Rider sur­rounded by rays


Sit­ting on her horse in shal­low wa­ters while be­ing cir­cled by a st­ingray as wide as a queen-size bed has given a Ka¯piti wo­man the ‘‘most amaz­ing wildlife ex­pe­ri­ence’’.

Deb­o­rah Read was rid­ing her horse Bo at Te Horo Beach last Satur­day af­ter­noon when they en­coun­tered a large group of st­ingrays bask­ing in the warm, calm wa­ter.

‘‘We were near the Pekapeka Stream out­let when I no­ticed the first one. Then about 20 feet on there was an­other, and then two more. Soon there were dozens, car­pet­ing the sea floor around us,’’ she said.

Most of the st­ingrays had wing­spans of be­tween half a me­tre and one me­tre, and were ‘‘sandy coloured with laven­der blotches’’.

‘‘When horses are in knee-deep wa­ter they like to pound the wa­ter with their hooves. It was the splash­ing that at­tracted the st­ingrays to­wards us. You could see all these rip­ples in the flat wa­ter com­ing in our di­rec­tion. I guess they were cu­ri­ous,’’ she said.

‘‘We kept still as they cir­cled, glid­ing al­most lazily, around us, with their wingtips flick­ing out of the wa­ter. It was quite beau­ti­ful.’’

Read said they car­ried on slowly, head­ing north, when she spot­ted ‘‘the big one’’.

‘‘I screamed out ‘look at the size of that’. It would have cov­ered my queen-size bed. It came up to us and when about three feet away its foot-long spike shot up out of the wa­ter - you could clearly see the barb on its tail - and it just kept cir­cling us, around and around.’’

She ad­mit­ted feel­ing slightly ap­pre­hen­sive, but mostly fas­ci­nated. ‘‘It was the most amaz­ing wildlife ex­pe­ri­ence.’’

‘‘Horses can­not see any­thing be­low the wa­ter sur­face, so they would have been obliv­i­ous to it.’’

Read said a vet had told her that a st­ingray could in­flict in­jury to a horse, if it stood on one, but would not be life-threat­en­ing.

In six years liv­ing at the beach, where she ran her ‘‘hobby busi­ness’’ Te Horo By Horse­back, Read had en­coun­tered sev­eral st­ingrays, but al­ways just one at a time.

‘‘Last Satur­day there would have been hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, in the wa­ter the whole way up Te Horo Beach. I’ve never seen any­thing like it.’’

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