Riding along Bermuda’s pink shores
Never before have I ridden a horse into the waves of the ocean, and for a short period of time I got to do that on the back of Gypsy, a 12-year-old mild-mannered Paint who’s happy to be cooling down first thing in the Bermuda morning. I’m trail riding at the crack of dawn (tack time is 6:45 a.m.) at Spicelands Equestrian Centre and School along Middle Road in Warwick county in the centre of Bermuda, still a British Territory with some equestrian history, though not as much as you’d think. There are few opportunities to ride on this island.
Spicelands, one of the longest running operation of its kind in Bermuda, has an inconsistent reputation and has changed hands four times in almost as many years. When I was there three years ago, current owners had hired two blokes from England who promised to turn things around. For one, horses no longer rode in the heat of the summer day – trail rides ran 7am, 10 am, 4 pm and 6pm – but early morning, assuming you can get up while on vacation, is by far your best choice. That’s when you can ride on the beach, along the sand and into the water. And water is what Bermuda is all about: come here to get your hooves wet.
Stunning clear blue water surrounds the island thanks to a relatively shallow coastline and a limestone base reflecting light through the water like the turquoise blue of your childhood watercolour paint box. Soft white pinkish sand lines the shoreline and almost everywhere you look there’s another enclave of beach jutting into the ridge of the once dark lava rock, barely visible from the road above the cliff.
And that’s why the horseback walk to the beach is so steep, first up then down. We have to ride into the paths through the forest, past the small farms occasionally harvested by a local owner, then across the street (laws on the books from the 1800s still give horses the right away on streets) toward the beach through the brush where you’ll see local foliage like beach grape plants, palm trees, and thick leaves. To keep horse from grabbing bites along the trail, they’re allowed to stop and fill up on sugar reed grasses on the journey home. But first, to the beach.
All is as quiet with only the waves lapping the shores. Few people have gotten up this early to pitch an umbrella along the sand and the horse are not fearful of the waves surging back and forth, instead they look forward to wading in cooling their hocks and strangely drinking the salty water. We are here for only a third of the ride, but it’s the most leisurely part of the trail, and my trip.
Bermuda, a three-hour flight from Toronto, is a scenic romantic place. On the sandy white beaches time stands still. Or at least slows down. And you’ll have to cool your jets elsewhere on the island too, because the speed limit is only 35 kph anywhere on the country’s single lane (each way, driving on the left) roads that loop around the south shore, north shore, and through the middle of the main islands liked by bridges. Buses, taxis and mopeds are the primary forms of transportation for tourists, particularly because visitors can’t rent cars and residents can only own one per household. It’s all part of preserving Bermuda’s greatest asset: its natural beauty. And like any natural beauty, it is best experienced on horseback, only this time early in the morning long before the beaches, and air, heat up.