Swimming With Horses

In Negril, clients can cool off on horseback

By: Janeen Christoff

It was hot and sticky, and my hands were covered in mango juice, so when our guide asked if we wanted to go for a swim with the horses at the end of our ride through the Jamaican jungle, my answer was definitely yes.

The guides quickly made adjustments to our saddles for the watery ride, and then we were trotting into the ocean. At first my horse seemed a little apprehensive about diving all the way in, and I watched with jealousy as other riders sank with their horses into the warm water. Then it was my turn. After some coaxing, my horse bounded into the deep, and we were swimming gracefully along the coastline.

At the Rhodes Hall Plantation in Negril, Jamaica, this excursion is one of several horseback riding options that clients can take advantage of during their visit.

My group consisted of a couple on their honeymoon, another couple on vacation, a group of three friends and myself, plus our two well-trained guides. Our journey started at the stable, where we were given brief riding instructions and helmets. We learned the “rules of the road” and how to steer our horses. I’ve ridden all my life, so I didn’t have too many questions, but another guest had never been on a horse and the guides gave her a quick riding lesson and stayed nearby, in case she had any problems or questions. By the end of the ride, she looked like an experienced equestrian.

There are two different guided rides offered at Rhodes Hall.

The Mountain Ride, started out on a trail through the jungle. The guides pointed out various flora and fauna along the way. We saw several different kinds of herbal plants, beautiful flowers and a bamboo grove. Since I am a complete wimp when it comes to bugs, my focus strayed from the plant life as I kept my eye out for mosquitoes, flies and giant spiders. However, I worried needlessly; bug repellent kept the mosquitoes and flies at bay, and I didn’t see any man-eating spiders, although there were a few big ones!

Leaving the jungle, we passed a swamp, which is one of the largest crocodile reserves in Western Jamaica. From the trail, we veered over to the swampy muck to catch a glimpse of one of the 70 resident crocs and spotted a couple of snouts peering at us from the under the brush.

The ride carried on alongside mango trees and our guides stopped to pick fruit for the riders. Riding with a whole, sliced-open mango in my hands became a sticky situation, but the fruit was so good, I couldn’t put it down.

We slowly made our way down toward the beach, nearing the end of our journey. After a quick swim with the horses, and a dunk in the ocean to rinse off, we said good-bye to our four-legged friends.

In the heat of the summer, the Beach Ride is the best bet. Guests go for a leisurely ride along two miles of beach, traversing the shoreline, mangrove and crocodile reserve. Guides point out different herbal plants, flowers and birds along the way. The ride continues along the shoreline, as the horses wade into the water and swim along the Rhodes Mineral Spring Beach.

After either ride, clients can relax at the Rhodes Hall Plantation while they wait for the complimentary shuttle. A small snack bar serves drinks and snacks (cash only). Guests can also wander the grounds. The plantation has been in continuous operation since the 1700s, when it was primarily producing rum. Old cauldrons dot the property and various artifacts and implements have been preserved for display. The property eventually evolved into a sugar plantation.

In addition to escorted rides, Rhodes Hall offers beginner and intermediate riding lessons, as well as special packages. A professional photographer can also take photos and video of the ride.


Rhodes Hall Plantation Horseback Riding

What to bring: Clients should wear comfortable long pants that they don’t mind getting dirty and wet. Also tell clients to bring along a bottle of water and lots of sunscreen. The best bet is to have a small backpack to hold your things during the ride or big pockets.