Five years ago Mark and I went beach riding in Turks and Caicos for our honeymoon. It was a great way to start our marriage, but not quite as romantic as those print ads in the magazines want you to believe (dorky pictures to follow). If you’re planning a honeymoon or just a fun vacation in the next year or so, I’d strongly recommend beach riding in Turks and Caicos (it surpassed my expectations).
About three days into our trip as we sunned on the shore, a cluster of horses loping along the alabaster sand riveted our attention. Horses on a beach was an unusual sight for us Californians! Most Orange County beaches don’t even allow dogs!
The previous day, I had been a good sport hanging out on a scuba boat in spite of my propensity toward seasickness while my new husband explored the reef. I figured Mark could reciprocate by joining me on a horseback ride. After a quick conversation with the resort concierge, we were scheduled to go on our own ride. A van came to collect us and take us to the horses.
Not Your Typical Rental Horses
Our mounts were small and formerly wild—Mustangs of the Caribbean. My husband’s steed was a blue roan and mine was a chestnut. They reminded me of ponies from the Misty of Chincoteague stories.
The wild horses are called Grand Turk Ponies and are a feral population on Grand Turk Island, the descendants of horses used for salt raking when the industry was booming, generations ago.
Ours mounts were well-mannered, standing calmly when we climbed aboard the Western saddles. As we began our journey, it was apparent they were both steady and surprisingly responsive. They had great manners.
What Not to Wear
I religiously ride with a riding helmet (and you should too), but I hadn’t packed one in my post-wedding getaway bag, nor did I think to add paddock boots! I had to ride with my straw hat and tennis shoes. I rationalized that since the horse was more of a pony, a fall would be a very short distance from the saddle onto the fluffy sand. In fact, it might land me in the warm water which could even be fun.
My new groom had only packed flip flops and thus had to wear his Neoprene scuba diving booties so his feet would be covered. And he sported swim trunks, rash guard, and Nike visor. He was an equestrian fashion flop. #ROOTD peeps would not be impressed. The guide, dressed like a sexier version of the Marlboro Man complete with shirt waaay unbuttoned and black Cowboy hat, rode a spirited gelding. The big chestnut executed a fusion of some dressage movements–unintentionally. Our island ponies were much mellower.
We began at the walk, crossing over the powdery sand down to the shoreline. The horses were honest, and after a fair amount of walking and a little trotting, we were allowed to gallop when there was a stretch of uninhabited beach. My husband, a non-equestrian at the time, hung on to the saddle horn and was fine.
Boats scudded past and parasailing balloons swooped through the air in the distance, while the ocean gently caressed the shore. The horses, obviously used to the beach distractions, didn’t look twice.
At the half-way point which was another resort, the guide tied up his horse, went to the beach bar, and brought back sodas for us. We took a break and sipped our drinks. Then we turned around and the horses picked up their walk and trot cadence, knowing that they were heading back home.
Before He Was A Horse Husband
After one more gallop along the dazzling surf, the Caribbean cowboy said to steer our horses into the water to cool them down. My husband’s hands held high and wide apart looked like he was directing marionettes as we both direct reined our mounts into the surf. It felt just like bath water.
We walked the horses the last quarter mile until home, had our photo snapped with the guide, dismounted and gave a pat—to the horses, not the guide. I wished I had had an apple or carrot to say thank you to our mannerly new pals.
In the van riding back to our resort I mused the horses we had just ridden had an enviable life. They exercise a few hours a day, take long walks on the beach, dip in the salty waves, and are constantly in the company of their closest friends. Not to mention they reside on beachfront property with amazing sunrises.
Oh to be a Grand Turk Pony!
Your Turn to Share:
- Thoughts on beach riding and/or helmets?
- Have you ridden on a beach? Where and what was it like?
- Is there any circumstance in which you’d ride without a helmet?