If you and your equine friend are looking to try something different on your next hack, how about a trip to the beach? At any time of year, there’s nothing quite like a ride along the sands amongst the waves and the bracing salty air.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a horse-friendly beach it could become a regular hack highlight.
However, while there are plenty of benefits to a beach ride there are also particular risks you need to plan ahead for. If you want to try out beach riding then you need to make sure it is safe.
If you’re wondering where to start, then read our top tips. We’ve also included a run down of some of the very best horse-friendly beaches in the UK for you both to explore.
Whether on the beach or on the field, safety has to be paramount on any hack if you want to have a great time with your faithful companion. And if things do go wrong, insurance for horses can help you financially so you can get back in the saddle in no time.
Benefits for riding a horse on a beach
As well as the pure romance of exploring the stunning coast of our country, there are many health benefits of riding on a sandy beach for both you and your horse. Here’s just a selection:
- Fitness – Long sandy stretches are good for building up fitness levels.
- Toning and strengthening – Riding on sand can encourage muscle tone and strength.
- A change of scenery – Horses are intelligent and inquisitive creatures. Giving your equine a nice day somewhere different is great for their mental wellbeing and a treat for both you and them.
- Rehabilitation – If you take your horse swimming while at the beach then this could be great for soothing sore limbs and healing skin complaints.
And if these health benefits aren’t enough to persuade you, how about the opportunity to enjoy the outstanding views from a new and very refreshing vantage point!
Top tips for riding a horse on a beach
If you want to get the best from your coastal outing then follow these tips to get beach-ready.
Always follow the rules for riding on the beach
Before you get the towels and sun cream out, first check whether horse riding on the beach is even allowed. Some beaches are out of bounds to horses. And even if they’re not, there might be strict rules and restrictions for riding on your favourite beach.
Remember, these restrictions are not there to spoil your fun. They’re designed to keep you, your horse and others safe. There are many unseen dangers on UK beaches, so take care to follow any rules to the letter.
For example, when and where does the beach allow riders? Restricting riding to certain times of day or year is often done to benefit riders so they can avoid the busiest times. Riding in the early morning or late in the evening is the perfect time to ride anyway!
Check the tide timetables before leaving. Aim to arrive a couple of hours before low tide. This avoids high tide and will give you both the most time on the sand.
Are there certain areas you can’t ride on? If there are, make doubly sure about where those boundaries are. Particularly as signs and fences often don’t last long on the ever-changing beach environment.
Don’t disturb wildlife and plants. As an animal lover you’ll care for the local environment. Areas such as dunes, salt marshes and estuaries are particularly vulnerable to damage and shouldn’t be ridden on. Find out where these are so you can avoid them. Keep to designated paths if you can.
Finally, double check with the local council if you need a permit or you need to pay any charges. The council will be able to provide you with individual beach guidelines as well as details of available parking and suitable access points.
Visit the beach beforehand to get the low down
Before making the drive with your horse (unless it’s a very local beach) you’ll need to recce the beach. A pre-ride visit is the perfect opportunity to take a look at which areas are safe to ride on, as well as finding out about the all-important parking. After all, if you can’t get your horse onto the beach then there’s absolutely no point in going!
Sandy beaches can be deceptive and no two are ever quite the same. Finding out which areas will provide firm, consistent going – and which ones won’t – is essential to having a safe and successful day out. Why not meet your friends and their dogs there for a stroll? And, if you see someone else riding there, have a quick chat with them. Personal recommendations and local knowledge are invaluable.
If neither you nor your horse have ever ridden on a beach before, then contact a BHS-accredited riding centre on the coast and hit the sands for the first time with one of their experienced horses.
Take a friend, and their horse
Horses are herd animals and can often feel nervous in unfamiliar situations, particularly if their equine friends are not nearby. Just as you wouldn’t take your horse on a hack to a new place alone, the beach should be no different.
Try to go with a friend whose horse is already familiar with the sights, smells and sounds of the coast. That way you’ll both feel more confident and more likely to enjoy the new experience.
Keeping you, your horse and other beach users safe is an important consideration. If you’ve got company then if something should happen and you take a tumble, having an experienced helper could make a big difference.
Remember horse insurance can help cope with any expensive vet bills following an accident.
Prepare to succeed
Even the calmest of horses can get over-excited by the breezy and stimulating environment of the beach. Make sure you all stay on course for a great day’s riding with some pre-beach prep.
- Make sure your horse loads and travels well. Having a stressful journey from the yard to the beach is never a great start to the day.
- Be wary of faster paces. Make sure your horse can hack out with a group and go for a canter together without it turning into a race. Being out of control is dangerous on a beach.
