By Clodagh Kilcoyne
BALLYHEIGUE, Ireland (Reuters) – On a rugged stretch of beach in Ireland’s southwest, the residents of Ballyheigue braved the wild winds from the Atlantic coast on Wednesday for the annual Christmas horse races.
Runners and riders participate in the Christmas Ballyheigue beach horse races in the County Kerry village of Ballyheigue, Ireland, December 27, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
The winds halted proceedings briefly on a bitterly cold day in County Kerry but the tide stayed out and all eight races took place on the temporary track that locals say first hosted the event back in the 1850s.
“It’s a tradition more than anything. Tradition is very important to Irish people,” said 70-year-old Donal O‘Sullivan.
O‘Sullivan, from Listowel, was one of the volunteers that helped prepare the beach to host the picturesque meeting watched by hundreds.
A tractor was used to help clear seaweed, while others put up sound systems and racing posts to create a course for the horses and jockeys, who were as young as 11 and traveled from around the country to take part.
“It means a lot to the area at this time of year where it gives a bit of enjoyment to people who are home on holidays and of course it leaves a few pounds in the village for the day,” O‘Sullivan added.
Writing by Patrick Johnston in LONDON; Editing by Alison Williams