Queen shifts gears with trip to Irish horse heartland

Thu May 19, 2011 9:18am EDT
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* Queen's speech widely welcomed in Ireland

* Four-day state visit will end on Friday

By Conor Humphries

TULLY, Ireland (Reuters) - Britain's Queen Elizabeth spent an afternoon in the heartland of Irish horse-racing on Thursday shifting down a gear from the symbolism and ceremony that marked the earlier part of her state visit.

Since her arrival on Tuesday, the queen has made powerful gestures of reconciliation for Britain's bloody past in Ireland culminating in a landmark speech on Wednesday night in which she expressed regret for centuries of conflict.

Her visit to Ireland's National Stud, the birthplace of some of the world's finest thoroughbreds, allowed the queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, to indulge their love of horses and strike a lighter tone on the third day of her four-day visit.

"She's always been a horse-woman. It'll be a relief after some grueling days," said Sue Lilley, coordinator with the Irish School of Farriery.

Ireland is the third largest breeder of thoroughbreds in the world and many people have speculated that the trip to Kildare, renowned as Ireland's "Horsey County," would be a personal highlight for the queen, a life-long racing enthusiast.

Dressed in a blue coat and matching hat, the queen inspected stallions at the stud, where some of her own horses have been housed.   Continued...

<p>Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip follow Lady Chryss O'Reilly while visiting the Irish National Stud, one of Ireland's top horsebreeding centres near Dublin May 19, 2011. REUTERS/John Stillwell/POOL</p>