South Padre Island, Yes, In Texas: At The Beach On Horseback!

img_20161125_114144218The only thing I didn’t book ahead of time before we drove to South Padre Island was the kayaking. I had searched for it and found something with Groupon, was about to have Hubby pay for it, but since I wasn’t really sure where it would go on our itinerary, Hubby said we shouldn’t just pay for it yet. I had booked the dolphin cruise the night before, and I had booked the horseback riding too. In hindsight, it was a blessing that we didn’t book the kayak ahead of time as it would have cost us more.

We drove to South Padre Island Wednesday night, arrived in Corpus Christi early Thursday morning for fajr and breakfast, and arrived in South Padre Island itself around 12:45 pm. That Thursday, we went on the dolphin cruise and spent the rest of the day at the beach till maghrib. We commenced Friday with fajr in our room before heading out again to the beach for the sunrise. The big event that Friday was horseback riding. I didn’t really know how that was going to go, and how exhausted we would be so I left the rest of the day empty. If we were able and wanted to go ahead of kayaking, it would be after the horseback riding.

Before we left the hotel, I told H to get some rental brochures from the hotel lobby so that I could look them over on the way to Island Adventure Park, where the horseback riding was. On the way, I tried calling some of them, but T Mobile couldn’t get a signal on that part of the island. As we left the more bustling part of South Padre Island behind, heading north towards Island Adventure Park, the scenery changed from hotel buildings to sand dunes on our left and right. In fact, the sand dunes reached a height that was way above our van, that we couldn’t see the ocean or bay.

img_20161125_0903227321img_20161125_090628458We were driving northbound, flanked by sand dunes that filtered on over to the road. It reminded me of White Sands in New Mexico. It was surreal, because I wasn’t used to seeing sand dunes on the beach. Growing up in Malaysia, I don’t recall seen sand dunes on the beaches there. I recalled sand dunes in Oregon when we went in Spring of 2013. And now here they are again.

Island Adventure Park was apparently at the very north end of the road. We passed signs that assured us we were approaching it. I had been eyeing Island Adventure Park long before we even decided to go to South Padre Island. I don’t remember how I chanced upon South Padre Island as a vacation destination, but I remember coming upon horseback riding on the beach as one of the Things To Do on South Padre Island. The whole idea fascinated and entranced me. We had gone horseback riding on the mountains of Ruidoso before when we were still living in New Mexico, but we had never ridden horses on the beach. I quickly noted that down as something we want to do. There were different options available on the website. H and I looked at them and decided that we would do the Morning ride which was $45 per person if we booked it online. That amounted close to $300 for all of us and Hubby did a gasping inhale when he saw the total, but we went with it. Phew!

It was WORTH IT! Totally worth it!

I’m glad we didn’t do the ziplining. I wasn’t going to either, because the minimum age and weight was way above what Z was. The idea of us ziplining while he stands there watching us repulsed me. He already  has to do that with food. Uh uh. No way Jose. When we got there, I wasn’t too impressed with the ziplining set up. Let’s just say I would rather pay money to zipline through towering trees, or canyons, or rivers.

I had to sign a waiver for Z because he was under 12. He was the only one who had to use a helmet. The rest of us had a choice not to, so of course none of us took a helmet. We arrived there before the time they told us to be there, so we waited quite a bit till the group grew. When 10 a.m. approached, they rounded us up and said,

“We’re going to give you your horses’ names, so make sure you remember them as we’re going to call out those names.”

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Kids were called first, so Z went. His horse’s name was Chumbucket. Turns out chumbucket means a bucket or pail in which animal feed would be placed. My horse’s name was Riptide, Hubby Romeo, N Red, H Splash and S ____. Chumbucket was a big horse, albeit a very gentle and calm one. One by one, our horse’s names were called and we stepped forward where the staff led us to our respective horses. My staff was a very nice lady who was so attentive to little things such as me wanting to fix my skirt after I slung my right leg over the horse.

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“How does this feel? Do you feel comfortable?” She asked me as I slipped my left foot in the stirrup.

I didn’t know what was comfortable and what was not, as no one had ever asked me that before, when I mounted a horse. When she did my right foot, I saw what she meant, and I asked her to fix it up another notch so that my legs wouldn’t be dangling so low.

“I don’t want you to be like a jockey and have your knees up too high. That would be ok for me, someone experienced, but it might be uncomfortable for you.”

