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please read: do not horse-back-ride with Robert on Harbour Island!

please read: do not horse-back-ride with Robert on Harbour Island!

Old Dec 8th, 2005, 08:17 AM
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please read: do not horse-back-ride with Robert on Harbour Island!

I just got back from an absolutely amazing vacation in Eleuthera so I would recommend it to the high heavens for everyone, but there is something that should be out there. I had one terrible experience only - and that was horse-back-riding on Pink Sands Beach in Harbour Island, with Robert.

I've been riding, on and off, my whole life. From 7 to about 15, I rode competitively in the English style on Arabian horses, creatures of great nobility and training. Now, ten years later, I might be a little rusty but I've never been afraid to ride. So when we spent an afternoon in Harbour Island, I relished the opportunity to ride on the beach. At first glance, Robert's horses looked a little nervous but fine. They stuck very close together but I wasn't aware of how much that would affect us until later. My husband, my friend Jen, and myself all got a horse. Robert insisted that I ride mine bareback into the surf to give her a wash-down, and as we left the water, she took OFF to the small stable, as she was obviously accustomed to doing after a wash-down. Well, she took off with me on her, and shook me right off.

I fell, back-down, onto the sand. I am well-accustomed with how to fall off a horse - always get your body as far away as possible from the horse's feet and try to land on your butt/back. So I was shaken, but okay. My husband and Jen got on their horses and we started down the beach.

This is where the trouble began, almost immediately. Robert insisted that we needed to just get control of the animals, yelling confused directions about "pull!" "don't pull!" but regardless of what Robert said, the horses simply trotted when they wanted to, stopped (rarely) when they wanted to, and basically followed each other. I started to get an inkling that they were not trained at all because a trained horse will respond IMMEDIATELY to a pulled-back rein. After about ten minutes of stopped-and-started near-galloping from the animals, my friend Jen's horse took off, and mine took off after him. Well, I was so jostled that I fell off again, again on my back. Jen and my riderless horse galloped off into the distance, Jen holding on as hard as she could, and the horse ran up into the dunes and disappeared, mine behind him.

After five minutes, Jen managed to control him enough to guide him back to the beach on foot (she dismounted as soon as he calmed down) and we all started riding again. By this time, the fifth horse had broken free from his stable back near the Pink Sands Hotel and JOINED us, saddle-less and rider-less. He caused a lot of agitation among the saddled horses, and as we started to head back, things became quickly worse. The whole time, Robert was chastising us, telling us we didn't know how to control the animals and to just "chill out". I was becoming very frustrated with him and told him so.

When the horses felt like they were heading back, they really got rowdy. The riderless horse took off along the surf, galloping homewards, and my husband's horse took off after him. I had JUST gotten my horse to slow down to a very forced walk (it took all my strength to keep him from running) and I was too afraid to chase after them to make sure my inexperienced husband was okay. I knew I was, at this point, too shaken to control this animal. I watched, paralyzed with fear, as my husband (about 200 feet away) slid sickeningly back and forth holding on, and then suddenly, BAM, he was off, and the way he landed looked very painful indeed. My heart was literally in my throat until he sat up.

It turned out, the STIRRUP (which was just canvas) had broken. Completely frayed, it had snapped from the weight of his foot shifting to keep balanced, and he had slid right down with it. He had a huge bump on his head and his left elbow is badly jarred. Two days later, the pain is subsiding but it still hurts.

Robert got angry with us for saying we wanted to return on foot, saying it would be bad for his business. I didn't care at that point, and we returned on foot and paid him and walked away. I was so shaken and angry that every time I tried to tell him (even though Robert barely lets anyone else talk) that it was his responsibility, I'd start to cry.

On the ferry leaving Harbour Island, we met a wonderful woman who was a resident, and when we told her about what happened, she launched into a thousand tales of how completely irresponsible and crazy Robert is. She claimed that his horses were actually just wild, and from the south of Eleuthera, roped in and taken as young fillies and foals and not trained in any way. She said herself, she was worried about the first fatality, because many tourists are not aware (even though she and her animal-rescue friends put fliers in people's hotels about how dangerous Robert's horses are). I felt only a little relieved that I wasn't crazy, that those horses weren't at all trained and thus very dangerous creatures.

Please take heed of this message. Do not ride - and definitely do not allow your children to ride - Robert's horses on Pink Sands Beach. Perhaps you think I'm hysterical but I assure you, as much as I know about horse riding, those horses are not safe. My husband, Jen and I were very lucky that we didn't hurt ourselves in any way. I have been checking around the web and very few places actually refer Robert (Pink Sands Hotel doesn't even MENTION him on their website) and my friend on the ferry made it seem like common knowledge among the islanders that he's a fraud, but I want to make sure that other vacationers know before-hand. Especially with children - do not take your kids to ride his horses. They're wild - that's all there is to it.
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Old Dec 8th, 2005, 09:41 AM
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Good advice to keep the kids away. My daughter also rode Arabian (we had two) in the county fairs here in Ohio) with dressage method. Both burned in a barn fire someone set purposefully. In St. Croix, we stayed at the Pink Hibiscus Hotel and a vet lived next door. He raced horses and the stable was quickly visited by my wife. The stable hands let her ride the horses into the water and along the beach for exercise...for free! We offered to pay them something, but they refused. The vet's race horses were very well-trained and my wife had much pleasure riding them every day that we were there. One was the descendant of "Seatle Slew". Too bad about your experience, and thanks for letting us know about the condition of the horses. Robert
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Old Dec 8th, 2005, 12:23 PM
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Krissa, I am SO sorry for what you and your husband and friend went through. It sounds like a horrifying experience. About the only good part is that no one was seriously injured. It could have ended up with all of you in the hospital - or worse.

