By NANCY RUBIN STUART
SANDWICH – Fresh salty air, crashing surf, broad expanses of sun and sky. these are the irresistible appeals of a Cape Cod beach. So it is for horses and the people who ride them on trails at Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable during the cooler months.
“It’s an exciting experience for us and for the horses too,” said Lynda Roust, the guide from Ridge Valley Stables of Grafton, Massachusetts, who often leads weekend trail rides for individuals, couples and families eager to experience the joy of riding near the ocean. “There’s nothing that can beat the exhilaration of being out in nature near the beach and feeling connected to your horse. The animals seem to love it too for when we get excited, they sense it and get excited too.”
Every week Ridge Valley Stables receives calls from people who have heard about the trail rides at Sandy Neck from friends or acquaintances or have seen the video on the Internet. “Typically they call because it’s someone’s birthday, an anniversary or another special event and they want to give a ride as a gift,” explained Lynda.
This past Sunday, November 16, for instance, Paul Ferrari of Framingham gave a beach trail ride to his wife, Julie, as a 50th birthday present. “ It was the perfect gift. I had a choice of a party or riding a horse on the beach and there was no contest,” said Julie.
As a child she spent part of her summers riding horses on her aunt and uncle’s Arabian horse farm in Alabama but has ridden only occasionally since then.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” she explained on Sunday just before mounting an Appaloosa horse named Acorn.
Accompanying her was her husband Paul on a quarter horse named Houston. He has been on a horse only once before but Lynda said that was not unusual for those who sign up for rides on Sandy Neck.
”Nobody has ever gotten hurt over the 30 years the stable has offered rides here,“ she said. “That’s because the horses we bring from the stables are well-trained and used to the trails.”
To illustrate, she ordered Acorn “walk” and the horse did. A moment later she said “ Ho” and the horse immediately stopped.
In addition to verbal commands, Lynda instructed the Ferraris on rein and leg movements to control the pace and direction of their horses. To ensure additional safety, Lynda and an assistant accompany clients on the trail.
From Labor Day to Memorial Day, Lynda and her boss, Terry Therrien, lead riders through the grassy sand dunes on Sandy Neck’s Trail #5 and return on Trail #4. Since the average excursion lasts for three and a half hours, they often stop on Trail #4 at picnic tables for a late lunch or a break.
The price for an individual rider is $300 per day and for a couple, it is $600 per day. “But our clients always say it’s worth it – it’s the thrill of a lifetime,” said Lynda.
So much for those who believe the beach is only for summer sunbathers.