Bring your own horse on holiday...
Siobhán English profiles three women making their mark in the business side of the equestrian industry
A love for her birthplace of Galway and dedication to Ireland's native breed of pony gave Cathriona Goaley the inspiration to set up her dream business - the specialist equestrian holiday company Connemara Equestrian Escapes - in 2013.
The brainchild of the former IT consultant and her late husband Ciarán, it came after many years of research which showed the need for an upmarket service offering unique riding holidays across Connemara, while also taking in the many tourist aspects of this wild and rugged landscape.
"After studying the market I felt the need to offer something special to tourists when they visited here," commented Cathriona, who earlier this year was runner-up in the equestrian category in the Zurich Farming Independent Farmer of the Year Awards.
"In my opinion there is nothing nicer than enjoying Connemara and all it has to offer from the back of our native pony.
"I also want Irish people to enjoy the landscape on their own horses and ponies, and so we offer other packages whereby they can 'bring their own horse on holiday'."
The initial task of setting up the business was alleviated by the fact that Cathriona already had a small herd of ponies at home in Moycullen, but it was not long before that number grew once word spread of the popularity of the exciting new company.
Up to last year, guests were accommodated in a number of select hotels, but more recently she has opened up her own home, Teach Na Corra, for a more laid-back alternative.
This proved hugely popular this past summer with guests from as far afield as Canada, the US, China and New Zealand enjoying home cooking and a more hands-on approach with the ponies.