FAQs – THE RIDE
I have never ridden a horse; can you accommodate beginners?
Yes, in fact most of our riders are complete beginners. Our beautiful horses are gentle Class A seasoned trail horses who have had thousands of hours on the trail. We have taken many years to train them so that even the extreme novice can ride with us. Our guides are professional and safety is our first and foremost priority in everything we do, although we cannot erase the ever-present inherent risks of horseback riding. All tours include brief riding orientation, and your guides are readily available should you need assistance during the ride. However, being a little nervous is one matter, if you are terrified because of a previous bad experience or if you are being dragged here kicking and screaming by a friend or family member, maybe horseback riding is not for you. We cannot guarantee your safety. Remember, if you decide at the last minute you are too afraid to ride, you are still responsible for full payment.
I am an experienced rider; do you offer an “experienced” ride?
EXPERIENCED RIDERS PLEASE KNOW BEFORE YOU GO (AND BEFORE YOU WRITE ANY ON-LINE REVIEWS) THAT THIS IS A GENTLE WALK-ONLY TRAIL RIDE. If you go to a vegetarian restaurant and ask for a hamburger, don’t write a review that they didn’t offer hamburgers. Thanks!
The experience of this ride is the romanticism, beauty, shear tranquility and uniqueness of it. Many experienced riders LOVE this ride because they appreciate the training that goes into our trail horses. Of course some of you advanced equestrians might love to gallop along the crashing surf like in the movies, and we wish we could let you, but really, horseback riding is dangerous enough and, quite frankly, we have to … um… stay insured? We also have to share the beach with other non-horse beach visitors and remain courteous because not everyone appreciates a small stampede passing by while they are fishing and relaxing. If you are an experienced rider, we hope you will not deny yourself this beautiful experience just because it’s a quiet trail ride.
Why don’t you allow “galloping”?
Many people do not realize that it takes a trainer many years of work to train horses. In order to make and keep our horses safe for the extreme novice or beginner, we must train our horses NOT to run down the beach, but only to consistently walk. We, as trainers and guides, certainly do not gleefully run them down the beach in our spare time, but in fact are training by doing just the opposite. If we allowed cantering or “galloping” as a routine, they would regress in their training, rendering them unsafe for the next beginner rider who mounts up. This also holds true for riding side-by-side, which is why all trail riding is typically done in behind one another. Please know that we don’t want to deny fun for anyone as we are in the “fun” business, but our operation is based on training and safety as well.
Do you ride English or Western?
On the trail, we ride with Western equipment and our horses are trained to neck rein. We require you to ride “Western” in order for you to safely have one hand for reining and one hand on the saddle horn for upper body support. If you feel you can “only ride English”, let us show you something new. Every good horseman should know both disciplines.
My young daughter and I have horses and are “accomplished” riders and trainers, can we get horses with some “spunk”?
Any Wranglers’ Most Dreaded Question…… 🙂 The long answer: Actually, an actual accomplished rider or trainer would not think to ask that question because the answer should already be known, which is, of course, no. First, to a professional or “accomplished” rider or trainer, “spunky” or “frisky” are layman’s terms for “green”, a green horse is an unfinished horse not yet qualified for his job. Also, in the professional horse industry, it is widely known that it takes many, many years of continuing education, training under other professionals and experience in the field to become an “accomplished” rider or trainer, and then there is still more to learn. We do not use those terms loosely (if at all), and consequently we do not rely on your experience level in choosing a horse for you. We rely on the temperament, training and experience of our horses so that anyone at any level of experience can enjoy a safe mount and the rare treat of beach horseback riding. The short answer: There is no need to embellish experience levels. No matter, we will be happy to provide you with a finished and proven trail horse for the beach that we’re sure you’ll love!
What if my child under the age of 13 has riding experience?
Regardless of experience, children must be at least 13 years or older, at least 4’6” tall and able to physically control a large horse without assistance. Safety, maturity and basic physics apply here. Please understand that although our horses are extremely gentle and well trained, they are full-size horses, weighing a thousand pounds and more. Each horse is equipped with an adult-size saddle, and the equipment adjusts only so far! Sorry, but we make no exceptions. It has been our experience after many years in the industry, that this activity is not suited for a small child.
Can my child ride with me?
Sorry, but for safety, “double riding” is not permitted under any circumstance.
Can my grandparents ride?
Sure. However, for safety reasons, if someone in your party is of “advanced” age and not accustomed to riding horses on a regular basis, you might want to reconsider his or her participation. Even if your grandparents are still very active, please remember that horseback riding is a very physical activity and is not at all similar to golfing or bicycling or any other sport activity. Hip replacements, arthritis and decreased motor skills can certainly interfere with the rider’s ability to balance, stay seated or even hold the reins, and heat exhaustion and fatigue can be a serious threat at any age. Not to mention that recovery from a fall could be much more serious at a later age. In other words don’t surprise them the day of the ride, but please discuss this with them (and us) in advance.
Can I ride if I am pregnant?
No! Although this is a gentle ride, horses can be unpredictable so please don’t risk it.
