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Dublin’s youngest female jarvey speaks about her experiences

With tourism mostly shut down, many Dublin jarveys are out of a job. Holly Ward tells the Liberty about being a horse-drawn carriage driver at age 18 – and how she got more respect when she got out of town.

Holly Ward started riding horses at eight years old, but has been around horses for as long as she can remember. “Any of the horse yards around Dublin, I’d walk around it and they’d plonk me on the horse.

“I landed in this job because of the love of the horse more than anything, even the driving.”

Image courtesy of Holly Ward

Ward is currently working as a jarvey in Kildare, the horse county of Ireland. Since starting work in Kildare, she has noticed a significant improvement on how she and her horse Chico are treated.

Ward found that car drivers in Dublin had no respect for her and Chico, and would pull in right in front of them.

“The spot that I was working in Dublin was dodgy at times. People would scream at you to get out of the way. It was kind of disheartening because you had people moaning at you to move past and to get the carriage out of the way.” 

Although Ward is no longer working in Dublin she is still living in the Liberties. But the work in Kildare is different in all sorts of ways.

“No matter where you go in the Liberties people are always willing to help”.

Holly ward on the liberties

Since the beginning of Covid tourists have been thin on the ground, so Ward has been working at weddings rather than picking up tourists. Even weddings can be unreliable these days: “I had a wedding booked but I don’t know when that will go ahead.” 

In the normal run of tourist work, there are two ranks in Dublin, one at the Guinness Storehouse and the other at Stephen’s Green. Stephen’s Green was better and busier on sunny days because of all the people milling out of the park, Ward recalls.

Ward quickly got to be a well-known jarvey in the Liberties and recalls chatting with the neighbourhood’s favourite daughter, Imelda May, on her way home from a gig.

“No matter where you go in the Liberties people are always willing to help. In other areas you can sense that people just keep to themselves – whereas in the Liberties on the way to the shop you get talking to loads of people.” 

In order to obtain a license, she had to get a letter of competence in handling horses and insurance. She first started driving a horse drawn carriage at the age of 16 and got her license two years later.  

“I had ridden before I drove, so I knew what I was doing in terms of controlling the horse. It is six foot of horse in front of you and ten foot of carriage behind you so you have to watch your corners when you are turning but it is the same as a car. If a car can get through the gap, then the carriage can get through the gap.” 

“Chico’s the main bread winner in my life”

Holly Ward speaking about her horse chico
Image courtesy of Holly Ward

Ward keeps her horse Chico in a rented yard in Naas along with ten other horses. Ward said that horses need a lot of maintenance to keep them healthy. She bought Chico in June of last year because when Covid hit she realised she “had a carriage but no horse”. She has had Chico on loan since he was three years old and he was already broken in when she first started working with him.  

“It’s an awful lot of hard work. Chico’s the main bread winner in my life. If Chico’s not fit, then I can’t work or earn anything. You come to the yard and you feed him, you have to strap him up. It takes up the guts of two hours before you can even start working.” 

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