Diamond had been rescued from a schizophrenic pothead on Provo, I learned. The standardbred horse sometimes takes issue with people at eye level, but he was a sweetheart once I took the saddle.
Similar stories ride on the backs of the two dozen or so indigenous and imported Turks & Caicos horses that Provo Ponies has rescued from the island nation south of the Bahamas. The outfit has lovingly trained the animals to carry visitors along sandy trails and into the crystal waters of Long Bay Beach on Providenciales, the main resort island in the Turks & Caicos, its name mercifully shortened to Provo.
In Your Bucket Because…
- Who doesn’t want to ride a horse along the beach?
- Provo Ponies’ staff are knights in shining armor.
- Good for anyone age 7 or older.
Descendants of UK horses brought to the islands centuries ago, the horses have adapted to the environment through the years, growing smaller and fond of the beach. Some of the import draft horses, however, tower majestically.
The creature-kind, entirely adept staff expertly pairs horses to riders and their level of expertise and issues. They offer gentle suggestions and guidance throughout the 90-minute ride into the blue. I cannot even count how many such rides I’ve done in Florida and the Caribbean; I just know that this was the most well-guided.
Staff members ask your level of experience from beginner to advanced. According to their criteria, I fell in the novice range: I have ridden more than 25 times and am “comfortable and in control at the walk, moderate length posting trots, and short canters.”
The ladies at Provo Ponies put serious consideration into matching horse to rider. I’m not sure what they read in me, but I ended up on the back of the “class clown,” according to the web site. Named for the white patch on his forehead, Diamond can slip easily into yawn mode, and needs a rider with
drive, it further informs.
So there it is: type-A me and slack-off Diamond. The staff made me the most comfortable I’ve ever felt with a horse, filling me in on his quirks, describing his behaviors like a mother would a child.
The trail starts on pavement – a lightly traveled road where I experimented with Diamond under the watchful eyes of the trainers, who were always ready with a word of encouragement and advice for improving the experience and getting to know my horse.
Diamond has a nibbling habit from which he is not easily swayed. Trainers advised me to steer him clear of trees. All in all, he was a bit of a character, I was finding. And not without stubbornness: Nothing I could do would break him into a trot.
Beach & Sea by Horseback
The sand path down to Long Bay Beach was steep and narrow with soft, thick sand and plenty of stumbling blocks. Diamond took it like a champ and soon we were sauntering along the hard-packed sand at the 4-mile shoreline.
Turks & Caicos’ waters shimmer unlike any I’ve seen – clear to the point of invisible. Here the sandy bottom made the water surreal. As we entered the sea, Diamond the Nibbler began dipping for the occasional bits of seaweed floating at top. Like me, he seemed mesmerized by the water, slowing to a pace that required a crop to help us keep up with the day’s tour group.
As we sloshed through water chest high on the horses along the practically deserted beach, selfies and group shots became inevitable. The water felt silky and silvery, softening the summer day’s tropical heat hammer.
Evidently it refreshed and fortified Diamond too, because on the way back it took little urging to burst into short, exuberant trots. Those assigned friskier mounts based on their experience beat hooves down the road.
Diamond? He had to try to sneak the occasional nibble from a bush. In the end, I gave him free rein and my type-A tendencies the crop. We returned to the stables both a bit more mellowed and in sync: A sea dip in Provo will do that.
Known more for its water sports – diving, kayaking, fishing, and sailing – than its land sports, Provo is home to world-class beaches and exceptional resorts, many of the latter at the upper end of the scale. Grace Bay, the renowned smile of a beach on the island’s northeast end, lies a short drive cross-island from Provo Ponies (649-241-6350).
To avoid Grace Bay sticker shock, try booking at affordable but tasteful Ocean Club Resorts, with two properties on the gorgeous white-sand beach. Both cater to families and couples with cool pools, beachfront grills, and watersports amenities. As at most Grace Bay accommodations, units are self-catering, saving you further from the island’s often costly restaurants.
For more information on the destination, visit the official Turks & Caicos Tourism web site.