I do not doubt for a moment any aspect of your story.

We raise Quarter horses, and show competitively about six months out of the year.

We've been riding in the islands seven or eight times, and on a majority of those rides, I have seen practices that were extremely dangerous.

I used to make the mistake of telling the people at the stables when they were picking our horses out for the ride that I am an advanced rider. I don't know if they just want to get exercise for the CRAZY horses too, or if they want to see what "advanced" means.

The very first ride we went on in the Caribbean (St Lucia) sounds a lot like what you experienced. They gave me a NUT of a mare named "Born Free" who first managed to kick my husband in the leg when he rode up beside me. (Did they tell us she kicked? Nooo-ooo!) I spent the rest of the ride trying to keep her from kicking the tar out of everything that moved, and trying to keep her from killing me. (She loved to RUN at top speed everywhere.)

During that one ride, one girl completely lost her entire fingernail trying to hold onto her runaway, my husband's leg was cut and bleeding from the kick, one of the guides got thrown from a stallion which then took off and tried to mount MY mare! Mayhem...

I won't bore you with the psycho mare they gave me in Mexico that tried to KILL people on the beach or the 800 pound teeny tiny horse they put a woman who must have weighed 300 pounds on.

Suffice it to say, think LONG and HARD before you buy into horseback riding anywhere in "paradise".

The horses are not usually very well-trained and have some have awful habits and manners. You are usually vastly over-charged for the experience. (The "beach ride" usually consists of 55 minutes through extremely hot and scrubby brush, and 5 minutes on the beach.)

Many are not well cared-for, and this can be distressing to see. Many are very over-worked and thin and have visible injuries - like being badly chafed from the girth or sores from the bits. The equipment takes a beating and is not of the best quality.

Now, I am NOT saying that all riding stables in the Caribbean are like this. We went riding on Nevis and Anguilla and had very positive experiences both times with the quality and training of the horses.

BUT, we are talking about large, unpredictable (at best) animals and an activity you have a varying amount of experience with. Even experienced riders get tossed, and it's never any fun.

If you have ANY doubts about the quality of the horses, guides or equipment, DON'T participate.
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Old Dec 8th, 2005, 03:10 PM
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Wow! This thread is a real eye-opener. My fantasy of riding in the surf has now been adjusted! Thanks to all of you. So sorry krissa, about your experience, just glad you are all OK!
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Old Dec 8th, 2005, 04:54 PM
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I won't comment about Robert or his riding operation as I have no personal experience, but there's a wealth of good "horse-sense" in the replies to this post.

We have a hobby farm and presently own only one horse (an Arab - Quarterhorse cross) but have owned up to five. I'm always amazed at the number of guests we have who don't realize that these are very large animals (1/2 ton or more on average), and can pretty much do what they want if they've a mind to. We have had visitors who want to let their toddlers loose in the paddock with the horses to feed them (what are they thinking????) I've been thrown by the gentlest mare on a tear back to the barn after a ride. (My fault for not being more agile - she came back to wait for me - LOL).

I remember reading in a humorous "horsey" magazine article, that it's good that horses don't realize their power. Otherwise, they might band together, kick down the paddock fences and your front door and just move in and take over the house!

This doesn't diminish the awful experience of the OP. That's just terrible! Rental stables tend, on average, to have not the best-schooled horse and they have hardened mouths from being ridden by so many inexperienced riders. Nevertheless, they can normally be controlled by a good rider. But not always.

I'm reminded of a riding incident at a rental stable in BC that DH had when we were first married. He'd gone riding without me. He's not "school trained" but has been riding since a toddler and has an innate horse sense. He came home with his palms in bloody ribbons from trying to rein in the horse he'd been given (as an "expert rider&quot and had almost been knocked senseless as the gelding tried to unmount him against every tree and fence post he encountered. Till that point, DH would have said there wasn't a horse he couldn't ride. Actually, he was right - but he paid a serious price for the battle.

And - horses have their little "quirks" as well. We once owned a retired standardbred gelding. An angel to ride. Until you showed him a bit of water. Ask him to cross a 3 foot mud puddle that was only an inch deep and he went totally berserk!! He'd climb a tree to avoid the puddle if he could!

