Back In January, we took the plunge. We decided to organise our first trip with the two horses out of the yard since buying them in fact! We decided where better to start than the beach!! It will be quiet, there is open space & worst case scenario if we fell off into the sea at least we could both swim. Before setting off we made the plan that we would just go and walk them up and down the beach in an effort to keep them calm, we would be happy and then we would wander on home!
We weren’t sure how they would behave but to our surprise, they both behaved extremely well. They were accompanied by one other horse, a 9 year old mare so they had some guidance being two youngsters. To make a long story short, we ended up having great fun, galloping up & down the beach, with their only downfall being the sea. They were petrified of the waves! Both Coco & Dante had a bit of a set back with this issue but being their first time at the beach we quickly removed ourselves from the situation and carried on with trotting & cantering up and down.
Delighted with ourselves and our horses, we headed home and had already put a date in the diary for a second beach trip a few months down the line, hopeful that we would have a lovely happy story like above again…but NO this was not the case….
Sunday 14th May – we loaded the brats up for their second trip to the beach. Coco & Dante together accompanied by two older mares. Like last time the older horses were more of a guide for them as we decided it was best to have a contingency plan in place.
We arrived to Donabate Beach and unloaded a very eager Dante, quickly followed by Coco who was a little more relaxed. We tacked them up and hand walked them down to the beach and found the tide was out much further than last time giving us (and fellow beach-goers) much more space.
The minute their lovely little hooves hit the sand on the beach, Coco and Dante were immediately on their toes!! With both of us leading the way, we thought oh wow, they are so much more confident this time, who needs back-up horses, however that wasn’t exactly the case. They were both beginning to get on edge waiting for the two other horses to follow so we started to trot them. This very quickly escalated to a full on gallop as we decided we’d let them run it out and get the excitement out of their system…. from this point on both Coco & Dante’s stories take a swing in different directions which we will both briefly outline below, hoping to then conclude with a few pointers on how to manage a peaceful safe beach ride!!
So myself and Darielle set off in full blown gallop down the beach, with Coco tearing up the sand…she really enjoys a good gallop! This wasn’t anything new to me and was something I’m quite used to handling now. But today she was that bit more antsy..we pulled up after our first gallop, attempting to make Coco walk but she wasn’t having it. She jogged, pranced and bunny-hopped her way down the beach wanting to go again. We pulled them up again and again and made multiple attempts to turn around but Coco consistently napped back towards the other direction. Every effort I made to bring her around resulted in side-steps, backwards walks and quick spins, while Dante mirrored her movements. We were stuck. So we decided the best and safest option was to dismount and try to walk them back.
Once I hopped off, things started to calm down. She took a breather and turned back with me and walked by my side. She had obviously gotten some of the buzz out of her system. I got back on and got one of the other horses to ride a circle which I then joined in behind. She napped once or twice towards Dante but once I got her focused she settled down and gradually the other horse was able to leave the circle. From this point, we decided to keep Coco and Dante apart.
Slightly off on her own, Coco started to feel more confident in herself so I decided to start walking in the direction of the sea to see what she would do. She took a few looks at the waves approaching her and made a few back steps but with enough coaching I managed to get her in! And from there we were flying..we had a few trots in the water and popped in and out to go for canters here and there. I was able to push her straight out of any attempts to nap. I couldn’t have asked for a better finish to our beach day..especially considering the start.
We still have so much to work on but all in all, it was a good morning filled with learning experiences for both horse & rider. My next step is to get Coco to the beach with one other horse and try and tame that need to gallop straight off..although I think this will be a bit more difficult than it sounds.
Check out this quick video I made of Coco at the beach. Hopefully we’ll be posting more videos in the future!
Shocked & Appalled, two words I would use to describe my second experience on the beach with Dante! I have learned quite a lot to say the least. Continuing on from above, after he had his gallop on the beach I thought he would relax, unwind & start to enjoy the beach like he did last time. But no, that gallop only wound him up 10 times more, I had zero control in the bit he had on which I found more & more difficult as the beach ride went on. Both horses started mirroring each others actions & it got to a stage where it was unsafe to stay on so both myself & Orla hopped down. Normally he would relax with me on the ground, but this time nothing was working. We split both horses up, with this he started to listen to me and relax, I walked him in hand down the beach, impressed with his turn around I hopped back up hoping he had gotten over his tantrums!
The next 5 minutes were bliss, he walked like a normal horse, he listened to my aids and then BAM crazy Dante appeared again, but this time to stay.
His behaviour was horrendous, he was throwing his head up in the air, making it impossible to gain a contact to steady him when he decided to speed off without notice, we were walking in the sea at one point, (which I was impressed by cause he wouldn’t go near it the last time) and as soon as he would see the other horses ahead he would want to speed up to be with them. This was all okay to sit through, not pleasant but I thought the boldness would pass, but it got to a point were enough was enough & I had to just give up fighting for control for my own safety. I have posted a video on our Instagram page which I captured on my camera, in this he starts rearing up in the water after trying to jump through the waves to get up front near Coco & the other mares, as soon as I tried to gain control with him he started shaking his head as if he was trying to get me off, again adding in 3-4 rears in protest when I was instructing him to do things.
At this point I called it a day, there was so much going on, adding in also that there were a lot more horses on the beach than normal he had too many distractions for me to try control in such an open space, when he gets like this it is best to just leave him. So I hopped off and began to walk him back to the box leaving the others to go on.(at this stage he was so wound up that he trotted beside me instead of walking most of the way) From the time I got off him, I had gotten the Gent who drove us to get the lunge line from the jeep, so that I could lunge him for 5-10 minutes hoping not to leave the whole experience a bad one. Long story short, when I got the lunge line the minute I clipped it on to his bridle, he made an escape & took off down the beach towards where the other three horses were. Mortified to say the least, it literally brought the entire beach to a standstill while I tried to catch him. Keeping in mind one of the girls jumped off her horse to attempt to catch Dante & fell flat on her arse in the process, I don’t think we made much of an impression to the onlookers!! Upon catching him I straight away lead him off the beach, in a bit of a huff as to his behaviour. I was so disappointed in him!
As bad as the above experience was, I will definitely be bringing him back. It has made me determined to work on his behaviour issues, also trying out a bit that may be give me a little more control.
I will pray to god that next time will be a bit more drama free, onwards & upwards until then!!
Our Top 5 Beach Ride Tips:
Always expect the unexpected
- Just because the horses did well their first time out, didn’t mean they would do so well their second time. We went out expecting our timid youngsters but instead got head-strong bulldozers! We’ll be much better prepared the next time we go out.
Give them the freedom to be curious while being aware of your surroundings
- If they’re willing to explore something new, don’t be afraid to let them. Just be prepared for any and all reactions. (never drop your contact completely!)
Let them relax and take a breath before re-loading
- We found that once we got back to the trailers the horses were a bit antsy and needed a moment to settle themselves. Once they had a wee and some nibbles of grass they chilled out and we could let them up. Noticing that they traveled back a lot more comfortably in the trailer!
Be aware of other horses and the public on the beach (Darielle & Dante…)
- Keep looking ahead for upcoming obstacles, especially when you’re galloping. Give people plenty of space and don’t gallop past fellow horse riders. For all you know they have excitable youngsters too! Oh..and try not to let your horse run free…Darielle…
Make sure you have backup – on the ground and in the saddle
- With the beach being such a wide open space, it’s always best to ensure you have some back-up, with both a person in the saddle of an older, more mature horse and someone on the ground who can offer assistance when needed. We were certainly grateful for both.
Darielle & Orla