Can I choose my own horse?
Horses are as different from each other as we are as people. They are different sizes, colors, and personalities. Our horses are all awesome. We trained them, live with them and know them. We also know people. We will pick a horse for you individually based on our experience with both. Come on…. a horse is not going to bond with you just because your eyes met across the barnyard. And why do so many people think riding a smaller horse is safer????
Can I pet my horse?
NO! Just kidding. Once you are up on him, pet him all you want! Just please don’t approach a horse’s face to say hello. Generally, horses hate that. We’ve had some folks actually try to kiss them on the muzzle. Really? His head is a giant anvil with teeth. Bad idea. Would you do that to a strange dog? Hopefully not.
Can I ride if I just had surgery?
We do not recommend it. Please consult with your doctor.
Are you a therapeutic riding facility?
No. We are a public recreational riding facility. We are members of the *North American Riding for the Handicapped Association, Inc. (NARHA), and we apply to NARHA standards (now “PATH”). However, the Kelly Ranch is not and can not be a fully- accredited therapeutic riding facility pursuant to the set standards. Territory and uncontrolled environment limit applying many standards necessary for safety. If you want to ride for recreation, please refer to our eligibility requirements (on our services page) for all participants, and please call management directly (904-491-5166) for more information regarding scope, territory and definition of this activity. Management encourages and welcomes open discussion so as to assist and safely include everyone to the best of our ability. Please talk to us! *Note: NARHA has changed it’s name to PATH or Professional Association for Therapeautic Horsemanship.
How far in advance should I make a reservation?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Our busiest season is from March to September. Weekends and holidays are also peak times. We take out as many as 10 horses in a group four times daily, so space is limited. The more people you have in your group, the sooner you should call. Please give us at least a few days, but generally no more than a month to ensure availability. Last minute calls and walk-ins are always welcome, however, we can’t guarantee availability without a reservation. Conference group coordinators with larger groups will need to book earlier.
When is the best time to ride?
Open all year.
Spring, Summer, Fall: During the week (Tuesday through Friday) is the best time because there is usually less activity on the beach. If you ride on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday), the 10:00 am or the 4:00 p.m. rides are most popular.
Winter: Usually the afternoon rides are best for warmth any day.
Where do we meet you?
We ride from our horse ranch located directly on the beach at the southern tip of the island in the Amelia Island State Park. We do NOT meet you at Peter’s Pointe in ANY public parking lot. We ride only at the southern tip of Amelia Island. Directions.
What if I have a reservation and the weather is bad?
Simply call the ranch to inquire prior to leaving or just arrive as planned. The weather can be very in climate on the island from one end to another so please don’t assume it’s raining here if it’s raining at your end! We, as professional tour guides will make the decision based on actual weather patterns and our own experience about whether it is safe to take the ride out. We will certainly cancel any ride due to extreme weather conditions at no cost to you. Otherwise, we make every effort to get you to the beach! However…if we do get caught in the rain – we simply get wet. Sorry, no refunds.
May I bring a camera?
Once you take the reins, controlling your mount is your first responsibility, one which will keep you quite busy (especially if you have minimal riding experience). Photographic equipment is NOT permitted on the ride because it is a distraction hazard, but you may certainly take as many pictures as you want at the ranch. Please understand that it is not the “click” or flash from the camera that will scare the horse, the danger is you losing concentration or dropping the reins or camera while trying to take a picture! For everyone’s safety and convenience, your wrangler will be outfitted with a camera and will take your picture which you can purchase online when you get home. Check them out here along with other picture merchandise. Our customers love this option because now they can just concentrate on having fun. Also, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of photos and merchandise helps us care for our elderly retired beach horses who have a forever home with us.
How should I dress?
Dress for the weather for the particular time of year. What is on your feet is most important. Ideally, a light shoe or boot with a small heel is best to keep your foot from slipping through the stirrup. However, we also know that you packed for the beach, not necessarily thinking about a horseback ride. In the alternative, tennis shoes are acceptable, but PLEASE NO FLIP FLOPS! Wearing shorts or long pants is a personal preference. We don’t care. However, you might get a strange look from us if you arrive for your ride wearing a skirt. This may seem obvious to you since one must straddle a horse in order to ride it, but we’ve seen everything. Also, please don’t try to dress or undress while riding the horse. This could be hazardous to you or another rider. Do not bring anything loose or cumbersome with you such as backpacks or purses. Sorry, we do not provide lockers and cannot be responsible for lost or stolen items. Be sure all hats, visors, caps and clothing are snug and secure to you, and prepare for sunshine!
Do you sell T-shirts?
Yes! But not only that, we now have a real gift shop! We sell lots of stuff! Bring money! Support small business! Remember this activity is a BUCKET LISTER! We are THE only PREMIER beach horseback ride in the country! You need to have the tee shirt!
Do you give private lessons?
