Take Your Horse To The Beach For Fun In The Water

Take Your Horse To The Beach For
Fun In Water
By Sharon Miner

 Imagine swimming astride your horse in the Atlantic Ocean. The waves crash against your legs and sea gulls fly overhead screeching as they search for food. The sun is warm and the air is salty.

 Deeper and deeper your horse swims, snorting in contentment as his body becomes buoyant. His legs instinctively churn the water as if galloping. You hold the mane tight as his power propels you up and down like a seahorse.
 Swimming with your horse in the ocean doesn't have to be a fantasy. With the show season finished and the pesky flies diminishing with the cooler nights, autumn is the perfect time to plan a day trip to the ocean.
 Indian River Inlet provides the ideal location. It is part of the Delaware Seashore State Park located on Route 1, just south of Rehoboth Beach. Known for its great surf fishing, Indian River has abundant parking areas, large enough for horse trailers.
 Riding is allowed anywhere the four-wheel drive vehicles access the beach. You cross the dunes via designated paths.
 The park is open all year, but due to the busy beach season, it is better to ride during the fall and early spring, when there is more room to run. Parking is often free after season, and there is only a nominal out-of-state fee when an attendant is there.
 It is important to bring whatever supplies you would pack for a horse show, including fresh water. Travel with a few friends to share the experience as well as the expense and drive time.

On the Sand
 Once your horse is groomed and tacked up (even better, ride bareback), don't forget the sunblock. The sun's rays reflect off the water and white beach and although the air may be cool, sunburn can still occur. If your horse has a white nose, apply sunblock to it, too.
 If this is your horse's first visit, he may be a little anxious about-the strange surroundings, even if he is a seasoned show horse. Depending on your experience and the disposition of your horse, you may want to hand-walk him on the beach before mounting.
 Once astride, take your time introducing your horse to the ocean. If you face the water, he may think you want him to cross it and he'll balk. When you ride parallel to the ocean, the waves create an optical illusion as they break on the shoreline and pull the sand back in their retreat. Your horse may prance sideways trying to avoid the waves' attack.
 It is better to acclimate him first by riding on the beach away from the water. Remember to avoid the sand dunes, especially since your horse may try to return to the trailer. There are heavy fines for riding on the dunes and damaging the natural grasses and wildlife.
 Start in the deep sand about halfway between the dunes and the water. Keep a lookout for trash and natural debris that may cause injury to your horse. When you have an open section of sand, free of other beach lovers and their vehicles, urge your horse into a trot and then canter.
 Don't worry if his power becomes alarming as he makes huge strides through the deep sand. What's he going to do, run away to New York? Let him have his head, rise up in a forward seat position and enjoy!
 I found that horses have difficulty trying to buck while running in deep sand. I also found that a lazy lesson horse suddenly has competitive qualities I never knew he possessed, as a group will race neck to neck. Like deep snow, deep sand makes maintaining a two-beat trot difficult; it is much easier to conquer with a four-beat walk or gallop.
In the Water
 Once your horse has adapted to the beach runs and is actually enjoying this different type of trail ride, introduce him to the water. Leg yield him closer and closer to the shoreline, and let him feel the hard-packed sand at a walk and gallop.
 As the waves approach, be firm with your leg commands if he tries to move away from the water. Let him smell the surf, but don't give in to his reluctance. Watch out for too much pawing; it often means the horse will roll!
 Some horses welcome the cool water and will swim in over their heads, especially if they have had experience swimming in ponds at home. Other horses, like some people, may not care for the water and only go in ankle deep.
Words of Warning
 A few words of caution: first and foremost, watch your horse's respiration rate when galloping. Although it may not be a 90 degree day with 99% humidity, the workout can tax even the horse that is in the best condition. When the horse's breathing becomes labored during a run, sit back and ask for him to slow down. Remain at a walk until his respiration and heart rates are more normal before asking for a gallop again.
 Second, unless you like to eat sand, ride side-by-side. The stronger horses will pull ahead, but it is better to not be directly behind them.
 Also watch for fishing lines, with or without the fishermen present. The lines are hard to see and it is easy to become entangled with them.
 Be observant of the other inhabitants. Dogs may feel compelled to bark at or even chase the horses. People with bare feet may want to come up to pet your horse and then get stepped on by a hoof.
 Remember to cool your horse before loading him back in the trailer. Hand walk him in the parking lot and loosen the saddle a little at a time. Remove the tack and rinse off the salt and sand from his face with a wet towel. There is no running water available on the beach, so a hosing will have to wait for when you arrive home.
 Due to the physical stress, this ride isn't recommended for older horses or those who show fatigue at home with heavy work.
 Also, timid riders should avoid this trip. The beach is not those who want a quiet excursion, rather, it is for those who want an adventure!

³Swimming with your horse in the ocean doesn't have to be a fantasy. With the show season finished and the pesky flies diminishing with the cooler nights, autumn is the perfect time to plan a day trip to the ocean...²


Web Sites:
Delaware Seashore State Park