Surf & Sand

Trail Rider - - YOUR TRAIL STORY - BY PAT STILL

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.

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