As I galloped down the beach, the sounds of wind and waves and the sound of my horse’s hoofs swirled along with my laughter. Riding the Oregon coastal waves is one of the best experiences I’ve had.
Nine times out of 10, beach rides feel like the culmination of an equestrian dream – and the dream of many non-riders, too. This 10th time, however, the gallop ends in ignominious fashion with the rider plunging into the ocean and the sight of your steed riding along the beach without you.
But if you can squeeze in a weekend, camping on the coast with this spirited steed slowly gets your horse used to the waves and really cuts down on the amount of sand and water that gets wrapped up in your riding pants and boots. horse riding. A lifelong rider, I have ridden the coast a number of times, but jumped at the chance last summer to camp at Nehalem Bay Horse Camp and take a few days to show off a horse that was new to the waves.
Walking into the state park to meet my friends, I was a little intimidated by the RV camping I had to drive through to get to the riding area. It was crowded. But upon reaching the horse camping area, the 17 sites — each with two corrals and some with room for more horses — felt spacious and even a bit secluded. (Note: Nehalem Bay State Park also offers fly-in camping for those with small planes.)
I have an old gooseneck trailer and an even older Ford truck, and I sleep in my horse trailer when I camp. Zaiden, the horse I brought, settled into his corral, which was conveniently located near a water pipe and a grassy area where he could graze, or where people with less accommodating trailers could set up camp. I brought my own hay, feed, and manure removal gear, and the park has a manure pile and gravel to help with wet corrals.
Horse camp is for those with horses only, but some of our nearby campers have brought boats as well as horses. It worked pretty well for my friends and I when people with boats came back with their limit of fresh caught crab and cooked them for us.
A night of sipping whiskey by the fire and eating crab was preceded by the first drive to the beach. At Nehalem you have a number of options – cross the dunes to the beach, walk a trail behind the dunes for a few kilometers to the jetty and cross to the beach, or walk along the bay. We chose to ride along the trail and then cross, and by the time we got to the waves, Zaiden was so used to the sound he barely noticed them.
Pro tips: don’t ride your horses towards the waves; ride them at an angle, don’t let them stand staring at the waves or they get dizzy between moving water and shifting sand. And finally be prepared for small children, dogs, kites and Frisbees.
On the second day we checked out the bay, the crabbers and the fishermen, and on the third day Zaiden was so uninterested in all the ocean business that we were soon galloping through the waves. He was, as one of my fellow riders said, the wave broke.
There is something amazing about sleeping with the sound of waves crashing in the distance at night. Add to that the sound of a crackling fire and the contented sniffles of a horse, and it’s pure Oregon magic.
For those of you without horses, Oregon Beach Rides runs guided rides out of the Nehalem Bay day-use area during the summer. Closer to home, C&M Stables does the same in Florence at Baker Beach, which offers horseback camping without corrals.