Hooves pounding. Waves crashing. Heart racing. My morning had certainly got off to an interesting start!
Drenched from head to toe…butt aching, thighs sore…I straddled a 600 lb horse, laughing as another wave swept over us. Had I been in this churning surf on my own, I’d have undoubtedly taken a few tumbles. But, atop my sturdy steed; I felt as secure as if my feet were planted firmly on solid ground.
His name was Morning Calm, a purebred English thoroughbred, and one of 13 equines in the Being with Horses herd. We had only just met an hour ago, during the pre-tour orientation, but I was already attached. Maybe it was because he specifically chose me to be his partner on this little adventure. Or maybe it was because we were in a situation that required mutual trust. However, as we frolicked in the ocean like kindred water-baby spirits, I wondered if he somehow sensed that my love for the ocean mirrored his own.
Funny enough, at the start of our little excursion, I was very much like Ariel (everyone’s favorite little mermaid) when she first attempted to use her new legs on land. It was my first time riding a horse, and it showed. I was tense, wary, and incredibly conscious of the fact that I was now responsible for an entire living creature. If it weren’t for the gentle coaching I received from Veronika, one of the founders of Being with Horses, Morning Calm and I may very well have still been trotting through the narrow streets of Buccoo Village. I just couldn’t seem to muster the confidence required for an animal as intelligent and powerful as a horse to trust me to guide him.
Taking Veronika’s advice, I started talking to Morning Calm in soothing tones. I offered him words of encouragement, as well as appreciation for choosing me as his rider. As we strolled through the trees that line the beach at Buccoo Bay, I slowly felt the tension being released from my body. But it wasn’t until he made that initial SPLASH into our first wave that I felt truly at ease.
What followed was one of the most meaningful “tourist” experiences I have ever had. Because at Being with Horses, it’s not just about a novelty ride on the beach. It’s about discovering the possibilities that exist when humans engage with animals in an open, honest and respectful manner.
My Being with Horses swim and trail tour was without a doubt one of the highlights of my month-long retreat. If you’d like to participate in this incredible tour, here’s everything you need to know about horseback riding in Tobago.
A few things to know about horseback riding in Tobago
Where can you go horseback riding in Tobago?
Being with Horses has called the seaside village of Buccoo home since it opened its doors 12 years ago. Their office and stables are at 14 Galla Trace while the sprawling park is located a short distance away. Reservations can be made online and cost US $100. The entire experience lasts approximately 2 hours, and no prior horseback riding experience is required. The only limitation is the 190 lb weight restriction, which is observed to ensure the wellbeing of the horses.
What to wear while horseback riding in Tobago
When you’re venturing into the water with a wild animal there’s a 100% guarantee you’re going to get wet. So, wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind getting soaked. If you know you’ll want to dry off once the tour is over, walk with a towel and a change of clothes. Shoes aren’t an issue as you’ll be riding barefoot. Being with Horses also provides straps to secure your glasses and cute cowboy hats if you want to add a little flair to your look. As it relates to items such as cameras and phones, I strongly recommend leaving those behind in the lockers provided. Apart from the fact that you’re going to get wet, guiding a horse requires all of your attention, so leave the photography to the photographer that follows you on the trail.
All of Being with Horses’ animals are rescues
(With one exception – Princess Julie, the only animal to be born at the park). All other animals, from the horses and ponies to the dogs and cats, were adopted. Each horse has a remarkable story that Veronika shares as she introduces them. There are racehorses like Morning Calm, who was banned from racing after multiple refusals to leave the starting gate. Show horses like Navajo, who once had an illustrious career in dressage and jumping before an injury resulted in retirement. And Jennifer, the founding horse of Being with Horses, who once lived with a herd of sheep in Speyside, before she and Vernokia embarked upon a 20 hr, 35 km cross-island journey to Buccoo.
Regardless of their backgrounds and pedigrees, every single animal arrived at Being with Horses because their previous owners were seeking a more fulfilling and natural life for them. And indeed, that’s what they found at this haven in Buccoo. You can read more about each horse’s story here.
The animals at Being with Horses live the herd life
Home for these horses is a large park where they spend up to 16 hours a day in open paddock and corrals. Free to graze as much as they want and engage with each other as they would in the wild, they live life as they should – untethered and unencumbered. Along with their freedom to roam, the animals also get to frolic on the sand and swim in the ocean every day! Because Being with Horses is built upon the premise of natural horsemanship, there is no place for saddles and bits. Instead, horses are equipped with comfortable saddle pads and bitless bridles. To guide a horse, riders must learn to exude the confidence and leadership skills required to gain the trust of the animal. The team believes that “happy horses have happy riders” and so their primary goal is always to ensure their animals are well cared for and no activity they engage in should be forced upon them.
At Being with Horses, the horse chooses you
Maintaining a healthy herd means ensuring the animals are comfortable in everything they do – including giving rides to visitors. While you very well may have fallen in love with a particular horse while browsing Being with Horses’ website or social media profiles, the choice of who you ride does not rest with you. It doesn’t even belong to the Being with Horses team. Instead, each horse has the opportunity to choose their rider. Once released from their stall, they will approach each visitor and sniff their palms before making a decision. Depending on their mood, a particular horse may not choose anyone at all and in those instances, it is understood they don’t want to be ridden. Their decision is respected and they’re allowed to make the trek to the beach solo. With all those factors to consider, it’s not hard to understand why Morning Calm choosing me absolutely made my day/week/month. And the truth is, there’s something pretty spectacular about an innocent and highly intuitive animal thinking you’re cool.
Riding with Being with Horses helps the work of Healing with Horses
Being with Horses supports the non-profit foundation, Healing with Horses. Founded in 2010, Healing with Horses is an amazing community organisation that facilitates equine therapy for disabled children. Through annual summer camps and weekly sessions year-round, the children participate in a range of activities such as arts and crafts, dance, yoga, nature walks, gardening and rhythm therapy sessions. Along with all of that, the icing on the cake is, of course, the experience of bonding with the horses as each child has the opportunity to ride and spend time grooming and feeding the horses. By booking a tour with Being with Horses, you’re contributing to the work Healing with Horses is doing. If you’d like to contribute more directly however, you can learn more about making a donation or volunteering here.
As it turns out, even when you’re on a paradisical island, the urge occasionally arises to do more than lounge around on beaches all day. Every now and then you feel inclined to go in search of thrilling adventures. Lucky me, I found one such adventure with Being with Horses. And you can too! Next time you’re on the island, don’t miss the opportunity to go horseback riding in Tobago. I promise you it will be a unique and incredibly rewarding experience!
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