If you who grew up watching John Wayne or Clint Eastwood movies, some of your fondest memories are probably the final scene as the hero rides off into the sunset atop his horse. For those interested in trying horseback riding, don’t expect the same kind of grandeur, but instead, plenty of hard work, exercise and direction. The rewards, though, are even more satisfying than clearing a town full of bandits.
Many natives and visitors to Hilton Head Island, with its beautiful beaches and sea life, wouldn’t think of the Lowcountry as popular area for horseback riding. But numerous stables are available for both one-time visits and continuous lessons.
Lawton Stables, located within Sea Pines Plantation, offers hour-long Western style riding to the individual without previous riding experience. With some basic instructions, riders than take a tour through the trails in Sea Pines, cruising on a leisurely stroll atop their horses and taking in the scenery.
“It’s a gentle, slow kind of walk through the forest and trails,” said Allison Campbell, head trainer at Lawton Stables. “You’ll see some wildlife, wildflower fields. It’s really peaceful and not hot because it’s shaded.”
Anyone age eight and older can take the tour.
“If I were eight years old and had never been on a horse, that would be pretty cool,” said Campbell.
Though she occasionally visits the trails, Campbell works on the equestrian side of the stables, offering lessons for those who are interested in horseback riding as a sport. And it’s those kinds of lessons that are a far cry from the whimsical imagery one might picture.
“One is relaxing, and the other is a little more intense,” said Campbell, who started horseback riding when she was four years old. Campbell initially teaches her riders how to start getting their horses to trot, which involves leading and connecting with the horse. It’s a challenge for anyone new to the sport but loaded with lifelong skills.
“As a kid, it taught me discipline, organization and how to communicate,” said Campbell.
That’s the same sentiment from Cathy Stangroom, head trainer and owner of Moss Creek Stables, which offers training to riders of all levels. “The philosophy I have is, you are a leader,” said Stangroom. “You’re learning how to lead the horse. You have to want to manage the horse and to ride with authority and purpose.”
And it’s great exercise, too.
“People don’t realize it’s a fantastic workout,” said Campbell. “It’s core intensive but works the complete body. You’ll still see the first-time trail riders get off, and they’re sore.”
But all of the hard work pays off and provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment.
“There are some empowering moments,” said Stangroom. “A lot of people bond with their horses.”
Just don’t expect many John Wayne moments.
“Riding off into the sunset, that’s very much the movies,” said Stangroom.
Other stables in the area include Sandy Creek, Longfield, Rose Dhu and Rose Hill.
State Heritage Horses housed at Honey Horn
There’s a new kid in town. Her name is Honey Horn May, but you can call her May, for short. Born on May, 20, she arrived on Hilton Head Island July 16, along with her mom, Bullet. The two Marsh Tacky horses will be guests in the horse barn and paddock, located on the grounds at Honey Horn, for the next six months. The Marsh Tacky, a rare Colonial Spanish horse breed unique to South Carolina, became the official State Horse of South Carolina this year. Marsh Tackies have changed little since the colonial period. Relative isolation on the Sea Islands and secluded areas of the Lowcountry, along with owner dedication to the preservation of the breed has allowed the Marsh Tacky to remain relatively untouched.
Visit Bullet and her foal when you attend any of the museum’s programs. (See www.coastaldiscovery.org for a complete list of offerings.) Learn more about this unique breed at www.marshtacky.org.