Recession a hurdle as horse buyers rein in spending
EVEN the famous Spancilhill Horse Fair is not immune from the chill winds of the recession.
Gold may be soaring in price, but it appears horse flesh remains in the doldrums.
Thousands of people donned their tweed caps and topped up their flasks of tea yesterday before making their way to the 300-year-old Co Clare fair.
But owners cribbed that buyers willing to dig deep for the right cob were in short supply.
"I've only had the one offer and I didn't take it. I was offered €800, but I'm looking for €1,200," James Walsh said.
Mr Walsh, from Gort, Co Galway, who was on the lookout for a buyer on the Fair Green since eight o'clock yesterday morning, has been making the journey to the cross roads at Spancilhill on June 23 for the past 50 years.
"I'm standing here a few hours now and I'm tired, but I wouldn't miss it. I will stick it out for the day.
"My father used to come here before me. I'm keeping the tradition up. We would like to have something for it coming here, but there is no money here this year."
And as the light faded, so, too, did the prices.
All of the sellers would have been delighted to have featured in a blue notebook brandished by one of the main buyers, Miley Cash, from Monasterevin, Co Kildare.
Long-time horse dealer Mr Cash said: "I am 62 years coming here. The stock is good, but the market is terrible."
Nearby and waiting to strike a deal, Liam Shanahan, from Broadford, Co Clare, remarked: "There is nothing happening like other years, and I'm going to have to take my beating on these if I have to. I've been holding out for €2,000, but if I get €1,500 I'll take it."
Enjoying the day without any of the stresses of buying or selling was 83-year-old Robbie McMahon, who has been known to launch into the well-known ballad of 'Spancilhill'.
He said: "I always look forward to this day and going into the Fair Green and meeting people you haven't met in a long time. I remember a time when people came by horse-drawn caravans here."
Keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings was warden Frankie Coote, from the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Mr Coote said: "I have seen no horse I could class as borderline cruelty. Everything is in fantastic condition."