SOUTH HUTCHINSON ISLAND — If riding a horse on a Florida beach is on your bucket list, the opportunity is nearby.
South Hutchinson Island, about an hour’s drive from Okeechobee, offers special permits that allow horse owners to enjoy a beach ride.
For those who do not own a horse, St. Lucie County also has a licensed contractor who offers guided trail rides on the beach.
Horse owners can purchase weekly or annual permits, which include a key to the trailer parking area at Frederick Douglass Memorial Park and a permit sticker that must be displayed on the vehicle or horse trailer.
An annual riding permit is $200 for non-St. Lucie County residents. The permit allows the holder to bring two horses to the beach. Each additional annual permit is $100 per horse.
Permit holders are allowed four beach rides per month including one Saturday, one Sunday and two weekdays.
The county limits the number of horses that may be on the beach per day, so advance reservations are required for beach rides. Reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance; reservations are on a “first come” basis so calling early is advised.
Just as those who go to dog-friendly beaches must clean up after their animals, riders are required to either use manure “catch bags” or else clean up after their horses on the beach, on the paths leading to the beach and in the parking area after each ride. All manure must be removed from the park by the permit holder.
Horses are prohibited on the dunes, so as not to disturb the dune plants and the turtles that nest on the dunes.
Horses are permitted in the water, and many horses appear to enjoy it. Those who have never taken a horse to the beach before are advised to start by leading the horse to the waterline and giving the horse a chance to acclimate to the sounds and smells of the beach.
For more on beach riding in St. Lucie County, go online to stlucie.gov.