It might have been the maddest idea of the summer; an English woman taking herself and six Connemara ponies – two of them unbroken – to an uninhabited island off Connemara coast.
But now Emma Massingale’s adventure on deserted Fraoch Oileán – out from the coastline of Moyard and Cleggan – have been turned into an inspiring DVD called the Island Project, which was launched last week.
The story of the English woman from Devon who spend the month of June living in a tent on an island without services – and breaking horses without saddles, stirrups or harnesses – had captured the public’s imagination before it even began.
Emma wanted to find out if, without the help of a bridle, saddle or equipment of any kind – nor any kind of enclosure – she could back and train two ponies that had never been ridden before.
Her plan was to see if she could use her four trained ponies to influence the newcomers.
The Island Project tells the story of three year old Evenos and four year old Echo, both geldings bought in May from the Connemara pony sales in Clifden and taken in June to the 70-acre uninhabited and windswept island.
“It truly was an Irish adventure. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the generous help from so many in the area, and I’ll always be grateful,” Emma said.
Emma, who slept some of her time on the rain soaked island in a tent, and the rest in a cave, knew the challenge would be huge.
“I knew it was going to be solitary – I had only the ponies for company. My challenge, and it was huge, was to work with and start Evenos and Echo completely at liberty, without the use of any tack, and without any help.
“There were no places to catch the ponies, no help and no home comforts, just me, the ponies and our relationship.
“It wasn’t going to be plain sailing and, when people asked me before I began, I said it would test me to the limit and test my ponies’ trust.
“The concept of starting a horse completely at liberty isn’t something to be taken lightly. Horses rely on caution, flight and agility, to keep themselves safe.
“Starting a horse at liberty is the perfect challenge. There is nowhere to hide, you can either do it or you can’t, there is no cheating, no shortcuts; no easy wins,” she added.
Emma was determined that she would be alone for the month of the project and much of the footage she filmed herself, using a number of cameras from GoPros to handheld devices.
Spectacular aerial footage was filmed separately to capture the wild remote beauty of the place. With Emma recording her progress in the style of a daily filmed diary, she has been able to catch every moment as the ponies cottoned on to what they were being taught.
The story also tells of the daily trials of life on the island, bathing in a plastic barrel, swimming in the sea to catch fish with her spear gun, or delving amongst the rock pools for cockles to eke out the rice rations she had taken with her.
“It was a proper adventure, a bit scary when it was wet and windy and we only had four dry days, but it was the most amazing experience,” she said.
Emma used her trained ponies to help teach the new pair.
“I taught Evenos to lie down pretty much straight away by showing him the others doing it.
“From there I taught him to stop, turn and go while riding another horse at liberty, without the use of tack, so he got used to seeing me up above.
“To have half a ton of horse that wants to work with you, when they are at liberty, is the purest, the most perfect challenge.”
Emma’s collaboration with equine film specialists Equine Productions on the previous documentary ‘No Reins, No Rules, No Limits,’ which introduced her to a wider audience, has won two international awards this year, including last month’s Equus Film Festival in New York.
Equine Productions worked with Emma on ‘The Island Project’ too.
The new DVD, which is available on Amazon, includes a variety of bonus features including an emotional interview with Emma recorded within hours of leaving the island, glorious aerial shots, as well as the award winning ‘No Reins, No Rules No Limits.’
“What better place to do such an awesome challenge than the stunning homeland of the ponies.
“Waking up and living for a month with the breath-taking hills as a backdrop will remain with forever, Ireland is a very special place to me,” added Emma.
€46,000 Lotto winner comes forward as deadline looms
Galway Bay fm newsroom – The Knocknacarra winner of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus from the 12th of December has come forward to claim their prize, just two weeks before the claim deadline.
The winning ticket, which is worth €46,234, was sold at Clybaun Stores on the Clybaun Road on the day of the draw, one of two winners of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus prize of €92,000.
A spokesperson for the National Lottery say we are now making arrangements for the lucky winner to make their claim in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the Lotto jackpot for tomorrow night (27th February) will roll to an estimated €5.5 million.
Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.
Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.
The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.
“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.
“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”
Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.
“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.
The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools
Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.
“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.
“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.
A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.