With the wind in your hair and the sound of your horse’s hooves beating the sand beneath you – it really doesn’t get much better than this.
Riding on a beach is a dream for many riders. It’s a bit like taking your sports car on a track day. There’s a real feeling of cutting loose and being carefree.
I first hit the sand in California ten years ago, and it was a fabulous experience – There’s something so very romantic about being at one with nature, the sand, surf and steed.
But this time I wanted to find something really special and unique to celebrate my birthday, and that’s when I stumbled upon Tracey and her beautiful black Friesian horses.
Finding a purebred Friesian in the UK is rare. Riding one, even rarer.
On an autumn trip to the Lake District last year, I met Tracey Venter and her stunning black Friesian horses. She has the best job in the world – riding, and owning 13 stunning Friesians.
She offers experienced riders the opportunity to live out their black-horse-beach-galloping fantasies – and boy did it live up to – and exceed – expectations.
Her stunning farm is situated in over 75 acres of lush countryside, with views to die for. Home to cute little lanes and pretty hills, it really does feel like you’ve been transported back in time!
But what makes the Friesian black horse so special? The breed itself is native to Holland, and a strict breeding programme has meant that the bloodline has stayed consistent with the Friesian’s ancestors, which goes back as far as the 13th century.
The black flowing mane, striking face, feathering of the lower legs and stunning stride are all characteristics that make this breed of horse so popular, and unique, the world over.
I followed Tracey and her team from her yard to the beach in the car. We travelled for almost 40 minutes from her farm in Cartmel, on the edge of the Lake District, before arriving at Bardsea Beach.
The drive was so beautiful, winding through little country roads before the sea opened up in front of us. I could feel the excitement building as we approached, and I was itching to get out there and gallop.
Tracey and her team unloaded the horses.
Three of us – including Tracey – were going out on the beach. The rides are deliberately kept small. It definitely adds to the intimacy of the experience and it meant a much more personalised experience!
Before I had arrived in Cartmel, Tracey asked me about my riding experience over email. From this information (and from me disclosing my likes and dislikes) she had paired me up with Hannes, a gorgeous six year old stallion with attitude!
From the moment I went up and stroked his beautiful velvety-soft nose I felt that bond that you rarely experience when meeting a horse for the first time. I knew I was in for a special treat.
We mounted and headed up the hill to the moorland to warm the horses up and to get used to our new rides.
Riding a Friesian is a unique experience. This isn’t your standard run-of-the-mill steed.
This is the horse equivalent of a Ferrari, and apart from being incredibly brave, they are very intelligent, and absolutely love to please.
For this reason alone, all your movements onboard need to be controlled and gentle. You need to make sure they can trust you and that you are in control!
We took a stroll up Birkrigg Common and had our first taste of the Friesian spirit – experiencing the beautiful long and elegant stride and fire-y temperament.
The view across the common was spell-binding and seeing the waves lap the shore below us really whet our appetite for the beach.
Back at sea level, it was time to go up and gear or two. The tide was out and we had the beach to ourselves. The horses knew where we were going and soon started to get excited about the prospect of letting off some steam.
I could feel the nerves building.
While I’m an experienced rider, this was something completely new to me. And of course, I was about to make my dream come true!
As their hooves touched the sand, it was clear that Hannes was ready to gallop.
Under Tracey’s instructions, we pushed the horses into trot, and then into a smooth canter.
The sea and countryside sped past me as we cantered along, sand and spray hitting me in the face as we went.
Hannes clearly enjoyed dancing around in the water and it felt like he wanted to gallop along forever!
What is so fantastic about this ride is that Tracey really encourages you to treat your steed as if he were your own horse.
This isn’t a pony trek and the horses aren’t ‘programmed’ to do one thing or follow one another.
I spent quite a bit of time trotting Hannes, as his gait was so comfortable.
We also went for a small ‘race’ down the end of the beach. There wasn’t a time limit, no set agenda, just pure riding. I was in my element!
After over an hour of prancing around on the beach, exhaustion started to kick in (for me, not Hannes!) We decided to call it a day and walk slowly back to the horse box.
As I untacked Hannes and gave him a good groom, I reflected on my afternoon at the beach.
I have ridden hundreds of horses in my life, but this was definitely up there with the best horse riding experiences I’ve ever had.
I always wondered whether the ‘draw’ of the Friesian was a bit of a myth, or whether I’d be disappointed when I finally got my chance to ride one, after all these years of fantasizing about it.
But in reality, it left me wanting more! It’s a unique experience, coupled with the most incredible landscape. It really doesn’t get better than this.
A huge thanks to Tracey for being such a fantastic host, and for letting me and so many others experience her stunning horses.
This is for you if….
– You love riding – you’re an experienced rider – you love the adrenaline pumping through your veins – sea, sand and galloping excite you – you want a unique horse adventure
This isn’t for you if…
– you’re a nervous or inexperienced rider – you don’t like unpredictable horses – dislike sand or sea (you’ll end up with a few mouthfuls of it!) – you are unfit – you are time restricted
Cartmel, The Lake District, Yorkshire.
Here you can do beach riding, hacking around the lanes of Cartmel, or learn to carriage drive, or just take a ride in the back!
A shared half-day beach ride – £160
Shared Full day beach ride – £220 (prices subject to change, please check with Tracey first)
How to get there:
The easiest and most convenient way, is to drive. From London, it’s around 4 and a half hours. You can also get the train to Cark-in-Cartmel (3 hours on the train with 1 change at Lancaster)
Want to extend your trip? You can now stay on the farm! Tracey has a B&B.
Get fantastic animal photographer Sandy Kitching to capture your day. She’s incredibly talented and really captures the moment beautifully.
Don’t forget to check out the historic village of Cartmel. There’s even a historic race track, if you want to see more horses in action!