Padraig and I met in Munich, Germany. We lived for one and a half years in Vienna, Austria after that. Then we moved from Vienna to Carnew. We’re going to be here three years in February now.

I’m from Munich, but where I grew up was in the countryside. Not as rural as this here, but I’m a little bit of a country girl myself.

We had quite a nice life in Munich. It was always in the back of our heads that eventually we would retire early, go to Ireland, work with horses and just slow down.

Rita Naughton of Whitewell Equestrian Centre with her husband Padraig and their two children Katie and Alex.

When I was done with college, I got a job in Vienna. Both Padraig and I, we didn’t like big city life. In Munich we had the city, but within half an hour we were out with the horses.

We both didn’t settle that well in Vienna and we both weren’t that happy there. Then we said, “Why are we waiting until we’re 40 or 50 to move if we’re not happy right now?”

Padraig is from Wicklow Town, originally. We were looking for a property for quite a long time and we were hoping we would get something around Wicklow, to stay close enough to his friends and his parents as well. It’s a nice part of the country. It took us a year until we finally found this place.

We initially said we would settle with a small cottage and a little bit of land so we can have our horses, then eventually we could build something up with the horses.

The longer we looked, the bigger and bigger our plans got. We thought, eventually it would be nice if we could make money with the horses as well. So in the end we came up with the idea of setting up a riding school, Whitewell Equestrian Centre.

Rita Naughton of Whitewell Equestrian Centre with her daughter Katie.

Challenging times

We moved here in February 2018. We got very unlucky, because it was the time of the big snow. I think we were in the house not even eight days, the big snow came and one of our biggest stables came down with it. The water was frozen and nothing worked. We were like, oh my God, what have we done?

We didn’t know anyone here at that time. It’s really hard to ask for help if you don’t know whether there are people living up the road or down the road. I was pregnant as well at the time, so that came on top of everything. It took a few weeks until we found our feet. Apart from this big shock in the beginning, it was all fine.

We started the riding school properly a year later. Initially, I was pregnant and we had one pony, so when someone came and asked would I give them a lesson, I did, but we didn’t advertise it. I needed some time to settle and figure things out. Last year we started off properly and we were looking for more ponies. We’ve 12 now.

Realisation station

In these three years I’m on child number two already. Katie is two now and Alex is four months. There’s really nothing nicer than having them around the place. Padraig works in an engineering company in Arklow.

I got involved with the musical society in Carnew. I used to do something like this in Germany, but it was obviously in German and this is in English. It was a big step for me to go into something where I don’t know anyone, but they made it really easy and embraced me there.

Padriag Naughton and Katie.

We also got involved in hunting and we figured out we have really nice neighbours, so people are very good to us. I think for both of us, this really feels like home now.

I got into horses through our neighbours growing up in Germany. I basically lived there, it was like a second home. That’s where I learned how to ride. My parents weren’t horsey people at all.

I usually got exactly two riding lessons a year, one for my birthday and one for Christmas, which is not much. I started working at our neighbours so I would get more lessons. They were actually really good to me and pointed me in the right direction to get qualifications.

I basically went through college paying my rent and paying for my horse through training horses, showing horses and being an instructor.

Padraig Naughton and Katie.

I studied law in university and I wasn’t happy with my job at all. I was actually really set back for a very long time when I realised that. For the last eight years I had studied law, and now I didn’t like it. It took me a while to accept the fact that it’s not for me. Padraig was very supportive and just said, “If we’re both not happy we have to change something”.

It’s quite funny, people from Germany who know me and know how I grew up say, “I can’t believe it, but you’re dream came true”. I never really realised this until they said it to me. I was trying so hard to make everything work, I completely overlooked that it’s actually come true.

Everything I was working for and hoping for has actually finally come true, in Carnew.

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