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Crowds pick up scent of thrills and spills

MORE than 80 riders and a pack of hounds splashed their way through rivers and fields yesterday in the great annual tradition of the Kerry drag hunt.

Even Ross Sugrue from Tralee was chomping at the bit to get involved in the Abbeydorney event, at the tender age of just 10.

But despite the wild excitement of yelping dogs and the speed of the horses, the only thing at the other end of the chase was a smell.

Drag hunts involve the laying of a scent beforehand -- often using animal meat -- in order to give the dogs something to latch onto. There are no live animals.

But that does little to spoil the thrill of the chase and crowds gathered yesterday to witness the spectacle.

"It's quite a sight to see all the horses coming along, especially when they cross the river," said one spectator taking in the stampede from the Kerry Harris Hunt Club.

"It's spectacular; there is water splashing and everyone gets soaked."

The run, which extends to approximately 20 miles, saw scores of riders follow a trail through local fields, roadways and across rivers as part of the all-terrain course that ends up converging with the local ploughing championships.

Dozens of people gathered at various spectator spots along the route, including a stone bridge overlooking the riders.

Afterwards, participants walk back along the route to repair any damage caused to the land by the horses.

And despite a little bit of drizzle along the way, spectators said the riders enjoyed ideal conditions.

Irish Independent