Monday, January 05, 2009

Giddy Up! Horse Surfing with Great World Nature Tours

Yesterday was the great horse surfing adventure out on Bradenton Beach with Great World Nature Tours. "How do you find these strange things?" my grandma asked.

Not sure, they just seem to find me. But remember, I'm all about bragging rights and yesterday's Horse Surfing 101 was definitely that.

I convinced my college pal Val to join in the adventure, none of my Sarasota friends were interested. The day began with a tasty lunch at the BeachHouse Restaurant before our aquatic equestrian adventure.

Sans Saddle, Giddy Up
There were four of us in our group, an adventurous mother and daughter, Val, and me. I think the other two were more experienced in horseback riding. I don't think I've been on one since my Yellowstone years. We rode the horses bareback which meant no saddle, no blankets, just a bridle. I used the step stool to mount my horse and at first, didn't think I was going to make it. Do you know how wide a horse is?

After managing to swing my right leg over the horse's back (who was named Batman), my body kept sliding over to the right. No stirrups to slip my feet into meant I had to quickly find a way to balance myself otherwise I was going to end of on the beach. Somehow, I managed to do so. Once perched, my body was engaged in a juggling act with my thighs doing most of the work. (I've decided riding a horse bareback is probably better for my thighs than that thigh reduction/abduction machine at the gym.)

Now what? I was instructed to grab Batman's mane for better balance and away we went along the beach. I'm sure I had a look of fear on my face. If it didn't show, I was definitely feeling it inside. Val asked me to smile for a photo and I think I managed a grimace between concentrating on hanging on for dear life. But once we got moving, I became more comfortable. Our little jaunt was about a mile long before entering the water and the fun continued.

Balancing on a Horse's Back
The horses were frisky in the cool water but once settled, Val and I took turns "horse surfing." It reminded me a bit like high school when having to perform on the balance beam during gym class. Except, this balance beam was a bit furrier, rounder, and bumpier.

I leaned forward, scooted my body towards the horse's back end and swung my feet up. Once gaining a grip with my toes, I stood up on my knees then slowly rose to a standing position. Standing tall I felt like Kate Winslet's character Rose in Titanic (sans a prince charming). I felt powerful. I felt like one of those circus bareback horse riders who showed off while prancing around the ring. I felt...the zing of the cold water and its salty taste as I lost my footing and plunged back first into the bay.

We rode around a bit more in the water, at least one swam with its rider atop. I had a little visitor, Bandit, a Jack Russel Terrier with an adorable underbite. (You'll see him in the Flickr photo stream.) He also belongs to the outfitter's owner and horse surfing originator, Timothy Mattox. He swam out in his little personal flotation device and sat on my lap then on the back of the horse.

I suppose to fully experience the "surfing" part of it, one would need to be standing on the horse as it swims or walks. Just standing on a relatively sedentary horse was difficult enough and learning to actually stand while balancing on an oversized, furry surfboard takes true coordination. Perhaps I'll register for Horse Surfing 201 to hone the skill.

Great World Nature Tours
The outfitter offers horseback riding on the beach in Bradenton along with trail rides in Venice, Fla. The hour-long horse surfing adventure costs $60 per person, the duration and cost of other horseback riding trips vary. Visit their Web site for a calendar of events, prices, and to see horse surfing videos. Or contact them at 941/650.1820.

If visiting the Tampa Bay area, Bradenton, Sarasota, Port Charlotte, or Punta Gorda, this is a fun way to spend an afternoon.

View my Flickr photo stream for images of the experience.

1 comment:

Keith said...

I like your story and that last horse photo is perfect.
I used to live on the Santa Barbara Polo grounds and the polo ponies were run across the street to the beach and got to swim and run in the surf. After their beach run the horses were hosed down with fresh water and groomed.
I don't know who had more fun the riders and groomers or the horses.