Ah, that sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? There is an allure to beaches and horses. When we went on our second honeymoon in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, we decided to go horseback riding. But decided against the beach ride for some reason. Instead, we ended up on the side of a mountain on a very narrow path. But that’s not related to this post….
Did you know 1,200 horses take over the beach for five days to raise funds for the American Heart Association Beach Ride? We didn’t either, but we did know there was some horseback riding on the beach. This is the 34th year of this fundraiser. And allegedly, they have raised over $3 million dollars. There is no question, this is a worthy cause. Who hasn’t been affected by a family member or friend who has suffered from heart disease? I know we have lost a very dear relative to an early death due to a heart attack.
In the promotional information for this fundraiser, a woman shares her “testimony” in the left-hand column, “A Rider’s Perspective” in part when she first heard of the event:
The very thought that I could ride my horse on the pristine white sand beaches along the gently rolling surf gave me goose bumps.
We wanted to stay in Lakewood Family RV Campground this year. We visited it last time we were here and learned they have a nightly price of $25 if we stayed 30 days or longer. This is for full hookup (water, electricity, sewer and WiFi). While that is a bit higher than our desired per night price, to be on the beach, you expect it pay more $$$. We generally don’t make reservations until the day before or day of our arrival. We are pretty astute about “prime time” and we know October is considered off season here. So what a shock when we were told they were booked solid over the last weekend we wanted to be here. Little did we know what a HUGE blessing it was that we were not able to get that reservation! We don’t want to be negative about this event, but there are a few problems.
We are actually “next door” to Lakewood, staying in PirateLand RV Campground. As it turns out, they also have the same price for 28 days or more. And then we quickly learned this campground is actually better for our needs. For one, the campsites are bigger. And that is important now that we have a 40′ motorhome! But even better, the beach is so much wider and flatter. We’ve walked up this beach for 2 1/2 miles, then back for a 5-mile walk nearly every morning. And this is worth paying a bit more per night!
The horses began to arrive on Wednesday, a very rainy and dreary day. But Thursday morning, it was a glorious day as you can see from the above picture! We didn’t really think about walking with horses when we got on the beach, but realized quickly, we were glad we were there early – only because we are watching high tide. And not many horses were, yet. You can see the horses do affect the beach. For a few horses, it wasn’t bad, until you begin to see horse manure! And they do like to poop on the beach….So the romance was over….But who can blame them? Doesn’t this look like fun?
We stopped and talked to two women at one point. They were from New York and were appalled that the riders didn’t have to clean up the manure. Or that the horses didn’t wear bun-bags! They have to in New York apparently. And then they weren’t the only ones who were concerned. Other people we saw said it didn’t seem right dog owners are fined if they don’t pick up after their dogs.
So now you may have guessed, all these horses can cause a bit of a disturbance to non-horse back riders. So aside from the trampling, which really impacted our ability to walk comfortably on the beach, and dodging all the manure, there were a few other issues. So much for the “pristine white sand.” We loved her thoughts for us as we walked barefoot on the beach….
If you read the info on the AHA website, they tell the riders a few things to do to make this a good experience for everyone. For one, they HAVE to clean up the manure at their campground sites…but not on the beach. Interesting.
Then they are told to not “cowboy” on the beach. Which means running the horses, etc. And as groups approach people on the beach, to all go to one side of them, not to put the people in the middle. The horses may not know how to properly react in this new situation. So we had a few “confrontations.”
Not being horse people, it was unnerving. The first day, we heard the sound of galloping approaching us and one of the horses neighing. While there were only two riders this time, they were a bit too close for our comfort. So now we are being cautious. We managed ok until our 4th mile. And then we hear galloping again, but this almost sounded like a stampede! There were more than two and I glanced behind to see them heading right towards us! So I tried to jump out of the way (I am a bit of a jumpy person anyway) but in the soft, trampled sand, I couldn’t. I actually “fell” into Bill. I was glad he could handle all my weight! Then the horse back riders nearly come to a stop right in front of us! What’s going on???? This was very upsetting. But the last straw was the cowboying. One rider, as you can see below, was running his horse in “circles.” We were trying to stay in one path, but the horse, seemed to want to get in our path, so we moved, then he followed….Are you getting the picture?
Ok, we’re not happy campers. In the beginning, we were very friendly, but by the time we finished our five miles, we didn’t even want to look at these riders. So we vowed the next morning to get out earlier and not have to share the beach. So today, we did better, got out before the herd…and it was better.
We talked to a neighbor of ours as we came off the beach. He said he was in Lakewood last year during the event. He said it was so crowded, he couldn’t leave the campground to get groceries. And even worse, he couldn’t even walk around the campground for five days! He told a few other stories about what a nightmare it was to be there and not be a horse person.
We don’t want to be negative about this event, but think about it! When they started this 34 years ago, Myrtle Beach in 1981 was a little-known destination. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that it began to grow. However, according to the Myrtle Beach Tourism website,
The Myrtle Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area was listed as the ninth-fastest growing area in the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics released in March 2011. The area has grown 37 percent over the past decade.
We’ve decided that 1,200 horses on a little beach area and all us beach goers don’t really mix very well. And we aren’t even addressing the potential ecological problems of all the manure and urine. One person said he wouldn’t go in this water for at least 6 months!
We hope and pray common sense begins to reign and this event is moved to a more remote location. So our recommendation, do your research if you are not a horse person. Don’t be here during this event! We’ll plan to not be here next year if they are at the same time….
If you are a horse person and want to attend, please read the literature and follow the instructions!