The View Between the Ears in the Irish Countryside

We love Between the Ears photos here at EN, so when we stumbled on Irish event rider Alex Calder's @betweentwoears account on Instagram, we asked her to share some of her favorite photos. Her account received international acclaim last year when Instagram featured her photos on their blog. Many thanks to Alex for sharing the view from between the ears!

I started @betweentwoears on Instagram in summer 2014 as a place to keep and share all the photos I was taking while out hacking.

There’s a painting I’ve always loved called The Finest View in Europe by an English painter called Snaffles; it’s of the view from the saddle across the fields to where the hunt are, with the neck and ears of the painter’s horse in the foreground. Every time I took one of these ‘ears shots’ I thought of that. I felt I had this deep knowledge of this 5 mile square, very historic corner of Wicklow and wanted to share it, and Instagram is the perfect place to do that.

When you’re out riding you have a really unusual perspective and when you’ve been hacking around the same area for years, particular places begin to have their own peculiar significance — like the place where there are good blackberries, or the place where there are dogs are that will always bark, or where a certain donkey lives that the horses always want to talk to.

I just have one horse, Ben, a Thoroughbred. He’s 11 now and we’ve spent the last six years having fun working up the grades in eventing here in Ireland. Ben is a really fun horse; he’s fast and he’s brave and we share a love of cross-country — the galloping, the jumping, the adrenaline.

That translates into how he behaves out hacking — really alert, which makes for great photos, as he’ll stick his head up and prick his ears at almost anything. There’s a fine line between when he’s happy to stand and stare and when he decides to take fright, but luckily I know him well enough to sense it and to shove my phone in my pocket and gather up my reins quickly.

It never even occurred to me that Instagram might find the account and take an interest in it. But they got in touch in December 2015 and posted one of my photos on their Instagram profile and their blog. The photo got 1 million likes, and my account gained thousands of new followers.

This is one of my all-time favourites, it’s so reminiscent of that rare thing, high-summer in Ireland. I love how the foxgloves are blowing in the same direction as Ben’s head is turned. And the view from that particular spot is amazing — all the way down the coast to Wicklow Head. It reminds me a bit of the painting I mentioned that inspired me — Snaffle’s Finest View in Europe. Definitely one of me and Ben’s favourite views.

This is hilarious. It’s so Ben. He loves apples but it really bad at eating them — he has to take dainty little bites, where most horses would just munch it down in one go.


A photo posted by Between Two Ears (@betweentwoears) on

I do a lot more riding on days that look like this than days that are sunny and bright, but it’s much harder to capture that, so there are fewer of them on my page. I love this one because it was what we call in Ireland a ‘soft day,’ the type of day where you go out thinking it’s not really raining that much, but when you’re out you find that it is, it’s just that it’s really gentle, yet persistent, and you’re sodden by the end.

I took this one before I started Between Two Ears, but it was the one that got me thinking about doing a profile dedicated to Ben. It was at the very start of Tattersalls International Horse Trials in May 2014. Not many other people were there yet and we were exercising out in the warm-up field when this huge storm started to roll in. Naturally, we trotted back to the stables quickly, but not before getting this shot.

This tree fell at my parent’s house last winter. It was about 200 years old, and 70-foot tall, and apparently some relation of the Giant Redwood (which we don’t have in Ireland.) It was so vast, and it was awe-inspring to see it on the ground like this. It also narrowly missed my father when it fell!

Tangled wreckage. A photo posted by Between Two Ears (@betweentwoears) on

Riding on the beach is the best. My sister and I took two of her youngsters for their first trip to the beach over the winter. They were very good and happily went into the sea, but every so often, they would leap sideways as waves came towards them. There were some other people on the beach on horses who were very quiet and we realised we were those crazy people on leaping horses, laughing hysterically.

This is the local church. It’s tiny and ancient, at 800 years old and counting. It’s rumoured that there’s a tunnel that leads from it to the ruined castle that sits opposite, but no one has ever found it.

Every winter I go to a music festival in the picturesque Co. Kerry town of Dingle, and we always try to go pony trekking when there, although the weather is usually abominable, as you can see in this photo of a sodden, windblown Connemara pony on the side of a mountain.

Be sure to follow @betweentwoears on Instagram and share your own Between the Ears photos in the comments below. Go Eventing.