Surf & Sand
W“Wow, wow, wow, it’s the ocean.” This is what I heard from the kids who had never seen the ocean before as we headed the horses down the ramp onto the beach. It all started when my husband and I invited my longtime friend, Kris-Anne Ferguson, and her two daughters — Sinclair, 15, and Kennedy, 11 — to come visit us in Florida. The kids had never been to Florida before. All three love riding and are very accomplished riders.
I only have a three-horse trailer, so Kris-Anne just planned on staying on the beach, while her daughters and I rode.
My husband and I live in an equine community that backs up to 125 miles of trails in Goethe State Forest. Although we enjoy riding there, I wanted to take a trip to Butler Beach State Park, five miles south of St. Augustine on Anastasia Island in St. Johns County (www.stateparks.com/ butler_beach_state_park_in_florida.html).
There’s another beach access just south of Jacksonville, Florida, at Ponte Vedra Beach. Both beaches are very wide with hard-packed sand, which is great footing for the horses.
This reader’s equestriantravel dream comes true when she trailers her gaited horses from her equine-community home near Goethe State Forest to ride in Butler Beach State Park, Florida.
Permit & Parking
There are 30 miles of beach riding in St. Johns County. To ride on the beach, you’ll need to get a permit through the St. Johns County Government website (www. co.st-johns.fl.us/HCP/Riding.aspx). The free permit, good for five years, allows you to guide up to 10 people on the beach. Note that to obtain the permit, you’ll need to watch a “Protected Species Training” slideshow and take a quiz. There’s a designated parking area for horse-trailers at Frank B. Butler County Park East.
On the Beach
It was a wonderful day in January, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather with the sun shining and temperatures in the 60s to low 70s.
After saddling the horses, the kids and I headed down the ramp and onto the beach. From there, the girls rode the horses right into the ocean. It was very exciting for me to see the girls seeing, hearing, touching, and smelling the ocean.
Sinclair was riding my new horse, TWH Darby. Darby had been to the beach once before, so she went right into the ocean. Kennedy was riding a gaited pony, Snap, who I now owned. After owning Snap for three years, Kennedy was about to outgrow the pony and get a horse. I was fortunate to be able to buy Snap. I bought the pony last fall and had taken her home from western Kentucky where Kris-Anne and the girls lived.
This was Snap’s first trip to the beach. She was a little hesitant to go into the ocean, but with a little encouragement from Kennedy, she went in.
I rode my gelding, a 20-year-old Paso that had been to the beach numerous times.
The girls had a great time cantering the horses through the surf. We also spent time just riding the horses down the beautiful beach. TTR
Kennedy (left) and Sinclair Ferguson, accomplished riders, had never seen the ocean before. Here, they’re enjoying riding on the beach aboard Pat Still’s gaited horses at Butler Beach State Park, Florida.
Pat Still lived her dream of riding on Butler Beach State Park on Anastasia Island in St. Johns County. Shown left to right: Pat Still aboard her Paso gelding; Sinclair Ferguson aboard Still’s new horse, TWH Darby; and Kennedy Ferguson aboard Snap, a gaited pony once owned by Kennedy, now owned by Pat Still.