There are around 400 horses in the Cayman Islands, spread across a host of stables and riding schools. Between them, they cater to all ages and levels of experience, from those who have never ridden a horse to those hoping to represent Cayman in the next Olympics. Here we take a look at three stables, each offering a unique riding experience.
Cayman Riding School – riding excellence
Owned and operated by British Horse Society instructor Tracy Surrey, Savannah-based Cayman Riding School primarily caters to those who are serious riders, keen to learn and perfect their riding skills.
Surrey has been around horses all her life, and her love for them is infectious. She offers lessons in English-style riding, for ages five and up, in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Her students – around 60 in all – range from absolute beginners, to adults looking to get back in the saddle once again, to expert equestrians with their eyes on competing professionally.
The school is home to around 10 horses and includes a large training arena, with space for dressage and jumping practice.
A core part of Surrey’s business is teaching youngsters to ride, helping them work toward earning British Pony Club badges – seen as important milestones for budding equestrians.
Surrey structures lessons for children by pairing them with other children of similar age, knowledge and experience so that nobody feels out of their depth.
“We never push, so the children are allowed to work at their own speed.” Surrey said.
Pampered Ponies – beach experience
Located at Barkers Beach, Pampered Ponies offers a more relaxed riding experience. The stables primarily cater to tourists and novice riders, offering beach hacks along the untouched, windswept national park, including sunset and moonlight rides. The stables also offer riders the unique opportunity to take the horses out for a dip in the sea, where guests get the opportunity to remove the saddle and go bareback on the horse for a refreshing swim in the crystal clear Caribbean waters.
Owner and operator Lori Salvatore began the company in 1996 after getting her first horse, “Pongo,” an acquisition that she said changed her life.
“I figured quickly I wasn’t going to be able to afford to keep him unless I put him to work,” Salvatore explained. “So we went around and gathered up a few friends and trained them and we went into business, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
“We really love what we do; we love having the people come with us because we know that they don’t get to do this every day. We do the best we can and show them a time they’ll remember forever.”
Cowboy Town Stables – a therapeutic approach
Situated in Savannah, Cowboy Town Stables is a horse riding facility with a unique focus.
While the stable offers riding lessons to people of all ages and abilities, owner Shanna Pandohie has recently been focusing on the therapeutic benefits horse riding offers for children and adults with special needs – a group that now accounts for about half of the stable’s total numbers.
“The benefits of therapeutic horsemanship can be cognitive, physical, emotional or social,” Pandohie explained. “For instance, I had one young lady who, since she started doing therapeutic horsemanship, the way that she walks has become more normalized and her core strength has also improved. She’s more confident, she talks a little more, and if she was here and I asked her to introduce herself, she would tell you her name, whereas previously she didn’t necessarily have enough confidence even to do that. It just made a huge difference.”
Pandohie said that she has seen a range of special needs students benefit from horsemanship lessons, including those with autism, cognitive disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Down’s syndrome, and cerebral palsy.
She adds that she also gets a number of adult riders who rode when they were younger and have decided to get back in the saddle once more.
“Maybe something happened and they’ve lost their confidence, and now, later in life, they’ve decided they want to go back and ride,” Pandohie said.
“I don’t tell people that we give riding lessons, I tell them that we give horsemanship lessons. We want to build a good foundation of horsemanship, we don’t want people to simply know how to ride.”
She added: “Typically, people prep their own horse. They get their own horse out of the stall, they groom it, and saddle it up.”