I think it would have been more comfortable for me but I trusted her judgment call. The pad in the stirrup slipped out and the metal was against my shin. For the rest of the ride, that fender that was supposed to rest on my left leg kept bothering me even though she had fixed it before we took off. Riptide was a young male horse. It was brown and white. I don’t know what kind of horse he was though, but he has a mind of his own, much like a teenager. For most of the one and half hour ride, he lagged behind. I mustered up those kissing noises to make him go but he didn’t listen. The only time he would start trotting was when the staff came to the back and made those kissing noises for him to get going. Then Riptide would start trotting. The first time he did this, I was taken aback and held on for dear life! But after he did it a few times, spurred on whenever another horse would start trotting behind or along him, I knew how to stand up on the stirrup so as to ride out the jolting motion as painlessly as possible. The metal part was still pressing against my shin, but I figured out a way to position my foot so that it didn’t. Nevertheless, it still left a bruise on my shins for a few days.

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When we left the barn in a group, we had to cross the road. Cars stopped to let us cross. One thing I realized we rode on the beach was that there was a good reason this part of the beach was so far away from where the people usually go to. There was a good reason Island Adventure Park was at this north end of the island. Ahead of me, S was steering her horse to the water. Our guides had instructed us that we could steer our horses to the water if we could but we shouldn’t let them go deeper than an inch in.

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“You can steer them to the water if you can, butno more than an inch!”

“The horse’s inch, not yours,” he added, to which we laughed in unison.

As S’ horse tread the lapping waves, it pooped. The incoming waves immediately washed over it, breaking it up, thus bringing back tan-colored water back to the ocean and leaving behind soft disintegrated remains on the beach. Before I witnessed this, as soon as I saw the ocean from atop the horse, I thought to myself,

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Oh wow!! This part of the beach is unoccupied!! We should go here! We could even take off our hijabs! Oh maybe not but at least we don’t have to worry about people looking at us !

After seeing this poop and flush incident, natural as it was, I realized how ignorant I was. No way was I going to come to this part of the beach and play in the water. Not with all the horse poop that’s there!

Surprisingly though, there were people on that beach. Some with cars and pick up trucks driving on the beach! There was an Indian family, the women donned in saris, playing in the water. There was even a drone that hovered and flew above us as we rode.

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I was one of those lagging behind, because of Riptide. I steered him towards the water and he did go, but he quickly went away from it every time. Some of the guides rode their horses in deeper water. I wish I could experience that! Not with Riptide I guess.

I managed to snap some photos while on Riptide. Thank goodness for the loop on my phone case, which I slipped my hand through and took photos with the other. I also looped it around the saddle’s horn as we rode. The challenge of trying to take videos or photos while on Riptide was Riptide deciding to go into a trot anytime he wanted. I had to make sure I was prepared for that sudden change of motion and not drop my phone. Overall though, I think I handled it well enough. In fact, I was getting quite a good grasp of standing up on my stirrup when he went into a trot that I was able to just hold on to the reins instead of the horn of the saddle. I also leaned forward slightly so as to take the pressure off my coccyx. I imagined the Native Americans riding bareback, hugging the horse’s flank tightly with their legs and leaning forward while holding on to their horses’ mane. It was exhilirating. I wonder how it would feel to gallop. A trot already felt fast for a beginner like me, but as I was able to get used to it, I half wished it would go into a gallop.

I began to grow fond of Riptide during the ride, and I would stroke his neck and rump as we rode, especially after he stopped trotting. I noticed Z’s horse and other people’s horses breaking up into a sweat halfway through the ride. I imagined the sahabah on their horses fighting battles. How strong and agile they must have been! I had trouble just making myself comfortable on Riptide!

The guides guided the horses over some dunes as we turned around for the ride back. Sea oats held those sand dunes down, or at least prevented them from completely blanketing the roads that lay on the other side. I love the look of those Sea oats; bright green, thin, long and willowy  like overgrown goatees on the sand dunes. Some parts of the dunes were high enough that the horses had to put extra effort to climb over.

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As we passed through those dunes, our path resumed at the beach and back we went to the barn. I was feeling the pain in between my legs. This was not the first time. The first time I rode a horse, I couldn’t sit properly for days. This time, it wasn’t that bad. I had a feeling that it was because I went for yoga Wednesday night, before we left, and I had done regular yoga poses that stretched my psoas. My sit bones were sore for a few days but it was definitely not as bad as the first time. The guide who led us back said,

“Usually, when beginners or people who haven’t ridden a horse for a long time ride a horse, they can’t walk straight for a few days.”img_20161125_113625565

As soon as we reached the barn, Riptide charged for the trough that already had two other horses eating from it; one of them N’s horse. Youngins! A staff helped us dismount our horses. I really grew fond of Riptide. I can imagine how one can be deeply attached to a horse. It’s not hard. Horses are amazing creatures. Allahu Akbar!

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The ride was simply amazing! Being on the beach itself is already an experience. Add being on horseback to it and you’ve definitely climbed up a notch in unforgettable experiences. Seagulls flew above us, the sun shone upon us, the gulf wind drove gentle waves towards us, and sea oats reigned over the soft rolling dunes. Like I said before, this was WORTH IT! Yes, even with post horseback riding soreness, this was WORTH IT!

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