Irish Wisdom And Sayings About Horses

Horses were highly prized in ancient Irish culture. Deference for our equine companions continues to this very day.

Both Ireland and Kentucky, my two homes on either side of the Atlantic, are renowned for breeding magnificent racehorses.  So I thought it was high time I explored the connection between the Irish and horses.

Brown Irish Horse

This collection of old Irish words of wisdom, in praise of our equine friends, underlines the importance of these magnificent animals to the Irish throughout the centuries.


“A tattered foal can grow into a splendid horse.”


In passages of the Brehon Laws it is revealed that during the first milennium the Irish often imported horses from Wales and France. No saddle was used when riding.

Brown horse grazing in autumn

Horses made an enormous contribution to the Irish economy in the 19th century.

“It is a good horse that draws its own cart.”


They plowed fields, thereby helping feed the population. They pulled carts, transporting people from place to place.

An Irish Donkey

“Ní dhéanfach an saol capall rás d’asal.”


Pronunciation in English phonetics

= Nee yay-nock on sale cop-ull raw-se dah-sal.

“All the world would not make a racehorse from a donkey.”


Black Irish Pony

“A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.”


Churchill Downs

Ancient Irish horsemen rode without stirrups. A horse was mounted by springing from the ground on to the back of the horse. This mounting method was used up until the seventeenth century in Ireland.


“Put a beggar on horseback, and he’ll go at a gallop.”


Horse Statue at Churchill Downs

Every young man of the upper classes in olden days was required to learn horse-riding.


“The raggy colt often made a powerful horse.”


Today we require our children to learn how to read, but in the days of Brehon Law the skill of horse-riding was legally  required.

Connemara pony in church yard at Bunratty Folk Park

“Mair a chapaill agus gheobhaidh tú féar.”

Pronunciation using English phonetics:

Mar, a cop-ull ah-gus gheow-hig thoo fay-ur

“Live, horse, and you will get grass.”


The meaning of this saying may not be immediately apparent to many readers.  Believe it or not, these words are meant to be encouraging.

It tells us that we must first survive and live, and then we will receive our reward.

Irish Connemara Pony

After 1695 the Penal Laws were enforced against Catholics. The Penal Laws were gradually repealed over the course of the 18th century.  Of note is the law regarding horse ownership.

No Catholic was allowed to keep a horse with a value worth more than 5 Pounds. If a Protestant saw a Catholic with a horse of greater value, then he could purchase the horse for 5 Pounds.

This horrendous discrimination resulted in Irish people placing great value upon horse ownership, as is clearly evident in the next old saying.


“Sell the cow, buy the sheep, but never be without the horse.”


Irish Horse

“Youth sheds many a skin.

The steed does not retain its speed forever.”


Painting of punters in the stands

“The best jockeys are in the stands.”


Pony Riding at Kentucky Horse Farm

“Everyone lays a burden on the willing horse.”


Race horses training at Churchill Downs

“Bíonn grásta Dé idir an dialait agus an talamh.”

Pronunciation using English phonetics:

Been graw-sta Day id-ur on Dee-a-lit ah-gus on thal-uv

“The grace of God is found between the saddle and the ground.”


Over the course of my first twenty-two years of life, I heard many of these sayings uttered by my West Cork granny. They were part and parcel of her everyday speech. Whenever I read them now, I smile, remembering how these wonderful words of wisdom just tripped off the tip of her tongue.

I hope you enjoyed this little exploration of the Irish love of horses.

You might also enjoy my lessons in life from wise old Irish hens, and over the coming months I hope to explore more Irish sayings about animals big and small.

Thank you for stopping by and checking out my ramblings.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom

The Gift Of Peacefulness In Celtic Words Of Wisdom

As we prepare to say good-bye to 2014 and celebrate the start of 2015, I’m avoiding my annual pit-fall of writing a long list of resolutions. I’m only destined to break them long before the end of January. 

As 2014 draws to a close, I’m simply taking time for reflection.

You have traveled too fast over false ground

Instead of sharing ill-fated resolutions with you this year, I created a photo collection highlighting my favorite Celtic quotations and blessings, focusing upon the gifts of peacefulness, calm and reflection. 


When I read these words uttered by Michael Collins, I feel a deep sense of sadness.

He lost his life for Ireland’s freedom, never finding the peace he so longed for.

May he rest in peace, knowing his sacrifices are appreciated by generations.

And I shall have some peace there

William Butler Yeats coined the most famous of all Irish words about seeking peace.

