Every horse rider whether they own a horse or not has visions of galloping down a deserted beach or splashing in the surf with their horse. The British Isles is blessed with hundreds of miles of fabulous coastline and a lot of this is available to horse riders.
The situation in the UK is piecemeal and there is no one universal set of rules about where you can ride on a beach so you need to do your homework first. Around the UK coastline, the access and control of beaches usually rest with the beach owner; this might be the local authority who own many beaches or the beach could still be in private ownership.
It’s quite easy to find out online who owns a particular beach and whether horse riding is permitted. Or, if you are on holiday in a particular area, there will be certain beaches popular with horse riders and this is quite simple to discover. Don’t assume if you see horses on the beach from riding schools, holiday centres or even racing yards that you can automatically take your own horse as these centres may have specific authority granted by a special permit.
Find out from the local authority or the landowner the rules about equine access. You may be restricted to certain times of the day or certain times of year or you may be required to only ride your horse on designated areas of the beach to avoid holidaymakers. Most local authorities prefer horses off the beach between 10 am and 6 pm April to September as a rule to avoid any potential hazards or health and safety issues with other beachgoers. Some beaches don’t allow galloping or fast work during the main part of the season at all. There may also be a charge to use the beach.
Some beaches have designated areas like SSSI – Sites of Special Scientific Interest – and this may be out of bounds either permanently or temporarily at certain times of the year due perhaps to nesting birds or some other sensitive environmental issue. Salt marshes and sand dunes are fragile environments and many local authorities do not permit riding in these areas for conservation reasons.
Most beaches that welcome horses are usually pretty well geared up to accommodate them. Before you go, find out whether there is a designated parking area for lorries and trailers – you are likely to have to pay to park like everyone else.
Research access to the beach – it could be a crowded path where you have to avoid holidaymakers or it could be a separate route. There may be bio-security issues in place in terms of equine flu protection so your horse may require an up-to-date flu vaccination in line with current RCVS advice. The landowner may require you to have a hard hat and a body protector as minimum safety equipment to ride on the beach.
Etiquette for riding on the beach
The presence of a horse can be quite exciting for children and dogs and they may come running up to you. Always take a young or nervous horse in the company of an older more established horse who is used to working on the beach.
Horses that are not used to the beach or who have never been to the beach before may become very excited even if they are usually calm of temperament. It is a unique environment and it may take a novice or young horse several trips to the beach before they settle down and become more relaxed about it. It is always better for new equine visitors to the beach to do slow work until they have got used to this new and stimulating environment.
Be aware of riding into the water as it can be hard to assess the footing and some beaches shelve suddenly and quite steeply and it can be easy for a horse to quickly get out of his depth or lose his footing. Don’t ride head on into the sea but approach the waves at an angle and then move gradually into deeper water.
The best place to gallop a horse if it is permitted and subject to people in the water is along the waterline just as the waves are breaking as this is where the sand is at its most even and consistent. Beaches can vary hugely in their footing for the horse and it is possible to go from rock hard wet sand to deep dry sand within a stride and this can be very dangerous for horse’s legs. Plenty of people have left the beach with a tendon or ligament injury so if you are unsure where it is best to work the horse then go with someone experienced who has done it before and uses the beach regularly.
Try and avoid areas where there are lots of people. If you want to gallop or do fast work then the best time to ride is early in the morning or late on in the evening when there are fewer people about.
There are no regulations about removing horse dung but most people do it out of politeness in the same way that you would remove dog faeces. Some councils and local authorities do request this, either that you pick up the dung and take it home with your or that you at least remove it from the main shore area out of respect for other beach users.
Top Tips for Beach Riding
- Always check the tide times – it is easy to get caught out and cut off and plenty of people have needed to be rescued with their horse after getting into difficulty
- Remember that some coastal locations have poor mobile signal and wi-fi coverage so always have a Plan B if you need to phone for help
- Salt water can be quite drying for leather so wash your tack thoroughly as soon as you get home to remove all the salt and then when dry, oil it with Neatsfoot oil or treat with a leather balsam or conditioning leather food
To ride on a beach is one of the most special experiences for any rider and many people who live in coastal locations regularly use their local beach for leisure and training purposes. Salt water is excellent to harden horse’s legs and long sandy stretches are ideal to help build up horse and rider fitness for competitive equestrian sports.
Some essentials to take
- Jodhpurs or long trousers.
- Waterproof/windproof jacket and trousers
- Short riding boots or ride/walk boots. Please bear in mind you will probably be walking some of the way and so you do need boots that are comfortable to walk in.
- Long sleeved shirt and/or T shirts,
- Warm clothing/Fleece . We find that several layers works better than one thick layer
- Underwear. Cycling shorts are good for long days in the saddle.
- Fluorescent tabard.
- Riding hat
- Head torch
To take with you on the trail
- Map case and compass if travelling without a guide
- Halter /headcollar and rope to ride with so you can tie up at lunch time if you want to.
To put in your saddlebags
- Sun cream
- Small unbreakable thermos and water bottle
- Camera, film, batteries and binoculars..
- String and a penknife
- Cable ties (great for mending tack)
- Hoof pick
- Fly repellent
- First aid kit for both horse and human to go in your saddlebag. (we would recommend carrying some in your bum bag and some in your saddle bags
- Extra layers of clothing. You need to have a system for either tying extra clothes or waterproofs onto your saddle or putting them into your saddle bags. Football laces are great for tying things to the ‘d’ rings on your saddles or things on top of your saddle bags
- You need to allow space in your saddle bag to fit your packed lunch each day.
We recommend that you wear a bum bag with essentials. Things you want to be able to get to on the move and also things that you will need should you and your horse part company!
- Mobile phone
- Small amount of cash
- Lip salve
To go with the luggage ferry
- Your spare riding clothes
- Personal toiletries.
- Casual clothes for evening.
- Trainers or comfortable shoes for evening.
- Chargers and batteries for cameras & mobile phones
- Some of your accommodation is licensed so you can purchase drinks and where it isn’t licensed you are welcome to bring drinks that can travel with the luggage ferry.
For your horse
- Tack cleaning kit / re conditioning should saddles etc get wet.
- Spare numnahs
- Grooming kit.
- Fly repellent
- Hoof pick
- Hay & hay net as required (if you are using a licensed haulier for your journey home they do not supply hay)
- Horse feed
- Feed buckets
- Rugs , cooler and waterproof.
- Travel boots etc if you are not ending your ride at Brandy House and are using horse transport to get back – eg from the beach
- Horse Passports