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Join a unique horsemanship and yoga retreat suitable for people with no previous experience with horses and who simply want to learn how to communicate with these wonderfully sensitive animals, as well as those with some experience with horses who want to improve their connection with them. Horses are very sensitive animals and are naturally attracted to people who are connected with themselves and their surroundings. They need calm and clear communication to feel confident and relaxed; and it is only when a horse is confident and relaxed that it is possible to deeply connect with them.
The accommodation at Macalla Farm is comfortable and relaxing with beautiful views of Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick. Two buildings make up the accommodation; one an ecologically renovated cottage built at the turn of the last century and a renovated outbuilding known as ‘the extension’.
On this unique 4 days retreat, we look at how to can use mindfulness of body, breath, and mind to communicate effectively with horses. This course is suitable for people with no previous experience with horses as well as those who are more comfortable in relating to these wonderfully sensitive animals. This is an intensive retreat which involves 5 hours of yoga and mindfulness practice every day, as well as a lot of time spent outdoors with the horses, and for this reason, a good level of physical fitness is recommended.
The course starts on the evening of Thursday 6th of September with dinner followed by an introductory talk and a short meditation and finishes on the morning of Monday 10th of September.
Each day will start with sitting meditation followed by a two-hour yoga class focusing on mindful movement and breath awareness.
In the early afternoon, we will do some practical work with the farm’s horses. In these afternoon sessions, we will look at how horses communicate with one another and learn how to use yoga and mindfulness techniques to communicate with them more effectively.
In the late afternoon, we meet for another yoga session which introduces a unique approach to breathwork drawing from both the Buddhist perspective exposed in the anapanasati suta and from classical pranayama (yogic breathing) and shows how this approach can be used to connect with horses.
The timetable for first and last days is subject to change, as it depends on ferry times.
Clare Island lies off the west coast of Ireland at the entrance to Clew Bay. The largest of the off-shore Mayo islands, it has a varied terrain: spectacular cliffs with large numbers of nesting sea birds and a rich ‘inland’ topography of hills and bogs and small pockets of woodland, making it ideal for hill-walking.
The island’s complex history can be read through its landscape: from archaeological remains of the Neolithic and Bronze age, to rare medieval wall-paintings in the 14th century abbey, to the ‘pirate queen’ Grace O’Malley’s (Grainneuaile) castle and burial place.
Everywhere, there are traces of past generations, most significantly the 19th century population explosion and subsequent famine when the island’s population of 1600 was reduced by half. Old potato ridges or ‘lazy beds’ are everywhere: the evening sun reveals them jutting out from the land.
The island has been much studied, with the R.L. Praeger’s The Clare Island Survey perhaps the most well-known. The island has a number of B & B’s, a hostel with a bar and restaurant, a community center and pub, and one shop which is also the post office.
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In this retreat, you will be served daily organic vegetarian meals. All product is organic, sourced from the resident farm or homegrown. With so much conflicting advice given in the media about food, Macalla Farm believes that eating healthy food should never be a burden nor a matter of following a complex chemical formula. First and foremost, the food must be delicious, easy to prepare, real, and not processed.
Macalla Farm has its own garden growing over 30 different types of vegetables, often heritage varieties. In addition to the usual vegetables, they grow different types of kales, many different types of beans, eaten fresh or dried for winter meals as well as an abundance of pumpkins for soups, curries, roasted, or in pumpkin pie.
They also grow oca (and sell as seed) a South American tuber which is delicious when roasted. From the orchard, blackcurrants provide the makings of kilos of jam and steam-pressed juice and they also have more than a dozen varieties of apples in the orchard.
The polytunnels allow them to grow delicate fruits and vegetables: in addition to tomatoes, they produce abundant harvests of aubergines, chilies, peppers, sometimes melons, and of course grapes. From middle August through September, you will feast on the most deliciously sweet white seedless grapes ever!
Macalla Farm's open plan kitchen and dining room with its wonderful views over Croagh Patrick is a key feature of their retreats and courses. All meals are prepared and eaten here. At different times of the year, the kitchen becomes a hive of activity as they transform their surplus fruits and vegetables into jams and chutneys, fermented pickles, and kimchis.
Macalla Farm makes elderflower champagne, various cordials, and mead from the honey. At all times of the year, they make their famous sourdough bread and are keen to pass on the skill (and starters), to those interested.
The island offers some excellent hill walking and bird watching as well as archaeological and historic sites. Guests are also welcome to borrow books from Macalla Farm’s extensive library.
If you are flying, the nearest airports are Dublin Airport (DUB) and Ireland West Airport Knock (NOC). From Dublin Airport, you can travel by train or bus to Westport. Knock Airport is less than an hour from Westport and there are relatively good bus connections which facilitate most flights from the UK. Expect to pay around 70 EUR for a taxi. For short courses, it might even make sense to rent a car from Knock Airport or if you want to do some sightseeing before or after coming to the island.
There are good bus and train connections to Westport. There are direct buses from Dublin Airport (DUB) to Dublin Heuston train station (called Airlink, route 747 - this journey takes about an hour). There are also bus connections from Dublin, Galway, Sligo and Ireland West Airport Knock (NOC).
If coming by bus or train, you need to be in Westport by 16:00. For scheduled retreats and courses, Macalla Farm will try to put you in touch with another course participant who can give you a lift from Westport, or if numbers warrant, they will organize a shared minibus.
Roonagh Pier is the harbor serving Clare Island. If you are bringing your car, there is a large car park where you will leave your car (as it is not practical to take it to the island on the ferry). The car park is safe, with two CCTV cameras, and is used by islanders.
Ferries are great for a slower journey and the costs are about the same - though the stress and environmental impacts are much lower! Ferries to Dublin or Dun Laoghaire (a few miles south of Dublin) can be taken from Holyhead (UK). For those coming from the UK who do not wish to fly, a Sail Rail ticket is a great deal.
There are also ferry services from Scotland to Belfast, from South Wales to Rosslare, and from France to Rosslare or Cork.
The train from Dublin to Westport leaves from Dublin Heuston station and takes around 3.5 hours. To arrive in Westport in time, you will need to take the lunch time train. Ireland’s train travel website is IrishRail. If you are planning to travel by train, it is usually far cheaper to book your journey online at IrishRail in advance, rather than buying your ticket at the station on the day.
If you need your own taxi, expect to pay around 35 EUR for the run from Westport to Roonagh Pier.