before share their love and knowledge of the horse with all who seek the experience.