We’ve taken many horse treks and trail rides during our travels, but when Jamaica asked us if we’d like to go horseback riding in the waters of Montego Bay, I’ll admit, I had my reservations.
Jamaica Horseback Riding in Water
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Do horses like swimming? Is it just a gimmick? Would I be in the water with dozens of other people wanting to fulfill one of their romantic dreams? It turns out, swimming with horses is a lot of fun.
Do Horses Like to Swim?
First of all, let me tell you a little about swimming with horses. Chukka Tours takes great care in keeping their horses healthy and happy. Our guide Carrey told us that horses in Jamaica only go out on one trail ride a day and get to relax and graze the rest of the day.
Chukka Tours Horseback Ride ‘n’ Swim
We were told that horses really like going in the water and appreciate cooling off in the water after a hot day in the sun. When I looked this up, it seemed that most horses feel the same way.
Can Horses swim?
Most horses are strong swimmers and can handle themselves in the water. So the answer is yes, horses can swim. Only horses that want to swim in the ocean do so. If a horse doesn’t want to go, it is not forced.
The ride is only 10 – 15 minutes long and it switches off with walking in deep water to short bursts of swimming. Therefore the horses are not overworked or in danger of getting tired.
Is Swimming with Horses Safe?
Different horses are used for swimming in the ocean and the trail ride.
The tour starts off with a 30-45 minute trail ride on one set of horses, and then they change horses for swimming in the ocean. As our Chukka guide said to us, “If the horse doesn’t want to go in the water, it won’t do it.”
And I believe him. The last thing any tour company would want is for a horse to panic while swimming and harm a tourist in the process. When horseback riding in water, horses need to be relaxed. If they were afraid or unhappy in the water, they would panic or act up.
Swimming Horses make Weird Sounds
I was worried that the horses were labored with their breathing while swimming, but when I dug deeper, I read that these noises are normal when a horse is swimming.
Our guide said it had something to do with the saltwater. Either way, it’s just the way horses breathe when they are in the water and nothing to worry about. Just be prepared for a louder horse than usual.
Safety First When You Swim with Horses
What I like about Chukka is that all the riders wore floatation belts. I think safety is very important when you do a group ride and the belts offer a safe environment for the rider and the horse.
Jamaica Ride and Swim Experience with Chukka Tours
We were picked up at our hotel, The Hyatt Zilara, Rose Hall in Montego Bay for an hour-long minute drive to Chukka Ride and Swim in Ocho Rios.
Chukka Cove is located in Llandovery St. Ann, just 15 minutes North of Ocho Rios.
Chukka has other locations in Jamaica including Montego Bay, but we had afternoon plans to visit Green Grotto Caves, which are located between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay so we chose the site further out.
Arrival at Chukka Cove
Upon arrival at the Ride and Swim, we grabbed helmets and signed waivers before setting off on a trail ride through farmland towards the beach.
Our group consisted of about a dozen people. It felt like a good size for the ride and they kept couples together with their horses.
We had heard that some tours can reach up to 40 people. Something tells me that is the cruise group. We’ve noticed from cruises we’ve taken that tour groups are much larger. You are much better off staying on the island.
Horseback Riding on Land
The first part of the ride was uneventful. We spent the first portion of the trail on a double track and even shared it with ATVers returning from their drive.
Our guides were energetic and excited and full of jokes and stories so that made up for the lack of scenery. But once we got into the trail, it felt better riding through the forest and coming out at the water for our beach ride.
Horses Riding on the Beach
We came out of the trail at a picturesque bay and walked along the beach where we stopped for a photograph while taking in the view. After the mandatory pictures, we turned around to make our way back.
Everyone gets a photo of horseback riding on the beach!
But the best part of the trail ride was getting to walk through the woods and do a few pond crossings before going into the ocean. It wasn’t time to swim with the horses, but they had a nice little cooling off period in the shade as they walked chest-deep in the water.
I felt like it was a warm-up to our upcoming swim with the horses. We had the chance to get wet and see what it felt like to walk in deep water while sitting on a horse.
When the trail ride was over, we rode back to the beach where we hopped off our horses and went back to the waiting area to return our helmets and change into swimsuits (if you wish).
