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Woman’s island adventures – with six Connemara ponies



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.fdghdfg

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.


Matriarch of Scotty’s Diner donates kidney to her son!



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A well-known family in the Galway restaurant trade have swapped chef whites for hospital gowns after the matriarch donated a kidney to her son.

Jenny and Andrew Ishmael, synonymous with Scotty’s Diner in Cúirt na Coiribe on the Headford Road in Terryland, are recovering in Beaumont Hospital after the marathon live donor operation.

It took place last Monday and staff are so impressed by the quick recovery of mother and son that they could be discharged as early as this weekend.

“It went really well. I’m still a bit sore. We’re still on the mend. It’s working perfectly,” says Andrew from the isolation ward of the hospital’s Kidney Centre.  “My creatine was over 1,000 when I came in and it’s already around 260.

“I felt weak after the surgery, but I could feel that bit of life in me again straight away. It’s amazing how quick it works. Mom wasn’t too great after the surgery – it was her first ever. She was quite sore, a bit iffy, but she’s good now.

“We have rooms back-to-back. We’ve been going for walks, going for breakfast together. It’s nice to spend that time together.”

Andrew – or Drew as he’s known to family and friends –  was diagnosed with kidney disease when he was just 16.

Berger’s Disease occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin builds up in the kidneys and results in inflammation, which over time, can hamper the kidneys’ ability to filter waste from the blood.

He managed the condition well for over a decade without too much impact on his life.

The son of classically trained chefs who studied together at Johnson and Wales College in Rhode Island, he grew up working in his parents’ American-style diner, trading since 1991.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the February 3 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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New River Corrib rescue boat to be deployed following ‘significant donation’



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The provision of a specialist rescue craft on the Corrib – upstream from the Weir – could now happen over the coming weeks or months following a ‘significant voluntary donation’ in the past few weeks, the Galway City Tribune has learned.

Water safety issues on the Corrib were highlighted last month when up to 10 rowers had to be rescued after their two boats were sucked in by the currents towards the Weir.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board has launched an investigation into the circumstances of the potentially catastrophic incident which occurred around midday on Saturday, January 14.

A specialist D Class lifeboat is now being sourced as part of a multi-agency approach to try and improve emergency rescue operations upstream from the Weir which would be accessible on a 24/7 basis.

While the cost would be in the region of €40,000 to €50,000, the overall figure would rise to around €80,000 to €90,000 when specialist personnel training costs were included.

Galway Lifeboat Operations Manager, Mike Swan, told the Galway City Tribune that he was aware of a lot of work going on behind the scenes to try and get the Corrib rescue craft in place as soon as possible.

“I suppose we’re all trying to work together to ensure that a full-time rescue craft is provided on the Corrib and I believe that real progress is being made in this regard. This would be very good news for everyone,” said Mr Swan.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the February 3 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Three years on and ‘Changing Places’ facility on Salthill Promenade still not open



Mayor of Galway, Cllr Clodagh Higgins at the site of the Changing Places facility, for which she had ring-fenced money. Work on the project only began last February, despite initial predictions that the facility would be open in January last year.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The wait for accessible, specialised toilet facilities at Ladies Beach in Salthill goes on – three years after they were ‘prioritised’ by city councillors.

Galway City Council has confirmed to the Tribune this week that the ‘Changing Places’ facility at Ladies Beach is still not open.

Construction of the facility began almost a year ago, at the end of February 2022.

The local authority confirmed that some €135,600 has been spent on the unit, which is not yet open to the public.

“The initial stages of construction went well, with the facility now largely in place. There are a number of outstanding snags to be completed before the facility can open.

“Galway City Council is liaising with the contractor to complete out these snags, with a view to opening the facility as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said.

The local authority did not elaborate on what ‘snags’ were delaying the project.

But in January, Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, suggested that staffing issues were to blame for the delay.

(Photo: Mayor of Galway, Clodagh Higgins, at the site of the Changing Places facility, for which she had ring-fenced money).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the February 3 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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