Almost every horse lover dreams of galloping down the beach and riding through the surf. There is just something marvelous about the beach that calls to use; maybe it’s the wide open sandy space perfect for galloping or maybe it’s the steady swish of the waves on the shore. In any case, if you are lucky enough to go for a ride on the beach, there are a few things to remember so your experience will be a splendid one!
- Check with your local park or city information center ahead of time so that you know which beaches are equestrian friendly. They may also have suggestions for the best places and times to go with the least crowds and easiest trailer parking. Ask about low and high tide times… you definitely don’t want to get stranded and have to make a swim for the shore! Grab a map and plan your day and your route, you want to be sure you can make it back to your trailer before dark.
- Always dress in layers! Check the weather before you head out but you never know how the weather will change throughout the day or if the wind will pick up. Being out on the beach in high winds is a bit like being sand blasted!
- Take sunscreen for you and your horse (if they are sensitive). You will be having too much fun to notice the burn and you will want to re-live the memories in other ways than applying aloe to your sunburn for the next week!
- Take protective (and supportive) horse boots. The sand can be deep (especially if your horse is not going near the surf) and you don’t want to injure your horse if you decide to go for a gallop.
- Bring a camera. If you do not live near the beach, you will want to capture the moment for sure. It’s even better if you have someone who isn’t on a horse that can take pictures of the day for you.
- Take a helmet (or at least a hat)! Not only will a helmet protect you in a fall (the sand is soft but hooves and rocks are not!), it will keep the sun off your face and head.
- Always take food and water with you no matter how long you think you might be gone. Eat a good meal before you go and be sure to pack quick trail snacks like granola, protein bars, and other healthy munchies (a few horse cookies wouldn’t hurt either). Staying hydrated out on the beach is also really important!
- Be aware of your surroundings and other beach-goers. Give people and their property plenty of space! Stay on the lookout for barking dogs (especially those off leash) and enthusiastic children who run up suddenly wanting to pet your horse. Be friendly and say thank you when people move out of your way or grab their dogs and kids so that you can pass by.
- Practice and train ahead of time! The beach sand is as much a workout for horse as it is for you! Take the time to properly condition them by building up his or her stamina and muscles. This will also help prevent injuries from overwork. It’s also a good idea to do some water work with ditches, ponds, or a man-made water hole with a tarp. Consider adding bubbles with dish soap as the foam and moving surf is a different concept from a quiet puddle. Don’t forget your horse might see beach towels, umbrellas, dogs, kids, beach balls, and all manner of spooky objects. Desensitizing your horse to some of these things is a must before you go! Don’t forget to work on the ground and under saddle so you will have options once you hit the sand.
- Keep your expectations realistic. If your horse has never seen the ocean before, you may not get anywhere near the surf (this trip)! That’s ok, the view is still great from the deep sand where you are working your horse in circles to help them relax and get accustomed to the new experience. You might even consider walking your horse in hand to the surf first. The most important thing is keeping the experience positive and safe for you, your horse, your group, and other bystanders. If you are going with a group, be sure everyone understands the goals for the ride. It’s about having fun so remember your group trail etiquette!
Hopefully, if you have not already, you will get to experience the thrill of riding on the beach whether it’s a long gallop or a quiet stroll. If it’s not on your bucket list, grab a pen and add it immediately! It’s a vacation and an experience you will never forget! Remember to relax, have fun, and enjoy the ride!