Beach Horses!

For my last adventure, I went horseback riding with some friends. Before you yawn, this was not just any horseback riding, it was BEACH horseback riding! Check out the company’s website here –

This adventure was another wonderful Groupon opportunity that was purchased almost a year ago and I finally got around to doing it. Groupon is one of the best things in the world. Most of these things I have been doing I never would have even heard of before, so it is definitely great for companies to put their coupon on Groupon to create exposure for themselves.

I met up with my friends at a beach in Bradenton, which was about an hour drive from where I live. I pulled into a dirt clearing where a few other cars were parked – I was pretty sure I was at the right spot when I saw a horse trailer on the side of the road and horses frolicking in the water.

My friends and I walked up to the trailer to sign in and begin our ride. As we were walking up the beach, I could see another group of people in the water with the horses. I was excited, this really looked like fun! It was a hot sunny day, perfect for anything water related.

I was wearing pants, and looking at everyone around me wearing bathing suits, shorts, or dresses – I started second guessing my attire. When I was getting ready I had thought that if I am going to be on a horse, I probably didn’t want to wear shorts or a dress, right? The pants were very lightweight, but everyone else in my group wore either shorts or a dress. I was mentally kicking myself for the pants – but alas, it was too late now to change. I was stuck with the pants.

After signing a waiver or two, we were each assigned our horses. I was given “Sadie”, who was definitely the best horse. She had such personality, and a lot of spunk. “Well, get on!” said my horse guide. It was then that I noticed that we would be riding bareback. Wow, I had been horseback riding a few times before, but never have I been given the opportunity to ride bareback! How exhilarating, how thrilling… how… TERRIFYING! If you have never sat on a horse bareback, let me tell you how incredibly different it is. There is nothing to hold on to! Nothing at all to prevent you from sliding off the horse. Throughout the ride I was squeezing my legs together as tightly as possible because I really thought I was going to fall off.

“Uhhh, Karen, are you going to be alright?” Great. Apparently I looked just as uncomfortable as I felt. One of my friends was looking at me with humor and concern. Of course I played it off, and I think she bought it. “Yep! I’m great!”

In the picture below you can see I look as comfortable as if I was lounging around in a pair of flannel jammies. OK, I am also holding on for dear life. And giving Sadie a hug. I am a multi-tasker.

I tried as hard as I could after that to look and feel comfortable on the horse. “It’s just like riding a bike.” Lying to myself did help a little, though I still kept my legs clenched together as tightly as possible while we were on dry land with the horses. This was going to do wonders for my leg muscles.

For the first part of the hour, we walked across the beach adjacent to the water for about a quarter of a mile. This was fairly uneventful (I did see a dead fish – but that was about it). It was still really awesome; walking in the sand on a horse is a completely different experience than walking on a trail.

Next, the guides led us into the water with the horses. When we were in the water it was definitely easier to stay on. I wasn’t focusing as much on not falling off the horse – I was enjoying the fact that I was in Florida, on a horse, in the ocean, in September.

The water was the perfect temperature, and the horses seemed completely at ease in it.

As we were walking, there were a few times that I had to quickly move my leg to avoid bits of floating poo that had just appeared in the water – gifts from the horse in front of me. I guess when you are riding horses in the ocean, you might have to put up with some crap!

I brought my waterproof camera so you lucky people have the opportunity to see us in the water with our gallant steeds:

How I love my waterproof camera. After buying one during my trip to Australia a few years ago, I would never want to go back to a normal camera. We were riding around in the water and splashing about with our horses for about ten minutes when my friend’s horse decided that she hated my horse. Those big horse chompers got really close to my leg when that it tried to bite poor Sadie. After that near fiasco, the guides kept our two horses apart for the rest of the ride. Thank goodness for that, because I am sure that my leg would have become a casualty to a horse fight. Those kinds of things always happen to me.

Next, the horse guides invited us to each try something called “Horse Surfing”, where you would stand on the back of the horse as they trot along in the water. Your only job is to try to stay on without falling. Don’t worry, the guides assured us that it was not harmful in any way to the horse. They told us exactly where to put our feet, and there is really no extra weight on the horse than if you are sitting on it.

I was the first to try (being the brave girl I am) though I pretty much just stood up to prove I could do it, then sat right back down. I guess I am just as talented at horse surfing as I was at regular surfing – but at least I stayed on!

After most of us tried horse surfing, (which we all stunk at) we tried the next thing – horse skiing! We held on to the cartilage part of the horses tail while the trainer rode the horse around in circles and we tried not to let go. Thank heavens none of the horses had to “relieve” themselves during this bit. And again, don’t worry, this did not hurt the horses. We were not holding onto the horses hair, but the cartilage on their tails. I am sure that this place would have been shut down years ago if anyone thought the horses were being hurt… PETA is everywhere.

After horse skiing, our next task was to try to get back onto the horses. Yeah, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Of course, I was graceful as a swan pulling myself back up on the horse.

And now for the sad part of the story. It was about this time that I realized something was terribly wrong with my camera. It sounded like it was still taking pictures, but the view screen was completely black, and it had no viewfinder to fall back onto. I had no idea what was wrong with it, but I just kept taking pictures, hoping I was pointing it correctly. I figured that at least the pictures I had taken up to that point would be OK, and if I was lucky, the pictures taken after were OK too. I found out what was wrong when I got home. I opened up the camera and it was SOAKING wet inside. The waterproof seal had broken! I pulled out the memory card, dried it off, and plugged it into my computer, and thankfully the pictures were all OK – but the camera was kaput. How sad. This was the camera I had purchased in Australia after I broke my other camera by dropping it in the sand during my Frasier Island tour. But hey, on the plus side, at least the stories of how I break my cameras are all very interesting.

That was the end of our beach horse ride. The guides told us that we were going to race to shore with the horses as fast as we could, but we had to make sure to pull them to the side if they started overtaking the person in front of us or they might run over that person. Once again, this was not as easy as it sounded. My horse was still angry with the horse that tried to bite her earlier, and seemed to be determined to run that horse, my friend, and the guide in front down. The poor guide kept looking back at us and trying to speed up so Sadie wouldn’t trample them, and I kept shouting “I’m trying to pull her but she isn’t listening!” We did make it to the shore with no trampling injuries, luckily. Oh Sadie.

We got off the horses and said our thank yous to the guides, when suddenly a thought occurred to me. “Uh oh, we are supposed to tip them.” None of us had remembered to bring cash! It was incredibly embarrassing and I felt terrible. Our guides had really made sure that we had a good time, and they were incredibly knowledgeable and friendly. They were probably thinking “what dang cheapskates!” as we left. I just couldn’t go home without tipping them though. I would have felt guilty for weeks! So after we dried off and got into the car, we stopped at the closest store to take out some money to tip them. Unfortunately, when we got back our guides were gone, but the horse trailer was still there with a couple of people from the company. We just gave them the money and asked them to give it to our guides. I hope that it got to them and they realized who it was from. I’d hate to have anyone out there thinking I stiff them out of tips.

I really enjoyed this experience – it only lasted about an hour but it was worth doing. I would recommend anyone to do it if they find a coupon for it, otherwise it is a bit too pricy. This coming weekend I am heading out to Crystal River to swim with the manatees with some of my best friends. I can’t wait to photograph and tell you about that experience! That’s right, I have a brand new waterproof camera!