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Cream of the crop at famous Spancilhillhorse fair

"SHE is rough and ready. She's not shampooed."

Mid-afternoon at the rain-sodden Spancilhill Horse Fair, and trader Derry O'Donoghue isn't sugar-coating his sales pitch.

Mr O'Donoghue, from Meelick, Co Clare, said: "She is looking her worst. She's hungry. She needs grass. She will only get better."

He explained that the three-year-old mare's bottom teeth are only growing, and she hasn't been able to eat properly recently.

He said: "Once she has her bottom teeth, she will be different in a month's time -- and in two years' time, she will be a proper mare."

Mr O'Donoghue is looking for €1,000. "I've had lots of bids, but a customer is what you need," he said.

Thousands made the annual trip for the June fair at Spancilhill outside Ennis at the weekend, and the rain showers failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the horse traders.

After the slump of the past few years, business was brisk once more.

Buyer Miley Cash said: "Prices are up and there are customers there for most of the horses. There are a lot of horses and a good lot of English and French buyers."

Having purchased 21 ponies in the morning, he was now on the lookout for more.

He said: "The market had fallen as low it can fall -- and there is only one way it can go, and that is up."

Having attended Spancilhill for the past 65 years, Mr Cash recalled coming to the fair when it would start at 2am, with much of the business conducted in the dark.

Elsewhere on the Fairgreen, Lahinch man Peter Paul Hayes admitted to mixed emotions as he stood beside his for-sale one-year-old filly, Zelda.

Zelda was rejected at birth by her mother. Mr Hayes fed her with bottled formula milk every two hours during the night for the first number of weeks.

He said that the going rate for a yearling filly is €100 "and I have refused three offers of €100 today. I am looking for €400. I will wait another hour. I came to sell, but selling isn't the main thing. If you sell, it is a bonus, if you don't . . . it means you have another day out."

Irish Independent