Friday I joined a few friends and their horses for a ride on Hampton Beach. We loaded and were on the road by 10:00am. Three trailers, seven horses and riders. The curios appeared as soon as we pulled into the state park. Families out to enjoy the sun, started snapping photos. As we headed out through the dunes to the high tide, I was reminded how strange this always feels. The horses, no matter how well behaved, are on high alert to the new sounds and smells. It takes them a little while to get used to the shifting deep sand, then the sucking wet sand when we get to the ocean’s edge.
The beach was more crowded than I expected. Luckily, there were no kite-fliers…those can send a blind horse over the edge. It was windy and cool, in the 50’s, but lots of brave New Englanders were out in shorts, t-shirts, and I even saw a couple of bathing suits!
Two of the horses, mine included, had been to the beach before. The thought bubble over their heads read, “Yes! Fun and fast!”
|Night and I
Unfortunately, the combined thought bubble over the other five horses’ heads screamed, “Frothy, cold, water that chases you??? I think NOT!”
No one was naughty. It was a slow process to introduce them to the thrill of galloping through the salty brine with only the horizon to stop you. (Oh, and maybe that little kid playing at the water’s edge up ahead.)
|Festus and Snuggles getting used to the “water that chases you.”
The beach is only open to horses October 1st to April 30th. In theory, there are few two-legged creatures wandering the area during those times. But those who are there seem genuinely surprised and excited to see us. Some came up and ask to pat our sticky, smelly mounts.
While the concept of horses on a beach usually evokes images from “The Black Stallion” of flying along through the surf, saddle and bridleless; the reality of riding in this unusual setting is hanging on to a bundle of nervous energy set to explode at any moment.
I’ve ridden on many beaches; in Martinique, Costa Rica and more recently, Northern California with my daughter at Christmas. The thrill never gets old.
When we pulled back into the barnyard on Friday afternoon I was exhausted from the sheer effort and the fresh sea breeze.