Yes. Many of our customers are beginners and often tell us they would like to know a little more so they can feel comfortable the next time they go on vacation and ride a horse. A little education is a wealth of confidence. Learn basic horsemanship, equine behavior, handling, proper seat and riding technique, consultations, etc. from full-time professional certified equine manager, trainer and wrangler. Private lessons are suited to individual need. Seasoned school horses supplied. There are many who give lessons, but very few as qualified. Call Kelly at 904-491-5166 for more information. Limited number of students accepted.
Is it customary to tip the wranglers?
The wranglers are very much at work during every ride and always at your service. You may not realize it, but while you are concentrating on your horse and and looking at all the beautiful scenery, your guides are busy! They work hard on adjusting your equipment, giving instruction, assisting as many as 10 riders during a tour, answering questions, navigating the route, picking up any dropped articles, taking pictures, watching for traffic and potential hazards (while risking life and limb) and diligently working together to make sure you have a fun and safe ride. Yes, please drop a monetary thank you in the tip box! Your guides will graciously appreciate it since they many of them are in school and supporting families!
Is there anything else to do in the park?
Sure! If horseback riding isn’t your thing, we also rent bicycles for use on the new and beautiful Amelia Island Trail which starts at our driveway! We have 26″, 24″ and 20″ cruisers for rent. First come first serve.
FAQs – THE HORSES
What kind of horses do you have?
We have several breeds, some of which are American Quarter Horses, Walking Horses, Paints, and Appaloosas.
How old are your horses, and how long can they live?
Domesticated horses can live to be about 30 years old. Our horses range in age from 8 to 28. Please remember that in order for us to have a quiet, seasoned horse for a beginner rider, we must have horses with a lot of experience, hence some with a little age as well. If you notice an imperfection in a horse’s gait, or a bump on his knee, please keep in mind that we all have our little ailments as we get older, but we don’t stop living. We inspect our horses daily for injuries and illnesses to ensure soundness for their daily activity. We are horsemen first, and we will abuse no horse for the sake of capitalism. In fact, we have rescued many from previous owners, so please do not hurt our feelings with unfounded accusations. Our horses have a forever home with us.
Where do you get your horses?
As we always say, we don’t “get” them, we “make” them. We choose a new horse by good mind, temperament, soundness and conformation, ride and train them until they are safe enough for a complete beginner rider, and then we season them for the beach. Good horses are hard to find and making a finished horse takes many years. Most of our horses have been with the ranch and will stay with us for as long as they live, even when retired. In fact, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of photos and merchandise helps with food and medicine for our elderly retirees.
Do the horses like the ocean?
In all honesty, horses are initially terrified of the ocean, which is why that is the finishing step in their training to be a “beach” horse. Realistically, horses (prey animals) are scared because the ocean is loud (crashing waves), smells funny, provides no food or fresh water, and has all sort of crazy human activity (predators) such as kids playing, loose dogs, cars, kites, seadoos, bicycles, kayaks, windsurfers, (even low-flying airplanes), etc. that you don’t find on the average trail ride. Even once trained, horses don’t think like humans of enjoying “a fine day at the beach.” However, they are now comfortable there and generally “accept” the beach (and much that comes with it), and they do like the routine of getting out and moving about with their herd buddies.
Is it hard for the horses to walk in the sand?
Not really. Generally, horses are much stronger and can endure much more than humans, especially when they are conditioned well for their job. So even though they may walk slowly and quietly down the beach, never underestimate their athleticism and how fast they can move if they want to. We do, however, sometimes stay away from excessively deep sand in certain areas near the water as a precautionary measure for horse and rider safety.
Do the shells hurt their feet?
No. If they did, we would have a lot of lame horses. Fortunately, since their feet are so hard and without feeling, shells have never been a problem. We do watch out for other debris such as broken glass or boards with sharp nails which could cause a puncture wound.
Why is my horse tripping?
He’s not perfect. Your horse may be tripping for the same reason you trip.,..by accident. There is nothing wrong with your horse if he trips. He also farts, pees, snorts, coughs, and poops. It’s all okay. Don’t laugh, you’ll hurt his feelings. 🙂
How do the horses handle the heat?
Just fine. No need to worry. We don’t torture our horses in the heat just to make money. Horses and most other animals are built much better for the elements than we are as humans. Horses survive anywhere from Alaska to Siberia without human assistance. Our horses are very well conditioned and this is an easy job for them, making this literally a walk on the beach. And since we’re on an island, there is usually a nice ocean breeze, even on the hottest of days. (Good for customers too.) We have had few occasion to cancel a ride due to the heat index.
May we hand feed the horses?
Sorry, but hand feeding horses would encourage them to bite. We’d like you to go home with all of the fingers you came with. But rest assured, our horses haven’t missed getting special treatment.
Do you board horses?
Yes, on a short-term basis only. Please go to Boarding.
Why is he stomping his foot and shaking his head?
Hmmm… must have been something you said. Just kidding! He is simply trying to stomp or shake a few flies away. No worries.
Why is he moving?
Now we’re worried. Okay, really???? He has a heartbeat and is breathing to sustain life. 🙂 (If you have to ask that question, maybe you should think about a riverboat cruise….????)