Cooley Mountain ponies bite back

A horse owner from the Cooley Mountains has blasted recent reports in the media, including in the Dundalk Democrat, regarding the welfare of animals on the mountain.

A horse owner from the Cooley Mountains has blasted recent reports in the media, including in the Dundalk Democrat, regarding the welfare of animals on the mountain.

Michael Murphy says that reports of wild horses attacking hillwalkers are “highly unlikely” and that stories of horses in poor condition have been greatly exaggerated.

Mr Murphy owns a significant number of horses which he owns on the mountain, and he says not only are they in good condition, but they are positively thriving in the wilds of the Pennisula.

“The mountain is as close to the natural habitat for a horse as you can get,” says Mr Murphy, all of whose horses are either microchipped or registered. “No only is it good for the animals, but mixed grazing by cattle, sheep and horses is actually ideal and it tends to naturally benefit the grazing of each other.

“The different way in which they graze and the various flora that they eat helps to elliminate parasites such as worms in each of the other species.”

Mr Murphy also states that the Law favours the horse on area of commonage such on the mountain.

“According to the 1985 Animal Act, where damage is caused because of the straying of that animal, the owner is not liable when the land is situated in an area where fencing is not customary. This means that if you hit a horse on the mountain, you are liable for any damage done as it is a commonage area.”

Mr Murphy is also sceptical of reports of wild stallions attacking hillwalkers. “I’ve had horses on this mountain for 40 years, and I’ve been walking the length and breath of the mountains for 40 years. Never have I heard of a stallion going for a walker. In fact the opposite is true, if you try to get to one they will simply run off. I use the horses as pony club horses, so we breed them for docility. I would challenge anyone to show me a dangerous or aggressive horse on that mountain.

Mr Murphy also questions the validity of the County Council’s authority in the commonage area, which he says is actually a privately owned area which is controlled by the tenants. 
“There are other issues regarding the County Council’s approach to the area. They have put in livestock grates that in fact don’t meet the departmental specification. I have written to the council to offer to put in grates that do meet the specifications, and I’ve been ignored.

“A few years ago the council came up and between us we managed to microchip a number of my horses, but then that process inexplicably stopped.

“I regard myself as an extremely responsible horse owner, and all my horses are kept in very good condition. As happens with all animals, they will die on the mountain. This is the same for livestock farmers across the country.

“This horse is a beautiful creature and a wonderful tourist attaction. I even met a photographer up here a few years ago who had won a competition by photographing the ponies.

“There seems to be an agenda here to undermine the ponies and their place on the mountain. I don’t know what the purpose of it is. But I challenge anyone to find one of my ponies in poor condition or to show me one of these wild stallions, because they don’t exist.”