Beach Horseback Riding in the Outer Banks, North Carolina
A Different Way to Experience the Outer Banks
by Jan Lamoglia
Learn more about horseback riding on the beach and riding vacations in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide.
Remember that scene in The Black Stallion directed by Frances Ford Coppola where Alec rides bareback on the beach for the first time? They back and forth gallop in the surf with total freedom and wild abandon. Then there is that wonderful musical score swelling in the background. Just amazing.
Well, there is a place where you can live out your galloping-on-the-beach fantasies, and it’s in one of my most favorite places in the world: the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
The Outer Banks are a thin ribbon of barrier islands off the coast and most known for their wonderful beaches, world-class fishing and gently developed seaside towns. History abounds here dating back to the Lost Colony which settled nearby on Roanoke Island in the late 16th century and then mysteriously disappeared. The Wright Brothers made their first flight here, and the pirate Blackbeard is not only legendary in these parts, but “true story” as well.
My husband and I have vacationed there for more than ten years and eventually bought a rental house in Nags Head. I love the beach, especially in the off-season, but my one wish was that there was a place to ride nearby.
I had heard about a stable called Equine Adventures that offers two-hour rides for people of all skill levels. My teenage daughter and I signed up for a ride in October. As luck would have it, we were the only riders that day, and enjoyed our guide’s very knowledgeable and interesting history of the area all to ourselves. We were introduced to two very steady and experienced trail horses, Sheena and Levi. Ricky, our guide, rode an amazing 17-hand Percheron gelding named Tonka, usually reserved for the non-rider husband or boyfriend.
After Ricky gave us her rules of the road, we mounted and walked down the lane to the edge of one of the area’s oldest and largest maritime forests. The woods were amazing—a wide variety of plants and pine trees, all growing in sand. We crossed a stream that was quite deep, but the horses were well familiar with the footing and knew exactly where to step.
Forty-five minutes later, we got closer to the beach, and the dense trees became sparser and were gradually replaced by interesting flowering beach shrubs and tall dune grasses. While most people think of the beach as being flat and monotonous, the terrain was full of small hills which made the ride all the more interesting. There was so much to look at as we kept eyes peeled, hoping to see a deer, raccoon, turtles and the many varieties of birds in the area.
We stopped at the last hill that would take us over the dune line and onto the beach. The sand was a bit deeper here, and we could hear the crashing waves in the distance. Ricky checked our stirrups and girths for us. The horses knew they were close to the beach and ready for a gallop.
Walking over that last dune was spectacular—the ocean was an amazing shade of blue as it often is at this time of year. The beach is extremely wide and since there are no beachfront homes here, very few people. To the North, we could see the famous candy-striped Cape Hatteras light house in the distance and to the South, more wide sand, water and sky.
The only people on the beach were a handful of locals who drive their trucks and SUVs out onto the beach to fish and spend the day. They are familiar with the daily horseback riding trips and are good about keeping their dogs close and not trying to startle the horses. The beach here is huge and yet there is a commonality among all who share it—locals and visitors alike take great pride in preserving the beach and its traditions and history.
We decided to head north and started off at a trot. Riding on sand feels so different from a regular dirt trail or arena. You feel as though you are sinking into the sand a bit, but since it was low tide, the sand was firm enough to give the horses plenty of support.
Ricky asked us if we were up for picking up the pace. It had been a long time since I had experienced an all-out gallop, so I was relieved when my horse responded when I pulled on the reins. I had lost a stirrup, and he slowed so that I could find it again and did not seem to mind that we had fallen behind my daughter and Ricky who had taken off ahead of us. After getting myself organized again, we took off to catch up. Levi was steady and not rushed. With the wind in my face, the hum of the waves breaking on the beach in my ears and the rhythmic hoof beats of my horse under me, I really felt like Alec on The Black Stallion.
It was also the first time my daughter had experienced a true gallop, and the “mom alarm” in my head went off for a split second, but when I caught up and saw the huge smile on her face, I knew she was fine.
Ricky took photos of us so that we could capture this perfect day, and we started back at a walk. The ocean was beautiful and the weather was spectacular, as it often is in October. Not surprisingly, the horses knew exactly where to find the break in the dunes that led to the trail home. The ride back through the dunes and pine forest were just as interesting as our ride out, even more so as the sun was dropping in the sky and cast a new and different light on our surroundings.
We were tired but exhilarated when we reached the stables. We thanked our horses and our guide and no sooner were we in the truck to drive back home when my daughter asked me when could we come back, and bring Dad. Wouldn’t he enjoy riding that big Percheron?
Funny, I was just thinking the same thing…
How You Can Horseback Ride on the Beach in the Outer Banks
Check out great places to horse ride on the beach, dude ranches, guest ranches and global riding vacations in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide. For more information about year-round beach rides at Equine Adventures in Frisco, NC, visit Equine Adventures. Rides book quickly, so advance reservations are required.
About the Author
Jan Lamoglia is a Communications/PR professional by day and part-time rider whenever possible. She blogs about riders who return to riding as adults in her blog Mid Life Horse Crisis. Follow her on Twitter @midlifehorse.