Wampee Stables is all about trail riding. Actually, it’s all about the horses that just happened to do trail rides, and only trail rides. At this farm, it’s like saddling up at a friend’s house – a friend who considers his horses family.
“Sadie is the only horse here that gets this excited about treats,” says Richard Parker owner of Wampee Stables with his wife Debbie Parker.
True to promise, Sadie, a beautiful grey warm-blood, brays and nods at the sight of alfalfa squares heading her way after our hour trail ride through the forested lands adjacent to the Wampee Stables family home.
Located in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina worlds away from the biker, boardwalks and beer fests the region is known for, Wampee Stables is only a 20-minute drive from the Sheraton Hotel in the heart of Myrtle Beach.
I’m escaping the noise of ‘bike week,’ an unofficial annual event filling the streets of Myrtle Beach proper. Hundreds of bike enthusiasts rev iron horses through Broadway Street Myrtle Beach.
I happen to be in town this week because BlogPaws – a yearly conference for pet bloggers – is also on. This year, I brought my dog Victor. (Please check out ‘Myrtle Beach dog-friendly?’ on dogtrotting.net for details).
Yes, I’ve brought Victor to the stables with me and he’s waiting in a horse stall with a bowl of water – not a service Wampee usually provides, but pre-arranged it’s indicative of the southern hospitality here at the Parker estate.
Like me, Victor needs a rural reprieve from the energy of Myrtle Beach.
But when isn’t riding a welcome escape?
Today the treat-excitable Sadie is saddled and waiting for me. I love mares, especially the boss. Sadie, who’s lived at Wampee most of her life, is head of the 20-horse herd and she knows her way around the trail. She’s an easy ride and smooth trot through the paths mowed through the Parker’s property.
Sadie even trots in the ‘training’ ring for me, though she knows this isn’t part of the drill. Mandatory at Wampee prior to the one-hour ride is an orientation lesson in the sand ring.
Photographs are also mandatory.
While owner Debbie Parker is a born and bred horse person – she’s the third generation to live on this property – Richard’s passion is clearly photography, which works its way into the package at Wampee. Each person riding gets photos emailed of themselves in the ring and at the beginning of the trail, included in the $65 hour riding fee.
Granted, my photos clearly reveal why ‘leg back’ is a constant reminder throughout my lessons, but who doesn’t love professional photos of themselves on a horse?
Sadie neck reins easily and I can literally ride her with one hand behind my back – in fact, I have to at first to remind me not to pick up the reins English style.
On a perfect morning ride (earlier is better in the summer – it gets hot in South Carolina) my guide Annick, a longtime family friend of the Parkers, leads my ride. “I showed up to visit one day,” she says, “and I never left.” This summer she’s riding in the morning, waiting tables in Myrtle Beach in the evening and today riding bareback on her own horse Winston, a Western Paint.
We’re riding in an area called Little River, partly on the Parker property and partly on Heritage Conservation land safe from the residential development encroaching closer to Wampee Stables.
Riding at Wampee is like riding with friends: there’s no set times rides go out – call ahead to book. I’m offered a cold drink at the end and by the time we are finished, my photos are emailed to me.
While Sadie whinnies for her treats, Winston bows for his – a trick that both entertains and stretches out his neck after each ride.
My favourite part? Two thoroughbreds roam the farm at leisure, retired from a life of trail rides. Few operators look after their herds, or customers, this well. Little wonder Sadie’s happy.
TRAVEL GUIDE: Myrtle Beach is a warm-weather destination host to a range of activities. Know to some as the ‘Redneck Riviera’ because of the party/midway atmosphere at the central beach and boardwalk, the actual Myrtle Beach region extends further than many people venture.
Further south, Murrell’s Inlet boasts both casual and really casual (this is a beach town) fresh seafood restaurants such as Wicked Tuna and Marshview Seafood Kitchen and Bar with a view of the water and inlet boardwalk.
Huntington Beach State Park is worth a day visit because the beach there is less crowded (and dog-friendly) thanks to the park’s $5 admission.
Nearby in ‘lowcounty’ Brookgreen Gardens is a sprawling private estate established in 1931 by Archer and Anna Huntington. This huge public with its own small zoo of indigenous wild animals, butterfly conservatory and pontoon boat tour is home to almost 2000 outdoor sculptures from the private collection of the Huntingtons.