In 1888 he wrote “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”. His poignant words echo with many of us, who long for a quiet place, close to nature, to be alone, and to find our own inner peace.

However, at the end of his beautiful poem, Yeats reveals he shall only go there in his heart.

May the blessings of light be upon you - Celtic Blessing

And so this New Year, I hope you too find peace in your heart.

Here are my New Year wishes for all those who read my ramblings ……


God bless the corners of this house

May the blessings of contentment be with you

and fill your home with happiness.


We do not need to go out and find love

May you find time to be alone,

and at peace with your thoughts.


May we live in peace without weeping

May you experience joy and fulfillment

in the present moment.


Draw alongside the silence of stone - John O'Donohue

May your soul find peace

And strength in silence.


When we walk on earth with reverence - John O'Donohue

 May the beauty of the world

draw you where you need to go.


Deep peace to you

 And as you continue on life’s journey,

May you remember it is not always your destination,

but your journey that truly matters.


Whether you are lucky enough to travel to a place of solitude to find calm, or if that is not possible, you choose to travel to your quiet place in your heart, I wish you a New Year filled with peace and joy.


Athbhlian Faoi Mhaise Daoibh!

(Happy New Year)


Irish American Mom

Wise Old Words From Ireland For Mother’s Day

Wishing all mothers of the world a very happy Mother’s Day this weekend. Although this holiday is celebrated on different days throughout the world,  this weekend let’s all join American families as we honor our mothers with our sincerest sentiments of love and gratitude.

To mark this day I thought I might share some Irish wisdom on motherhood and some Irish blessings for Mother’s Day. Our mothers are a precious gift from God.  So together let’s celebrate their selfless, unconditional love.

Some of these quotes are nostalgic and sentimental in the style of years gone by.  One is written for mothers-to-be. Kavanagh’s poetic words memorialize his mother.  One excerpt even explores the notorious Irish Catholic style of mothering, but all pay well-deserved tribute to mothers everywhere.

I hope you enjoy these quotations as much as I enjoyed gathering them.

Irish Mother In Window from Vintagerio.comImage Credit


“This heart, my own dear mother, bends,

With love’s true instinct, back to thee!”

~ Thomas Moore.



“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.

No man does. That’s his.”

~ Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895



“A man loves his sweetheart the most,

His wife the best,

And his mother the longest.”

~ Old Irish Saying

Mother And Children - www.vintagerio.comImage Credit

“A mother holds her children’s hands for a little while,

But their hearts forever.”


~ Unknown (I’m not sure if this is originally an Irish saying,

but it is so lovely I just had to include it.)



“Tis the month of Mary,

Blessed Queen of the May,

Mother of God we pray you,

Bless and protect all mothers,

On this their special day.”

~ Irish Prayer



“May embers from the hearth warm your hands,

May sunshine from an Irish sky warm your face,

May a child’s bright smile warm your heart,

And may everlasting love warm your soul.”

~ Irish Blessing Credit

“There is but one and only one,

Whose love will fail you never.

One who lives from sun to sun,

With constant fond endeavor.

There is but one and only one.

On earth there is no other.

In heaven a noble work was done,

When God gave us a Mother.”

~ Old Irish Verse



“Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but

they don’t want them to become politicians in the process.”

~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy



“Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world,

a mother’s love is not.”

~ James Joyce

Mother and Child ClipartImage Credit


“May the emerging spirit of your child

Imbibe encouragement and joy

From the continuous music of your heart,

So that it can grow with ease,

Expectant of wonder and welcome

When its form is fully filled…..


And it takes its journey out

To see you and settle at last

Relieved, and glad in your arms.”


 ~ John O’Donohue - To Bless The Space Between Us



A mother’s love’s a blessing,

No matter where you roam.

Keep her while she’s living,

You’ll miss her when she’s gone.

Love her as in childhood,

Though feeble old and grey,

For you’ll never miss a mother’s love,

Till she’s buried beneath the clay.”


~ Thomas P. Keenan from the song  A Mother’s Love’s A Blessing.


Vintage Irish MotherImage Credit


” “All that praying you made us do,” complained Maggie.

“And making us go to Mass. And starving us on Good Friday…

And makind us feel ashamed of our bodies

and guilty about absolutely everything.

No, Ma, you were the pits.”

Nuala glowed with pride, truly she had been the best of Catholic mothers.”


~ Marian Keyes

Excerpt from Late Opening At The Last Chance Saloon.



“I do not think of you lying in the wet clay

of a Monaghan graveyard; I see

you walking down a lane among the poplars

on your way to the station, or happily


going to second Mass on a summer Sunday–

you meet me and you say:

“Don’t forget about the cattle–“

among your earthiest words the angels stray…..”


