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Beach Riding - Biomechanics, Benefits and Tips

Riding your horse on the beach is an exhilarating experience: the feeling of freedom as you gallop along the sand, the rhythmic sound of hooves mingling with the waves, the sun reflecting off the water and the fresh salty air - it's an opportunity to connect with nature and your horse in a profound way, offering both a peaceful retreat and an exciting challenge. A beach ride can be a memorable adventure for both rider and horse and is one that is on many bucket lists.

Not only is riding on the beach a thrilling experience, but it’s also one that is packed with biomechanical benefits. This article will explain some of the benefits of beach riding as well as give you some top tips if you're thinking about venturing to the beach and how to ensure you and your horse have the best experience.

“I recently had a weekend away with my horse Toby and two Labradors, Hugo and Poppy. We visited Fraisthorpe beach in East Yorkshire. It was the first time I had ridden Toby on the beach and it was a fabulous few days away. There is something truly magical about cantering along the sand with the sun out and the gentle breeze off the sea in your face.”


Top Tip - It's all in the Planning

Plan your beach trip to make sure it's a positive experience. Check tide times, parking for horseboxes, and some places only allow horses on the beach as certain times of the day. Always be aware of other beachgoers, and understand the local regulations regarding riding on the beach.

Take it Steady

If you’ve not ridden on the beach before or taken your horse in the sea, don’t be in too much of a hurry to get your horse into the water. Enjoy riding up and down the beach first alongside the sea to give him time to take the new sights and sounds in. Some horses can get a little overwhelmed by this new experience and need a little bit of time and reassurance.

Once you feel they're relaxing on the beach and walking alongside the water, then you can gradually start to ask them to go in. Continue to ride along the beach and don’t just turn them into the sea and waves. Let your horse experience small waves first and allow him to become accustomed to that before moving in a little more and so on. Even the most experienced competition horses who are used to jumping into water can be nervous and unsure about the waves, so take your time.

In an ideal situation have a lead horse that's experienced and has been in the sea before and is used to the waves to give your horse confidence. Don't ask too much and keep to shallow water until your horse builds confidence over a number of beach rides.

“I was really pleased with how he responded to the waves - he took it all in his stride,” explains Gillian. “On the first day we just went in the shallow areas. By the third time we rode on the beach, I went up to the hock height. Toby was absolutely fantastic, but it’s important to build your horse’s confidence gradually.”


Benefits of Beach Riding

There are numerous benefits to beach riding – it can be the perfect setting for some fitness work and a refreshing change of scenery, which can be mentally stimulating and reduce stress for both of you. Here, we go into a bit more detail about some of the beach benefits.

1. A different workout

'Variety is the spice of life' is a phrase we hear often and riding on the beach and through water is a lovely way of doing a completely different workout for the muscular skeletal system, and a fresh experience for the mind too.


2. Working in water

Water work is good for horses for a number of different reasons and many of you who have watched any of our webinars or been to our live lecture demonstrations will know how much Gillian loves pole work. Many will have heard her say that walking through water is an alternative to pole work.

Walking in shallow water up to around fetlock height really encourages the horse to lift their legs up higher, increasing the joint flexion and moving their joints in a different way. and also when they lift their leg up higher, it has to work hard in terms of lateral stability and balancing muscles, which makes it a really good core recruitment exercise, good for the core muscles as well as the muscles involved in creating joint flexion.

The splashing of water on your horse's tummy is a little extra benefit of walking through water This sensation can encourages further abdominal recruitment.

Going Deeper

Walking in deeper water is good to a point because your horse will have to lift his limbs more increasing flexion in the joints and more core recruitment, which is a good workout for your horse. However, at a certain point and depth of water the horse is going to stop lifting their legs up and instead they're going to drag their legs through the water. This increases the drag and weight on the limbs and requires a lot of strength and effort from your horse, so be careful and don’t over do it.

3. Brain Training

A new experience for your horse can be very fulfilling for both of you. It can be a great way to press the refresh button on your training if things are getting a bit stale.  

“I often feel when I go to the beach and hear the different sounds and the smell of the sea that there’s something quite refreshing about the whole experience which recharges the batteries and I come away relaxed and refreshed. It’s good for mind, body and soul.”


4. Salt Water

The soothing properties of saltwater are known to help with injuries, skin complaints and reducing swelling, making beach rides a therapeutic outing. Also, there's the positive effect of being in cold water.


5. Get the Heart Pumping

Beach riding is a fantastic opportunity to work on your horse’s cardiovascular fitness. The thrill of having a good canter or gallop along the beach is what attracts many of us to riding on the beach in the first place, but it’s important that it’s safe.

Top Tip - Check the Going

Be very careful about the surface that you're riding on. It may look wonderful and consistent but looks can be deceiving, the consistency of the going can alter very quickly on the beach.

“Walk or trot along the beach first, and then come back riding in your tracks. You will be able to see where there are any changes in the going and have confidence in the consistency within the surface. Then you can canter or gallop back along the track you’ve just ridden,” says Gillian.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for any bits of fishing equipment, bits of metal, fishing nets or other rubbish which could be buried in the sand.

6. Energy Booster

Canter has got so many benefits including being great for adding extra energy. Transfer the canter to the beach and this effect is further magnified. It is a really exciting experience for both horse and rider. Canter is really good for warming the horse's body up and getting blood pumping around the whole of the body, which can help cleanse the whole of the muscular skeletal system. It also gets the back moving. All in all, canter is a fun way to helping improve the horse’s muscular skeletal system.


Top Tip - Fitness First

Before you go for a blast on the beach it’s important that your horse is fit enough. In the situation and beautiful environment it can be all too easy to get carried away and over do it. Consider what your horse is used to and prepare in the weeks before you go to the beach to up his fitness work so he can cope with what you ask of him.

Top Tip - Recovery Time

There’s no disputing that going to the beach with your horse is a fantastic experience, but just a word of caution especially if you are going away for a few days and planning several rides on the sand. If you do lots of cantering and galloping on one day, be mindful that your horse will need recovery time. Have a plan as to what you're going to do on each of your beach rides. It’s important to give the muscles time to recover between sessions.

Think of your usual fitness work, you wouldn’t do fast work every day, it would form part of your training. If you are cantering for four or five minutes three or four times in a session, then you need to be thinking that that's not something you're not going to do again for another four days.


Top tip

Wash everything down when you leave the beach. The combination of salt and sand isn’t good for your tack or your horse’s skin. Give your horse a really good wash off.

Hopefully this article has inspired you to take your horse to the beach this summer and given you lots of tips to ensure your trip is truly beneficial and safe. HAVE FUN!!!

Let us know if you take your horse to the beach and where your favourite beach is.

Gillian xx


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Great 😊 It’s the way to training your horse and yourself, perfect ‼️

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