I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many different countries in my life and have had the opportunity to ride on several Caribbean islands; however, when presented with the idea of horseback riding, in many cases, the horses were not in very good condition. Instead of wanting to ride, I wanted to help these horses who were so thin and made to carry riders in the heat of the day. I remember on one trip to the Dominican Republic, I took the horses at the resort some apples from the breakfast buffet and some of the decorative flowers made out of carrots, from the lunch/dinner table. The horses were delighted with their treats and I knew that it was very rare for them to ever get anything like a piece of carrot or apple.
On the case of my recent adventure to the sunny south, I was extremely surprised and delighted to find the horses and pony at Oceanview Farm in Eleuthera, in excellent condition. I was travelling with my daughter, my sister and her family, and the kids all wanted to try a beach horseback ride so we ventured over to the stables at Oceanview one day to check out the facilities.
My first impression was that the horses were in good weight, had grassy paddocks for turnout and at each stall, there was a fan hanging above. Upon talking with the barn staff, we were told that when it is very hot outside (and this would be most afternoons especially during the summer months), the horses are turned out early in the day and brought in during the heat of the afternoon – with fans turned on to keep them cool.
Just like our horses at Foxwood Farm, certain horses have specific dietary requirements and in the Bahamas, all of the feed, hay and barn supplies need to be ordered and shipped by boat, from Miami. I was curious to find out the cost of keeping horses in the Bahamas and the farm owners were more than happy to answer my questions. Although they may pay slightly higher prices for grain, it was the cost of hay that shocked me! On average, here at Foxwood Farm, we pay between $5-5.50 per square bale of timothy/alfalfa mix. At Oceanview Farm, they pay betweeen $34-36 PER BALE for similar quality hay!! The hay is grown in Kentucky and then is shipped to Florida. From there, the hay is loaded onto pallets and sent via boat over to the Bahamas.
Another expense is the vet and farrier who both have to come over from the United States and Oceanview Farm has to pay for their plane ride over to the Bahamas at every visit. Due to the rocky terrain and dry conditions, all of the horses at Oceanview Farm wear front shoes – the cost every 6 weeks for a trim and reset is $150 US…again, a substantial increase over the cost of a farrier visit on the mainland.
Having decided that we definitely want to come for a ride, we returned to the farm a few days later in the morning to go for our beach ride. Our horses had already been groomed and tacked up before we arrived, so they were ready to go. My daughter was assigned LJ, who was a kind Thoroughbred gelding who had been rescued by Oceanview Farm and I was going to ride Major, who had been the personal horse of one of the owners. Because of the salt water in the Bahamas, Oceanview farm uses synthetic saddles so that they can be hosed off easily. These saddles were not similar to the English saddles that we are used to but are Australian saddles which reminded me more of a Western saddle, without the horn at the pommel. They have a deeper seat and were VERY comfortable for a 1 hour trail ride. The bridles used are made from nylon, again, as leather would not hold up to the salt water when venturing down to the ocean.
Starting off, riding around an inland lake, we then came to the glorious beach that beckoned us to ride upon it. I took a deep breath, looked around at the beautiful scenery around me, and enjoyed every minute and every step that Major took. This had been on my bucketlist forever and I couldn’t have wanted to share it with anyone else but my daughter. It was perfect!