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, 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, nor can we erase thirty years of insecurities (although we try). 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 ONLINE REVIEW) THAT THIS IS A GENTLE, WALK-ONLY TRAIL RIDE.  If you go to a vegetarian restaurant and ask for a beef hamburger, you should not go home and write a review that they didn’t offer beef hamburgers. Geez. 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 would 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. (And don’t forget poor Great Aunt Matilda who you brought along; she signed on for the relaxing tour.) Also, we have to share the beach with other non-horse visitors and remain courteous, because not everyone appreciates a small stampede passing by while they are fishing or whatever.  Oh, there are a million reasons — including not working your horses to death — but we hope you will not deny yourself this amazing experience just because you can’t gallop.

I still want to gallop down the beach. 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, and that is why all professional trail riding is typically done one behind another. Please know that we don’t want to deny anyone fun — as we are in the “fun” business — but our operation is based on training and safety as well. We also want our horses to keep enjoying their easy job of a walk on the beach. Also, apply answer to above question, rinse and repeat.

Do you ride English or Western?

We ride with western-style 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 additional balance and support. If you feel you can “only ride English,” why not let us show you something new? 

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 . . . (sigh)
The Long Answer: Actually, an “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: No. We don’t have those kinds of horses. But, we will be happy to provide you with a finished and proven beach trail horse that we’re sure you’ll love! 

What if my child under the age of thirteen has riding experience? 

Regardless of experience, children must be at least thirteen years or older, at least four and a half feet 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 double with me? 

Sorry, you may do this at home, but on a commercial beach ranch, riding double is not safe; it is not permitted under any circumstance.

Do I have to wear a helmet?

Yes and no. Minors ages thirteen to fifteen, yes, because of Florida laws; ages sixteen to seventeen it’s the parents’ discretion; eighteen and up, it’s your own decision. This is on our liability waiver. We offer equestrian helmets to all our guests, but you are welcome to bring your own to protect your noggin. However, if you decide to don the dome, please don’t remove it for any reason during the tour. It then becomes a hazard when you drop it, and that is when, of course, you might really need it — right after your horse trips over it. So . . . don’t do that.

Can my grandparents ride? 

Sure. However, again 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 unrelated sport activity it  has been compared to over the years). Hip replacements, arthritis and decreased motor skills can certainly interfere with a 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 considerably more serious and lengthy 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. This is a gentle ride, but horses are bumpy and uncomfortable even when you’re not pregnant; and you really don’t want to risk it anyway. Also, please don’t think booking a ride is going to help your wife induce labor. Nice try, but that is wrong on many levels.

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 and 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? (We wranglers have our own list of FAQ.) 

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, swinging 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 riding after a recent surgery. Please consult your doctor for permission. 

Are you a therapeutic riding facility? 

We are a commercial, recreational riding facility. We are members of the Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH), and we apply to PATH standards. However, the Kelly Ranch is not and cannot 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!

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 ten 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 really no more than a month to ensure availability. Last minute calls 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?

If in spring, summer or 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 ten or the twelve o’clock rides are most popular. There is more chance of afternoon rain during summer months.
If in winter: Usually the afternoon rides are best for warmth.

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 or in ANY public parking lot. We ride exclusively 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 different on the island from one end to the other; so please don’t assume it’s raining here if it’s raining at your end. We will make the decision based on actual weather patterns, radar, and our own experience as to 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. However, 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 your losing concentration or dropping the reins or camera while trying to take a picture! Please don’t try to sneak one along, because we will catch you and stop you anyway. 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. 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 bear the expense for our elderly, retired beach horses who have a forever home with us.

How should I dress? 

Dress for the weather for the particular season. 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 tight 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 as this could be hazardous to you or another rider when your clothing sets sail in the wind. Do not bring anything loose or cumbersome with you such as backpacks or purses. Sorry, we do not provide lockers and are not responsible for lost or stolen items. Be sure all hats, visors, caps and clothing are snug and secure to you, and prepare for sunshine!

What if I drop something?

If you do not follow instruction to leave all loose items behind before mounting, you may drop something. If you do, please alert the guide who will, if possible, retrieve it for you. Please DO NOT attempt to stop and dismount your horse because you WILL endanger your own safety as well as that of your horse and others. This is especially important because you may have a very difficult time getting back on your horse, and it’s a long walk back. (And, again, don’t take off your helmet because you WILL drop it.)

Do you sell t-shirts?

Yes! But, not only that, we 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 t-shirt! 

Is it customary to tip the wranglers? 

Please do. 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 ten 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 are in school and supporting families. Thank you in advance.

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-inch cruisers for rent on a first-come, first-served basis. 


What kind of horses do you have? 

We have several breeds: 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 thirty years old. Our horses range in age from eight to thirty years. 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 horses may have a little age on them. 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 with a good mind, temperament, soundness and conformation; ride and train them until they are safe enough for a complete beginner rider; and then, we season or finish them for the beach. Good horses are hard to find, and finishing a 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 that can no longer work. 

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 enjoying “a fine day at the beach.” However, they are now comfortable and generally accept the beach environment, 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. 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. (Or maybe you dropped your helmet you weren’t supposed to take off during the ride.)

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 occasions where we had to cancel a ride due to the heat index but, in any event, they always get showers at the end of the day!

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, we board 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 are asking that question, maybe you should think about a riverboat cruise . . . ????! 

Ranch owner and writer, Kelly Kelly, is also a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. If you enjoyed this content, she can be contacted at kellykellyproofreader@gmail.com if you are looking for assistance with your blogs, articles, or other written works.