Horse rider surrounded by stingrays
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 these 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, and possibly make it lame for a short period, but would not be lifethreatening.
In six years living at the beach, where she ran her ‘‘hobby business’’ Te Horo By Horseback, Read had encountered only several stingray, 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.’’
Read believed a pod of orca that had been sighted off the coast at the weekend may have forced the stingrays - a favourite food of orca - to seek sanctuary in the shallow waters.
Te Horo Beach resident Deborah Read with her horses Bo, left, and Charlotte, after their encounter with hundreds of stingrays at the weekend. Top right, a ray. Deborah Read