Horse Nation’s show-mom-in-residence Barbara Hamilton takes us for a canter along the beaches of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where her family recently vacationed.
Be sure to follow Barbara on Twitter @thehorseshowmom!
We always take a vacation right after school ends so my daughter can spend most of her summer at the barn.
Of course wherever we go we always try to go horseback riding. This year we went to the Outer Banks in North Carolina and I found a place, Equine Adventures on Hatteras Island, that offered riding on the beach.
So I booked a ride for my daughter, her friend and myself at 7 a.m. (the rides are only offered in the morning or the evening so the horses aren’t out in the heat of the day). When filling out the reservation online I heard my trainer’s voice in my head: “Don’t let them know you ride a lot or you’ll end up with a hot horse, and you won’t enjoy the ride.” So when we filled out the form we wrote that even though we ride every week we were on vacation and just wanted to take it easy.
When we arrived and saw our horses I was really happy. They looked very healthy and were well groomed. We were introduced to the horses, told their names, ages and a little about their behavior—they really worked at matching your riding experience with your horse. We met Ricky, our lead wrangler, and Anna, the other wrangler. Ricky told us about the ride, the kind of saddle we would be using (an endurance saddle, which is really comfortable) and what we could expect on our ride. Ricky also went over a lot of safety information.
Then we got on our horses and set off. My family and I have gone to a dude ranch in Colorado for the past few years so I was curious to see how different this ride would be. Once we started out we soon entered a “forest” made up of pine trees, palms and other vegetation, even some small water holes. There were butterflies and dragonflies surrounding us from time to time. We were walking on sandy soil so the ride was really smooth. After about 15 minutes of riding on private property we entered a nature preserve—after around 45 minutes we started to hear the ocean. Ricky and Anna then checked our girths and we started back up. All of a sudden we came up over a sand dune and there was this beautiful beach right out in front of us. The sand was so white, the ocean and sky a beautiful blue and best of all the beach was really wide and flat. My horse started to get excited, so I knew this was going to be fun. Ricky broke us up into two groups and when our group took off she rode down the beach with us while we trotted and then after watching us for a few minutes she said let them lope—and we were off.
The wind, the ocean and the soft sand under our horses—it was incredible. We all rode alongside each other but because the beach was so wide we had quite a lot of room between each horse. We were laughing and just having a great time and you could tell the horses were enjoying it too. We stopped at a certain point and Ricky asked if everyone was OK and did we want do another lope again? Did we ever. So, we took off for another ride. When we finished we turned around and loped all the way back. Then Ricky and Anna took our photos. After letting the horses cool down and walk around a little we headed back down the path to the barn.
When we were driving back to our house none of us could stop talking about the ride.
Instead of taking a lesson or doing a show this was one time where we could just enjoy the horses and the total freedom of riding on a beach. And in doing so we experienced riding on a whole new level.