- Get them used to distractions. As well as dogs and walkers, you’ll need to contend with surfboards, kites, prams, umbrellas, and even sandcastles! Getting them used to such unusual sights beforehand is a good idea. Especially as you’re unlikely to have the sand to yourself. Fellow beach users can be unpredictable!
- Know who to call for help. If you find yourself in an emergency situation call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. If you are inland and see someone in difficulty on the water, be it on a river or a lake, you should ask for Fire and Rescue.
Ride sensibly and respect fellow users
Always be friendly towards other beach goers and thank those who act in your favour, such as keeping their dogs under control or slowing down to let you pass. Always bring a shovel and clean up after your horse.
Riding near unfamiliar dogs can be tricky. Read our safety tips for further advice.
Check your kit list
Unless you’re lucky enough to be stabled with the beach on your doorstep, you’ll need to take all the necessary kit with you in your transport. Knowing exactly what you need to bring will help keep you confident and safe on your coastal ride. So, here are a few things to add to your kit list:
- An appropriate riding helmet and body protector.
- A change of clothes in case you get wet or cold.
- A cooler and a thicker rug for your horse after the ride.
- Water for them to drink and to wash them off with.
- A neck strap, martingale or breastplate.
- Brushing and over-reach boots.
- High-vis clothing for you and your horse. That way you can be spotted from a distance even if you get separated.
- Tags with your contact details on. Attach these to your horse’s saddle and bridle.
Be cautious of the sea
Riding on the beach is one thing, entering the sea is another. While swimming with a horse can be an amazing experience, it can quickly go very wrong if you’re not careful. Read our quick guide to swimming with horses before you even think about entering the water.
Best horse-friendly beaches to ride on
There are lots of horse-friendly beaches in the UK, here are some of our favourites.
Camber Sands is a popular beach for horse riders, kite surfers and a whole host of others looking for a great day out in the fresh air. Riding is permitted around low tide hours only. In summer, riding is only permitted on weekdays and you need to be off the beach by 8.30am and in the evenings after 7pm.
Holkham Bay - Norfolk
With the Household Cavalry choosing Holkham beach for their summer getaway each year you won’t be disappointed with a trip to this stunning stretch of Norfolk coastline. Featuring miles of undisturbed sand to paddle, gallop and splash on it’s a horse-riding paradise. There’s even dedicated parking for horseboxes! It’s a popular place and there is a Holkham coastal code that you’ll need to follow.
With seven miles of beach to really stretch their legs on, this is a great location to ride. Better yet, small trailers are also able to park on the beach. There are lots of activities for all the family in this area so there’s plenty to do even for non-riders. Beware of sinking sands in this area and follow all signage to the letter.
Red Wharf Bay - North Wales
There are lots of reasons why Anglesey is brilliant for horse riding, and the beautiful beach of Red Wharf Bay provides the perfect destination to discover why. Be aware that because the beach is so flat the tide can come in quite quickly so you need to keep your wits about you! It’s also a wonderful place for wildlife spotting. Take your binoculars and you’re bound to see many wading birds such as Shelduck, purple Sandpipers, Curlew and Oystercatchers.
Scotland - West Sands, St Andrews
The two uninterrupted miles of amazing sandy beach here are beloved by locals and visitors alike for walking, running, sand yachting, kite flying, horse riding, polo, volleyball and swimming. If the beach looks familiar then that’s because it was here they filmed the famous opening scenes of the film Chariots of Fire. Just a 15-minute walk from the bustling town centre of St Andrews, it’s the perfect place for a family day out. The dunes that back onto the beach are internationally renowned and home to many important plant and animal species.
Northern Ireland - Downhill Beach, County Derry
Part of a gorgeous seven-mile stretch of sand and sea along the Causeway Coast of County Derry in Northern Ireland, Downhill Beach is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in the country.
The beach and dunes are overlooked by the cliffs of the National Trust-owned Downhill Demesne and the prominent 18th Century ruins of Mussenden Temple, one of the most photographed buildings in Northern Ireland. The views are simply stunning and it’s a great area to explore with your equine friend.
For a great day out, get horse insurance through Equesure
Going to the beach with your horse is a great way to experience all our wonderful country has to offer. And whatever your level of horse-riding experience, a policy arranged through the specialist team at Equesure will guard against the financial fall-out of an accident.
From happy hackers and competition horses to trusty veterans, with over 60 years of experience in the insurance market, Equesure can offer you and your horse a bespoke horse insurance policy tailored to both your needs and budget.
Get a quote for horse insurance today.
Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.