On the many trips I was lucky enough to go on with my family, I was always the kid that would try to go on every animal related island excursion I could. I’d been to see stingrays, birds, monkeys, sloths, and dolphins. Strangely enough, the one thing this lifelong equestrian hasn’t done is ride on an island! This time when our cruise landed in Montego Bay, Jamaica, I had to change that! Plus, what a good excuse to blog and take pictures for On The Left right? It was a win-win.
Our excursion took us a half hour out of Montego Bay to the Chukka Tours ATV and Horse centre. Yeah that’s right, ATV’s speeding past horses without their brains exploding like most of our show horses. Horses at Chukka Tours are mostly polo horses or retired race horses, as these are two of the most popular horse sports in Jamaica. They have some down time just like our OTTB’s and then are tested out slowly on the trails to see if they are fit to carry around first timers. The twenty or so horses on our ride all seemed to have adopted the Jamaican mindset, living by the motto “don’t worry, be happy”.
To start off, all 15 or so of us had a quick “fitting” for some good old Troxel helmets. I could just see my past Greenhawk managers having heart attacks as all of our helmets slid around our heads. Next, we headed over to the horses where we had a quick lesson about riding that luckily included a surprising amount of safety information and tips on safe equitation. Finally, we mounted our horses, Uper and Neptune, who were dressed in mostly English tack. This was a relief to me. Thankfully, the tour guides made sure all of us know how to stop and steer our horses by having a few trips around an outdoor arena before continuing on our hack.
We started along a large polo field as our guide told me that my horse, Neptune, was currently a polo horse as well, which explained his roached mane. I think our guide was happy he could talk to a long time equestrian for once. He seemed to enjoy telling me about the horses’ past careers, their care, and the popular horse sports in Jamaica. We did a lot of comparing between our countries horse customs. I was pleasantly surprised to hear of and see the good care they gave these horses compared to many other island riding centres I had seen on my travels before. We also got a free botany lesson on all of the plants and trees we passed, what fruit they grew, which ones were endangered, which ones had medicinal uses, and more. Overall, for the hack portion the scenery was beautiful, our guide was informative and entertaining, and the horses were very well behaved. Over half of the riders on our tour had never ridden before and had no trouble at all.
After the trail portion of our ride, we dismounted Neptune and Uper and head inside to change into our swimwear. A new selection of horses were waiting for us when we returned, wearing special swimming bareback pads. Our group split in half, as we were told we would be taking turns on the same horses that would go multiple times into the ocean.
While most of these horses seemed to enjoy a nice cold ocean swim on a hot day, we couldn’t help but wonder if maybe they were made to do it too many times. It wasn’t the calm picturesque Caribbean blue sandbar that you would picture in your mind. Instead the wind was quite high; the waves threatening to knock me off as my horse plunged forward. “Keep your leg on” was hardly an option but it was a good workout to try. It was more of a thrill ride than the calm experience I’d hoped for. It seemed quite taxing for my horse in particular to carry me through the waves, and I consider myself a relatively small human. I could only imagine how in shape our horses would be at home if they went for one daily swim, much less hauling multiple people per day through the 2-3 minute ocean ride. In the end, the ocean portion was lots of fun, and a super cool experience to feel the movement of a horse actually swimming. Although, I still want my travel-video-worthy relaxing wade through a crystal cove on a horse. If that’s what you would like as well, this tour probably isn’t for you.
Have you ever been on an equestrian excursion? Would you like to review it or just share a story? Comment below, we would love to hear about it!