So - advice. Don't ride where you don't have a personal recommendation on the quality of the horses. Watch the returning riders. See something that you don't like? Walk away fast!!! Don't ever tout yourself as an "advanced rider". You may get the "creature from hell" because he needs the exercise!
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Old Dec 8th, 2005, 05:20 PM
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Please don't be offended at my advice. It wasn't meant to undermine your experience! What you went through was inexcusable, especially given the fact that we all get sold a bit on the "fantasy" of island surf riding. There's no excuse in the world for what happened to you.
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Old Dec 8th, 2005, 06:53 PM
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I am shocked at these experiences and will now be afraid to ride on the beach again. My family had just the opposite experience riding in Grand Cayman two years ago. We had a lovely "beach ride" with a very caring and cautious guide. She didn't even want us to allow our horses in the ocean deeper than a few inches. My youngest daughter, 8, even rode solo on the way back and didn't have a problem. (the guide watched her closely on the way out and did keep her close by) The horses were very well trained. The experience was what one dreams about.
Old Dec 8th, 2005, 07:56 PM
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Krissa: Unbelievably bad experience! That guy needs to be reported to whatever authorities there are, especially the tourism bureau or whatever entity licenses those kind of businesses in the Bahamas. That's like letting people play with guns. Thank you for calling attention to the danger, especially for children. I shudder to think!!
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Old Dec 10th, 2005, 07:56 AM
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Thank you for publishing their name it is important that people listen because god forbid you get a head or back injury in paradise where there is not a trauma center anywhere! We were in the Dominican Republic a few years ago and went riding in the countryside oh my god. The horse behind mine on a steep cliff kept trying to bite my horse. He finally got me not the horse. It took all my strength to hold on and when we got off the cliff my horse galloped across the field like i was in a movie. I have never been so glad to touch ground. They immediately put some salve on my leg but for the rest of the vacation evreyone would come up to me and say cabayo(sp) and point because it was a bruise that i had for about 1 year but i was thankful i did not fall off or down the cliff. Sometimes i wonder what i was thinking. I thank god that my kids refused to get on the horses and stayed at the ranch!
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Old Dec 10th, 2005, 01:56 PM
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I've also been a horsewoman for the majority of my life, and I taught lessons back when I was in college.

My husband and I had basically the same type of experience riding on the beach in Antigua. His saddle girth came loose halfway through the ride, and he fell off (fortunately onto soft sand). My horse was barely trained, and tried to run off with me several times. I fI had not known what I was doing, it probably would have succeeded. Another woman in our group's horse DID run off with her!

After this experience, I doubt I'll ever go horseback riding in "paradise" again, I now want to SEE the horses before I pay for the ride.

That being said, I did a horse trek in Ireland, and that was an amazing experience. The horses there were Irish Draughts and the tack was very well maintained. So, there are GOOD riding stables out there!
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 08:33 AM
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Thank you for posting this information. I am terribly sorry that this happened to you. I had never thought about how risky this type of vacation experience could be. We saw the horses that you rode when we were on Harbour Island last year. We actually returned two of them when they were wandering on the beach.

We did have a wonderful horse riding experience at Flor Blanca, in Costa Rica. Well cared horses, a wonderful guide, beautiful trip. I will now be very careful and much more aware when planning our next horse back riding adventure when on vacation.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 08:47 AM
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I want to add that as bad as these incidents were, imagine what happens when the rider is inexperienced! My DH and I were talked into a ride in Glacier National Park by some friends with whom we were travelling. It started off with a horse fight in the corral, which caused my DH to take his horse out into a parking lot full of Greyhound buses. The owner of theoperation was kicked in the head and had to be airlifted out of the area. As we rode, two horses bolted when we passed the stable and one person fell off hers. The "leader" of the ride remarked that he had arrived from NYC two weeks earlier and was really enjoying learning to ride, having never done so before. I am glad we got through our experience without a more serious injury (other than the one to the stable owner) but it was a lesson.
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Old Jan 8th, 2006, 09:14 AM
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During our stay on Harbour Island, we would watch the riders go by -- some hanging on for dear life. We just thought they weren't experienced riders but after reading your post its clear those are not trained horses. We wondered about that but really regretted not taking that opportunity as we love to ride. Glad we were too busy soaking up the sun!
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Old Jan 6th, 2008, 11:10 AM
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 03:37 PM
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I had a similiar experience in Costa Rica. The horses were kept in really horrible stables. It was the first day on the trail for my horse and I never road a horse on a trail before. I was basically holding on for dear life! My horse was trying to bite my sons horse and ran full speed every chance he had. We also crossed a river with rocks and I thought my horse was going to fall. On the way back, my sons horse was in the middle of a busy street in La fortuna. It was basically a very scary tour! People, use caution when doing horse rides in foreign countries! We booked the tour from a big hotel(Tabacon Hot Springs)You would think they would use more reputable trail rides!
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 03:50 PM
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I am really kind of wondering why laplaya dug up all this year to two year old stuff that was not even a personal experience? Kind of strange to me..
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 05:31 PM
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maybe cause i'm concerned about the welfare of the horses.

It's called being an animal lover.

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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 05:33 PM
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FYI: for the safety of others
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