There are a number of beaches around England, Wales and Ireland that allow riding and BHS Approved centres that offer the opportunity to ride on a beach.
There are many health benefits of riding on a sandy beach for horse and rider. Long sandy stretches are good for building up fitness levels and often the sand can encourage muscle tone and strength. It can provide outstanding views of the sea and is a refreshing way to see areas of beauty throughout the coasts of England, Wales and Ireland.
Beach riding can be a wonderful experience for both you and your horse if you are aware of a few points of legality and safety.
Is riding on the beach permitted?
Check that riding on the beach is permitted. It may be limited to certain times, days or areas and there may be bylaws. Restrictions on time will often be to riders’ benefit, being at quieter periods such as early morning and late evening when there may be fewer other users to avoid.
If there are areas where riding is not permitted, be sure you are clear about their extent and avoid them carefully; their boundaries may not be obvious even if they are above high water because signs and fences tend not to last long on the shore or may not be permitted.
Always avoid disturbing wildlife and plants, paying particular attention to dunes, salt marshes and estuaries. Keep to designated paths. Sand dunes and salt marshes are fragile environments and riding through or over them should be avoided for conservation reasons, even if riding is not specifically prohibited.
It is important not to disturb birds when they are feeding at low tide, particularly during prolonged bad weather as adverse conditions will already have upset the birds’ feeding.
Your horse’s reactions
Horses that are not used to the beach may be excited by the different environment, even if they are normally calm. It is often breezy and the atmosphere is stimulating and very different. Horses will respond to the change and you should be prepared. Be wary of faster paces, especially in company, as horses may be stimulated into racing by the atmosphere, even if they would not normally do so in other places. Being out of control could be particularly dangerous where there are people who may not realise that you cannot stop. There could be areas of softer sand, debris, holes or other hazards – you need to be able to avoid them. People commonly exercise dogs on the beach, and the dogs can become excitable and more difficult to recall, so be particularly alert if you see dogs and keep to a walk near them.
Be cautious of the sea, and on first entrance ride slowly. Some shores are shallow for some distance, some shelve steeply or suddenly. Approach the sea at an angle rather than head on because if your horse spooks at the breaking waves, it is then more likely to shy away from the water than rear, which is potentially more dangerous. Approaching alongside the shallows often encourages nervous horses to get their feet wet Be aware that loose horses (and other animals) entering the water tend to head straight out to sea which of course has a high risk unless they can be reached in time.