Anyway, around 2 months ago (yes, 2 months! Stop rubbing it in how lazy I am!) Troy and I went horseback riding with two friends - my co-worker and her sister. Before you yawn, this was not just ANY horseback riding, it was BEACH horseback riding. Check out the company's website here - http://www.beachhorses.com/
This adventure was another wonderful Groupon opportunity that was purchased almost a year ago. Oh Groupon, how I love thee! Giraffes and Big Cats and Horses oh my... and on Saturday, Manatees! (I will tell you about that later).
Back to the horseback riding. So, Troy and I met up with our two friends in Bradenton, an hour and change from where we live. We pulled into a little dirt clearing where a few other cars were parked... we were pretty sure we were at the right spot when we saw a horse trailer on the side of the road, and horses frolicking in the water.
We walked up to the trailer to sign in and begin our ride. As we were walking I could see the last group of people in the water with the horses. 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 I was still going into the water... and both my co-worker and her sister wore shorts or a dress. Yup, I was kicking myself for the pants - but alas, it was too late now to change. I was stuck with my pants.
After signing a waiver or two, we were each assigned our horses. I was given "Sadie", who was definitely the best horse there. She had such personality, with 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 look just as uncomfortable as I felt! My co-workers sister was looking at me with humor and concern. Of course I played it off, because I'm a trooper. "Yep! I'm great!"
Here you can see I look as comfortable as I would be 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, though I still kept my legs clenched together as tight as possible while we were on dry land with the horses... Yep, 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 neat; walking in sand with 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 we were 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 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 had brought my waterproof camera (yay waterproof cameras) so you lucky people have the opportunity to see us in the water with our gallant steeds!
Man how I love my waterproof camera. After having one for these past few years, 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 10 minutes when my co-workers horse decided that she hated my horse. Those big horse chompers got really close to my leg when that mean horse tried to bite poor Sadie. Luckily the guides kept our two horses apart after that, because I was sure that my leg would 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 different. They called it "Horse Surfing", where you would stand on the back of the horse as they trot along in the water, and your job is to try to stay on without falling. Now don't worry, it was not harmful to the horse. The guides told us exactly where to put our feet, and really, there is no more 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!
So, I didn't fall off the horse... but because it would be so much funnier if SOMEONE fell off a horse, I did manage to get a video of one of us falling... *coughtroycough*
Watch the video below and enjoy! But don't tell Troy I uploaded it for the world to see!
After most of us tried horse surfing, (which we all stunk at, so don't feel too bad for Troy) 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 surfing, our next task was to try to get back onto the horses. Yeah, it's not as easy as it looks. Luckily I was graceful as a swan pulling myself back up on the horse... I do have a funnier picture of my co-worker getting onto her horse, but I guess I shouldn't share those pictures without her express written permission. Troy does not get the same treatment... I live with him so I don't mind showing embarrassing videos of him and spreading his name all over my blog :)
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 on. 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. (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 that 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 the trainers. Hah, 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 co-worker, and the guide 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 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 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.
So, that was our horse adventure! It was so much fun, though it only lasted about an hour. I would definitely recommend anyone to do it if they find a coupon for it, otherwise it might be a bit too pricy for most people. What a great experience. If I ever see another groupon for this, I will certainly buy it again!
Don't worry, I didn't forget to tell you about the manatees! This 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! Hooray for my brand new waterproof camera!