As lockdown restrictions lift and people start to get out and about more, riders who intend to enjoy a day at the beach with their horses are being encouraged to plan ahead. H&H explains the potential dangers and how riders can keep themselves and their horses safe...
A timely reminder for riders to plan ahead and be aware of what to do if things go wrong when visiting the beach has been given as the summer holidays get underway.
H&H has reported on several recent incidents involving horses, and some seaside councils have called on riders to ensure they stick to the rules.
Rebecca Eccles, who did all the correct checks and complied with the rules on a day at Cleethorpes beach this month, urged riders to be aware of the risks after her daughter Evie’s pony sank to her middle in soft mud at the water’s edge.
“We’ve been to beaches before, but you don’t think in a million years something like that might happen,” she said. “Beach riding is great fun but unless the sand is dry and looks sand-coloured, don’t ride on it. I hope this makes others aware and going forward I will check the beach on foot first before allowing Evie to ride on it.”
The British Horse Society (BHS) and coastguards have given guidance to riders heading to enjoy the coast.
“The first thing you should be looking at is tide times,” a spokesman for Burnham Coastguard in Somerset told H&H, adding that riders must also check in advance with councils as to which beaches they are allowed to ride on.
“We have had a number of incidents over the years involving horses and their riders in various predicaments.
“The most common practice among the more experienced beach riders is to either walk the beach on foot before riding or take a slow ride along it to get used to the terrain and find any spots to avoid. These are extremely dangerous for horses – we sadly had one previously who broke a leg in soft sand and had to be put down.
“If you are visiting any beaches where there are known mud flats, such as ours, ensure the tide has come in enough to avoid them before entering the water. Horses love the shallow water, but they will get stuck if you misjudge where the mud ends and the sand begins.
“That said, the beach is a place we see many riders enjoying safely every day; as with any ride, keep your wits about you and if anything does happen while at the coast, dial 999 and ask for the coastguards.”
BHS head of approvals Oonagh Meyer told H&H checking permitted times, tides, areas and bylaws is an important place to start.
“Gain local knowledge on suitability of the beach to avoid danger of unwittingly riding into an old groyne or sinking quicksand,” she said, adding that any time restrictions are likely to be to riders’ benefit, as these are at quieter periods.
“If there are areas where riding is not permitted, be sure you are clear about their extent and avoid them carefully; their boundaries may not be obvious even if they are above high water because signs and fences tend not to last long on the shore or may not be permitted.”
Ms Meyer said riders must avoid disturbing wildlife and plants, paying particular attention to dunes, salt marshes and estuaries, and should keep to designated paths where marked.
“Be cautious of the sea, and on first entrance, ride slowly,” she said.
“Approach at an angle rather than head-on because if your horse spooks at the breaking waves, he is then more likely to shy away from the water than rear, which is potentially more dangerous.
“Horses that are not used to the beach may be excited by the different environment, even if they are normally calm.
“Be wary of faster paces, especially in company, as horses may be stimulated into racing by the atmosphere, even if they would not normally do so in other places.”
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