Gaiting the Coast before Marti Gras

riding the ocean coast

By Jennifer Klitzke

Have you ever dreamed about riding along the ocean coast? It’s been a dream of mine, and it came true—but there was a catch. I had to ride in a Marti Gras parade on a horse that had never been in one.

In January I had a week free before beginning my new job and learned that Jennie Jackson was training at Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center near Mobile, Alabama. So I took a spontaneous four-day trip South to briefly escape the arctic blast.

“Make sure you stay through Saturday,” Jennie said, “so that you can ride the ocean coast and in the Dauphin Island Marti Gras parade.”

Ocean coast? Wow! Not only would I be Jennie’s working student and ride several Tennessee walking horses at various stages of training each day, but I would be riding the ocean coast—a dream come true!

I didn’t realize how special this opportunity was until I arrived. Dauphin Island only allows horses on the beach once a year and that’s only for horses that are trailered in for their Marti Gras parade.

Speaking of Marti Gras, Like most people, I thought Marti Gras was an annual event exclusive to New Orleans. Turns out Marti Gras originated in Mobile, Alabama and is celebrated for several weeks throughout the South until Lent begins.

On the third day of riding with Jennie, I met Abbie, a six-year-old Tennessee walking horse mare who reminded me of my naturally gaited Walking horse Makana. Abbie would be the horse I’d ride on the beach and in the parade. Neither she nor I had ever ridden the ocean coast or in a parade, so I did my best to establish trust and team work.

Abbie and I took a nice trail ride with one of the boarders while Jennie taught lessons. We rode up and down hills, alongside a beautiful aqua marine lake with rust colored sand, through the woods, over felled trees, and through creeks. Back at the Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center, Abbie and I negotiated their extensive trail obstacle course . I felt like we had connected well.

The next morning a group of us trailered to Dauphin Island through the grey skies and rain. Thankfully the sun broke through the clouds for our beach ride and parade.

Jennie and Watchout
Jennie Jackson riding her famous TWH dressage stallion Champagne Watchout.
Abbie and I riding on the ocean coast.
Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center’s TWH Abbie and I riding on the ocean coast.

The first one in the ocean was Jennie Jackson and her famous stallion Champagne Watchout. He LOVES the water and gave the rest of the horses confidence to step into the wavy shoreline. In no time we were flat walking the ocean coast. It wasn’t as romantic as I had pictured in my mind—galloping carefree through the water in a long flowing gown—but it was FUN!

Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center fosters a community of wonderful people who enjoy a variety of disciplines with their gaited horses: dressage, trail riding, competitive trail obstacles, jumping and cross country, parades, mounted patrol, and more.

Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center
Our group from Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center.

After our beach ride, our group dressed up in purple, green and gold, adorned in beads, and rode four miles along the city streets to the beginning of the parade route.

Cremelo TWH
The large beads are called sugar beads.
Blues band between the ears
Not your typical between the ears shot.
Abbie and I
Abbie seemed to like the music and danced to the beat.
Jennie and Watchout
How long do you think the beads will last on this head shaking horse?
Large crowds ahead.
Large crowds ahead anxiously awaiting beads, coins and moon pies.
Parade patron
Parade patrons caught flying strings of beads.
She's got the bead technique mastered.
This young parade patron has got the bead technique mastered.
Baby's first Marti Gras.
Baby’s first Marti Gras.
Parade patron
Front row seat.
Parade patron
Parade patrons of all ages having a wonderful time!
Parade patron
Love the hat!
Madison
Kathee’s TWH mare Madison leading our group in the Marti Gras Parade.
Parade patrons caught flying strings of beads.
Parade patrons caught flying strings of beads.
Parade patrons
Parade patrons getting a better view!
Parade patron
Parade patron festively dressed for the parade.
Parade patron
Love the hair!
Festively dressed horse and rider
Festively dressed horse and rider.

Thanks to Abbie and the great group of people from Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center, I not only rode on the ocean coast, but I also rode eight miles through cheering crowds, horns, loud music and flying beads and couldn’t stop smiling the entire time!

Getting ready to for the Marti Gras parade
Getting back to the trailers after four hours of riding, my face hurt from smiling about as much as my body hurt from riding!

For more information about Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center, visit their blog or subscribe to the Amazing Gaits Facebook group.

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