What do you get when you have the unspoiled beauty of one of the United States’ National Seashores and add horses? You have one bucket list item scratched off your list. While on vacation in the Outer Banks, I took three of the grandchildren on a beach trail ride with Equine Adventures located on Hatteras Island in North Carolina.
I have heard the stories of sketchy operations with tack held together with bailing twine with horses that should never carry inexperienced riders, but Equine Adventures is not one of those. This ride was top notch and I would go back in a heart beat.
The rides occur either early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat of the day and the biggest of the coastal bugs with voracious appetites. Even though there was a great breeze once you were on the beach, you do have to ride through the unspoiled maritime forest to get to that breeze. That means that you are fair game to any and all hungry mosquitoes and biting flies that call the forest home. We doused ourselves in 30% DEET and escaped unscathed. One of our guides missed a shoulder when applying her bug spray and had no less than thirty bites by the time we reached the beach. Ouch! I get itchy just thinking about it.
The ride is a great way to see parts of the island that are mostly inaccessible to the normal tourist. Hearty hikers and mountain bikers might give these trails a try, but your average visitor will never see this part of the seashore. When your sure-footed horse is winding its way through the trees, you realize that the roots of these trees are what help hold the island together. You see the native deer who are unafraid of the horses, and the horses are unafraid of them…Ike, take note that there is no need to run like a banshee.
It is thrilling to climb the dunes and emerge on the unspoiled beach. No rows of houses, no hotels, no tacky souvenir shops. Just sea turtle nests, piles of dried seaweed, seagulls and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the distance. If you are an experienced rider, you get to add the thrill of galloping in the sand with only the sound of the waves and wind in your ears.
The reason for such a successful ride? The guides do an excellent job matching horse and rider. When you make your reservation, they ask each rider’s age and experience so that they can make the best pairings. The well seasoned trail horses will take care of their inexperienced riders even with the loosest of reins – no worries about unscheduled gallops. Each horse has its own saddle and bridle. All the horses are barefoot – if only I could be so lucky with my mounts. All the horses were in excellent condition – no small feat considering all the hay and feed have to be brought over to the island. I learned that obtaining hay can be an all day excursion. Once the guides realize that you are a nutty horse person, they will gladly swap horse stories with you.
If riding on the beach isn’t already on your bucket list, add it. You will not regret this incredible experience!
p.s. They are looking for a seasonal guide for the rest of the summer…