Swim with Horses
The change over from riding horses to swimming with horses was a bit confusing, but it wasn’t anything to worry about.
There were a lot of different tours going on at once and some people were just arriving, some were leaving, and some were in the middle of the tour waiting to go for a swim – like us!
Dave and I were slower than others because we were taking photos and videos and at one point thought we missed the group. But we found a couple that we talked to on the trail and they were still inside as well.
Pack a Bathing Suit
They give you time to change into bathing suits. Before arriving, Dave and I didn’t realize that we changed horses. We thought we took a long trail ride overland and then ended in the water. So we didn’t bring bathing suits.
There was no way I was going to ride for 45 minutes in my swimsuit on a trail in my swimsuit. Can you imagine the chafing? So we both chose to wear quick-dry shorts and shirts.
What it is like to go Horseback Riding in Water
It turns out the other riders did their research and knew that we started on land and then changed into swimming. They were ready for the water, but that’s okay, other people chose to wear t-shirts and shorts too.
I ended up feeling good about the decision because when we went swimming, it didn’t really matter if I was wearing a bathing suit or not.
When the swimming portion started, they took us out in smaller groups so our one large group split into two.It was a pretty laid-back experience anyway. We figured if we missed our group we would have been okay.
When it came down to going back to the horses and swimming, guides simply asked us if we’d had a chance to swim yet?
Waiting to swim with horses. If we didn’t, they put us in with the group about to go in. All was good. Dave and I decided to split up so that we could take photos of each other, but realized it was a bad idea.
The horses go pretty far out from the beach and it would have been way more fun to do it together. Besides, we had GoPros with us, they could get wet. The swimming experience was very cool.
We walked from the beach and slowly made our way to deeper water. I didn’t even realize the horses were swimming at first. It wasn’t until our guide said: “We’re swimming!” That I noticed a change in the rhythm of the ride.
The horses started to make noise when they took a breath and I thought it was them working harder, but I have read different reasons for this.
One could be the pressure of the water on their lungs, two could be the saltwater bothering their nostrils. (my guide told me the latter).
We swam out in a large loop following our guide’s lead. There were three guides on horseback with us making sure all was well.
I ended up going off course a bit while taking some GoPro footage of the group and they had to corral me back. And that’s when I made a little error.
When our guide yelled “you’re going the wrong way” I pulled on the reins to turn him towards the group. My horse reared a little bit and I fell off.
The guide was quick to tell me to never pull on the reins when swimming. It pulls their head up and causes them to lose balance. Ah, lesson learned.
My horse didn’t seem to mind too much though. When I fell off, it kept on swimming as I scrambled to hold on to the light pad strapped to its back. Within a few seconds, we were back in formation and continued on with the swim.
The swim switched between walking on sandbars and swimming in spurts. At first, I was apprehensive about swimming with horses, but in the end, I had a great time. After seeing the horses swim in a calm and orderly fashion (even after a dummy like me fell off) I could see that they didn’t mind.
Hey, it’s not a bad day when you get to hang out at the beach!
About the Chukka Ride and Swim Experience
- For more information visit Chukka Tours in Saint Ann
- The costs vary depending on the day package you are doing. But it is usually $79 for the ride and tour only.
- Horses used for trail rides in Jamaica are ex-polo horses that are now retired.
- I found the price of photographs to be too much. They charged $65 for a photo package. When are tour companies going to learn that if they make photos reasonable people will buy them?
- However, the photos on the beach were taken by the guides on your camera. We had them take our picture on our iPhone. So that’s cool.
- The swim is 10 – 15 minutes. I have seen people complain about the short time and I cannot understand why they would complain. They do realize that the horses have to swim and work in the water. If they made it 30 minutes that would be really hard on the horses.
- In total, the experience lasted about two hours. We found it a good amount of time for the price.
- You can combine adventures and include zip lining, cliff jumping and ATving.
- For more information on Jamaica, visit the Jamaican Tourism website and follow them on social.
Our trip to Jamaica is in partnership with the Jamaica Tourism Board, all thoughts and opinions are our own.
Have you gone swimming with horses? Where?