~ Patrick Kavanagh

Excerpt from his poem In Memory Of My Mother.



Mother and Baby - Clipart

 Image Credit

“God made a wonderful mother,

A mother who never grows old:

He made her smile of the sunshine,

And he moulded her heart of gold;

In her eyes He placed bright shining stars,

In her cheeks fair roses you see;

God made a wonderful mother,

And He gave that dear mother to me.”


~ Pat O’Reilly

Excerpt from his poem Wonderful Mother




Lá Na Máithreacha Sona Daoibh!

(Happy Mother’s Day)


Irish American Mom




This New Year I Hope You Dance As If No One Is Watching

On this the first day of 2013 many are waking up with a keen determination to stick to New Year’s resolutions.  Some choose one lofty goal, others take on the world with a lengthy list of drastic lifestyle changes they truly believe will create inner happiness.

Image Credit

I like the idea of commitment to personal goals, a time of reformation in anticipation of new beginnings.  The issue I see is too much focus on problems.  Committing to a whole year of trying to attain the impossible, usually turns out to be just that, impossible.

And so this year I am making no promises.  I don’t plan to berate myself for the extra ten or twenty pounds I probably should try to shed.  I will not feel guilty for my poor house keeping skills.  Instead I will enjoy playing with my children, content my house will probably never be tidy again – well at least until my foursome leave for college.

I could make a resolution to be more resolute in my blogging efforts, but again I know I would only disappoint myself and you.  So please, forgive me when you visit, and I have failed to add a new post.  I’ll do my best to ramble away and cook up a good old Irish American feast this year, but I’ll make no promises about daily postings.

And so instead of setting myself up for failure this year, I am going to focus on one of my favorite old Irish sayings throughout the year.

In 2013 I hope you will join me, and …….



Dance as if no one is watching.

Sing as if no one is listening.

And live every day as if it were your last.


Wishing you all a wonderful year of happiness, peace and prosperity.



AthBhlian Faoi Mhaise Daoibh

(A Prosperous New Year To All)


Irish American Mom


Irish Wisdom – The Power Of Friendship (Part 2)

In the Irish Celtic tradition there is a beautiful understanding of the power of friendship – a deep, spiritual belief in the importance of connection, trust and openness between two friends.

In part 1 of this series on Irish Wisdom And Friendship, we explored many old Irish sayings which emphasize the bonds of friendship.  Today, in part 2, I thought I might share some beautiful quotations from some of Ireland’s most influential scholars and writers.


Quotations From John O’Donohue:


John O’Donohue (1956-2008), author of the international best-seller Anam Cara, believed in divine, soulful friendship.  Anam Cara literally means ‘soul friend.’  Here are some of my favorite quotations from his profound writings:



“Real friendship or love is not manufactured or

achieved by an act of will or intention. Friendship is

always an act of recognition.”


- John O’Donohue from Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom



“Your noble friend will not accept pretension but will

gently and very firmly confront you with your own

blindness. Such friendship is creative and critical;

it is willing to negotiate awkward and uneven

territories of contradiction and woundedness.”


- John O’Donohue from Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom


“One of the tasks of true friendship is to listen

compassionately and creatively to the hidden

silences. Often secrets are not revealed in words,

they lie concealed in the silence between the words

or in the depth of what is unsayable between two



- John O’Donohue from Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom


Quotations From William Butler Yeats:



“Choose your companions from the best;

Who draws a bucket with the rest,

Soon topples down the hill.”


- William Butler Yeats

William Butler Yeats

Image Credit


“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,

And say my glory was I had such friends.”


- William Butler Yeats



“There are no strangers here,

Only friends you haven’t yet met.”


- William Butler Yeats


Quotations From Oliver Goldsmith:




“Pity and friendship are two passions incompatible with each other.”


- Oliver Goldsmith

Oliver Goldsmith

Image Credit

“Friendship is a disinterested commerce between equals:

love, an abject intercourse between tyrants and slaves.”


- Oliver Goldsmith



Quotations From Oscar Wilde:



“Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship,

and it is far the best ending for one.”


- Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

 Image Credit

“An acquaintance that begins with a compliment

is sure to develop into a real friendship.”


- Oscar Wilde


My Favorite Quotation Of All:



“But the greatest love: the love above all loves,

Even greater than that of a mother…

Is the tender, passionate, undying love,

Of one beer drunken slob for another.”


~ Irish Ballad



Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)



Irish American Mom