To experience Florida’s natural side, some folks choose to swim with dolphins or snorkel with manatees. But now you can take a dip with an animal not generally known for its aquatic prowess. Along Central Florida’s Gulf Coast, the phenomenon of HorseSurfing is growing.
‘HorseSurfing is done while the horse is wading in water,’ explains Timothy Mattox, who coined the phrase. ‘You stand up on the horse and the horse will walk around.’
It doesn’t take long before the rider’s balance is challenged, leading to a splash, some laughter and new meaning to the term ‘horse play.’
‘We haven’t figured out how to make it into a real sport, but we’re working on that,’ Timothy says with a sparkle in his eye.
Timothy Mattox isn’t just a guy who makes up phrases and crazes. He is proprietor of Beach Horses, the only stable in Florida that offers horseback riding on the beach and swimming with horses. The tour operates an hour from Tampa at Bradenton’s Palma Sola Bay.
‘It’s a pet-friendly beach,’ says Timothy. ‘It’s the beach you can take your dog to or your bobcat. Whatever you happen to have as a pet,’ he says playfully.
Tim is a former polo player, so the notion of partnering horses with the beach comes naturally.
‘Most of these horses are retired polo ponies,’ he explains. ‘And I have a couple of retired thoroughbred race horses that became polo ponies and then became Beach Horses.’
Proving you can lead a horse to water and make him swim!
‘The horses are very calm and they’re very easy and they make the people very comfortable,’ Timothy says.
The Beach Horses adventure begins with a ride along the bay’s palm-lined shores. All around nature is hard at work. Busy fiddler crabs scurry near water’s edge. Egrets and Great Blue Herons troll for fish. Sometimes curious dolphins will come in for a closer look.
‘They keep their distance,’ Timothy says. ‘But I tell people they should never touch a wild animal.’
The hour-long tour can accommodate riders ages 3 and up. Helmets and life vests are required for younger riders. Each rider is assigned a guide to ensure safety and fun for beginner and expert riders alike.
‘Our horses have to be what we call bomb proof,’ explains Timothy. ‘They have to be the kind of horse you can put a beginner rider, a child on and not worry about the horse being spooked by things they would likely encounter at the beach.’
Beach Horses hosts two rides almost every day. All dates and times are scheduled to coincide with low tide to ensure the widest possible beach.
‘It’s a once in a lifetime experience and we want to make it an awesome experience for everybody who does it,’ Timothy says proudly.
For those looking for a new twist on Florida’s sand and surf, Beach Horses is certain to make an impression that won’t fade with the tide.