Just outside of Santa Barbara, behind electronic gates and ivy covered walls, polo ponies and dressage horses wait to be groomed and fed. Their owners, grooms or trainers, dressed neatly in designer boots and breeches, concentrate on the stride of their horses hooves and the suppleness in their bodies. Travel a little further afield and you’ll run into Whitney Ranch, home to nine horses, five miniature ponies and Santa Barbara Beach Horseback Rides. This is a place where minis are allowed to play with guests and the horses actually get ridden out on the trail and on the beach.
I remember my days in the show ring, and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t miss those competitive days in the arena. I’m much more at home out on the trail, as are the horses at Whitney Ranch. Owner and Ride Manager Charlie Picerni grew up around Hollywood and horses and prefers his days riding on the beach in Santa Barbara, California. To be more geo-specific, Santa Barbara Beach Horseback riders will be taken to Loon Point Beach in the city of Summerland by Kevin Costner’s beach house. Not many people know of this beach, which makes this horseback riding vacation all the more special.
While there are several horseback rides to chose from, (beach or bluff rides) the 90 minute Santa Barbara Beach Ride is what the company is famous for. After matching horse to rider, Picerni asks all equestrians – beginners to advanced riders – to put on a helmet and wait for further instruction. Happily, there is a mounting block for those needing a little assistance or if, like me, you had a recent hip replacement. Once leaving the polo fields and hidden valley ranches behind (we really did ride past the original Hidden Valley Ranch) you’ll cross over a freeway – yes, really – and ride down to the beach and the Pacific Ocean.
You’ll pass through Monarch butterfly habitat and enjoy a quite ride through a lemon orchard on the way back to Whitney Ranch.
Twelve-year-old Ava Peck, an avid equestrian, learned about Santa Barbara Beach Horseback Rides as her grandparents live nearby. “This was a really different ride from what we normally do. I own a hunter/jumper and I’m used to arena riding. We rode on the beach,” smiled Peck. “I really enjoyed cantering on the beach. I was scared to cross the freeway, but in actuality, we did fine and it was safe. I would definitely recommend this ride to beginners or experienced riders.”
Need to know:
As is standard practice in the industry, you’ll be asked to sign a waiver. You’ll be expected to wear a riding helmet for safety reasons, as well as long pants and closed toe shoes or boots with a heel. Experienced riders will be able to trot and canter on the beach with your guide’s approval. Trail rides are limited to six riders with an age limit of 12 years or older. There are exceptions to this rule on a case by case basis, as we had a ten-year-old with us on our trail ride.
Charlie Picerni has been riding since the age of five and has been giving horseback riding lessons for years. He offers a summer day camp for young equestrians and the kids love playing with the miniature ponies.
Nancy & Cory Brown in Santa Barbara
If You Go:
Santa Barbara Beach Horseback Rides (805)688-5984
401 Lambert Road