In Ulysses, James Joyce mused that “a good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub”. No-one’s really sure if it was possible, and Dubliners have always felt proud that it was not straight forward. The traditional Irish way to ‘solve’ this puzzle is to walk across Dublin, and call into every pub in the way and have a pint. This way you never actually pass a pub.
Alanah visited the Smithfield Horse Market in Dublin yesterday and took a few photos. I’d never heard of Dublin’s pony kids before, but messing around with horses is apparently somewhat of a tradition for young knackers.
In a city blighted by drugs, the horses certainly provide an important form of escape for bored youngsters who might otherwise take to heroin and petty crime.
The suburban horse culture is a fascinating example of what happens when the poor appropriate the pleasures of the rich. In Ireland, horse ownership is generally the prerogative of farmers and of the wealthy business and professional class. Quite how it became fashionable among the children of the urban dispossessed is not entirely clear.
It’s an interesting outlet for young people, and probably wouldn’t have cropped up in any other city. The main problem is that many of the kids live in housing estates, so there’s no proper stable to house the horses. The inability to properly look after the animals has resulted in poorly treated, malnourished horses wandering around and grazing at the side of the road.
Attempts have been made to shut down the horse fair, but they’ve been unsuccessful. The event has been occurring for more than a hundred years, and there’s no real organization — people know that it happens on the first Sunday of every month, and they show up with horses in tow.