Beach riders are being warned about venturing into the sea after a horse drowned in Cornwall last week (23 July).

The horse died after his rider took him out into the sea off Marazion beach, Penzance.

“The rider had managed to get back to shore unhurt, but the horse had disappeared from view into the sea,” said a spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Jo Winfield of the British Horse Society (BHS) said this incident highlighted the dangers of riding in the sea.

“If a rider parts company with the horse, the horse’s natural instinct will often be to swim in a straight line — which may be out to sea,” she said.

“Horses find it very difficult to turn in water, which can lead to devastating consequences.”

The week before, Cornwall Sea Horses, based near Marazion beach, was featured in a local paper, promoting sea riding sessions.

The horse that died was not associated with the centre.

Vikki Timmons of Cornwall Sea Horses told H&H she was “distressed” by the incident.

“We are being bombarded, as if this is our fault,” she said.

“We have strict safety measures. Our horses are used to swimming, plus we use short ropes rather than reins and wear wetsuits, not riding gear. When it’s done safely, it’s an amazing experience.”

Former Household Cavalry riding master Richard Waygood used to take troopers and horses on the beach in Norfolk during summer holidays.  “We used to have someone in a canoe, to ensure a horse couldn’t swim off. I wouldn’t recommend swimming alone,” he said.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (1 August 2013)