In reality, except for the soft breeze — which given the normal biting winds of the Oregon coast seemed a miracle — high clouds coated the sky, the horses weren’t keen about the moving water, and we rode on English saddles.
The entire day was fabulous!
Driving under slightly drizzly grey skies along back roads which brought back memories from seventeen years ago when I daily drove the same wandering farm roads 20 miles to a hazelnut farm where I worked with the owner in sorting, roasting and packing hazelnuts, pulling branches during the pruning season and any other odd-end job he needed me to handle. Three miles past his place and I was at the Willamette Ferry just in time to catch it before it headed to the other side. Over the river and along more farm roads past tiny Hopewell and up a long winding road to Boulderneigh.
It didn’t take long to gather and transfer belongings to her truck, load the two horses, say a prayer for a safe day, and we were off down the long hill, up and over the coastal range and down towards the north end of Lincoln City (that town stretches more than 10 miles along the coast but is less than a mile wide in most places, limited in eastward expansion by Devil’s Lake and the Coast Mountain Range. Michelle remembered a side street with room to park her truck & trailer that had a trail leading down to the beach. All of Oregon’s beaches are public access all year long making the coast a wonderful place to walk and run without worrying about trespassing.
We tacked the horses and lead them down the rock-strewn path to the beach.
It didn’t take us long to realize two things:
1) The horses weren’t keen about the incoming tide
2) The almost full tide meant that there was no packed sand for the horses to easily traverse.
Breezy, Michelle’s son’s pony was my horse for the day. This was the first time Michelle had brought her to the ocean and while she didn’t seem freaked by the sight and sound she did not want to be at the tide’s edge. We rode them over to a small pool to let them get used to the water without the moving surf factor.
Breezy never fully accepted walking in the water but the deep soft sand made it difficult going so I encouraged her to stay at the tide line. The hoof prints tell the story of how she scrambled one time as the waves came closer than she wanted.The oddest part of riding at the ocean was the sense of being off balanced and dizzy while walking through the water. I’ve ridden across creeks and even done a bit of swimming with a horse but had never experienced this off balance sensation. The horses also seem to experience it. Michelle said if a horse looks at the moving tide too long it can actually fall over. The other odd thing was as the water came in and receded Breezy would drift with it in the direction the water was moving. There were many times while we were in the surf that we moved at an unnatural angle. I can’t help but suspect that Breezy wasn’t keen about being in the surf because of the way it messed up her senses and instincts.
I hadn’t ridden in a number of years and with the jacket around my waist, crop in gloved hand to encourage Breezy forward as needed, a camera dangling around my neck, managing the reins and trying to keep the horse balanced between seat and legs (failed miserably in that department) I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at times as to what and how needing attending! Hindsight: I should have slipped on Breezy bareback before leaving Boulderneigh so we could get a feel for each other and learn to communicate before adding in all the other elements.
Russell is Michelle’s dressage horse but he chipped a small bone off his flank several months ago and he’s still not allowed to move faster than an occasional easy jog which made for a long, leisurely ride without any mad dashes across the sand.
We rode until we reached “Land’s End”. Though there was only a slight breeze and the clouds were lifting and thinning the air temperature dropped and I was glad for the jacket I’d tied around my waist before setting out.
One daddy was even willing to take a picture of us together after we’d snapped pictures on his camera so he could show his wife that their 8 month old daughter had seen a horse.