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Beach Riding in Texas

Written by Lin Sutherland © 2003

Dancing down the beach, our six horses threw fine white sand like a spray of sugar into the air around their hooves. The Gulf water glowed like a slick, flat nickel and the warm coastal winds washed over our bare shoulders. A little crab saw us coming and raced for cover -- big cover -- the Atlantic. With a grin and a grip of our legs, we pushed our horses into a full gallop down the long sandy strip of Magnolia Beach, Texas.

I'm a Texan through and through, with the Hill Country and wide open spaces of this state coursing through my veins. Little bit of horse stuff in there, too -- my ancestors arrived here by horseback in the 1820's -- so all my life I thought riding meant the gorgeous hills and dales and river valleys in the middle of the Lone Star State. Then this year, I made a trip to the coast and found what my riding buddies and I had been looking for -- the perfect place to race a horse down the sand and into the ocean. We've been hooked ever since.

The little town of Magnolia, Texas nestles south of Port Lavaca (Port The Cow, so named by Cortez when he came here by boat, a much lesser way to travel in my opinion), about 2 hours southeast of Houston. It's a beachfront village of wooden houses, shrimp workers, one park, one old courts motel and about 300 really friendly people. My first contact was with Burns Courts because they let us camp on the beach and rent a couple of rooms for showering ($35. day) use their beach barbeque pit and big pier with fresh water, bring our dogs, let our dogs run around, and do just about anything else we wanted. Did I mention Texans like freedom? They allow it too... and that's what I love about this beach.

We trailered in, about twelve of us girl riders from Onion Creek Ranch in Austin, lined up our trailers on the beach, unloaded the horses, made a picket line between the trailers with long ropes, hayed and watered them, and gazed at the beautiful water with pelicans and gulls skidding over it. Not able to resist, we saddled up the ponies and took off south -- five miles to the end of the point. There's something incredibly free about galloping down a beach and then whirling and aiming your horse right into the water, spraying surf, sending those crabs running -- the horses lunging through the warm waters, blue sky overhead -- a good horse beneath you -- who could ask for more?

We rode on down to Indianola, at the southern-most point, where there is an obelisk marking the place LaSalle came to Texas. Just about everybody who's anybody came here, you know. It's also the place where my great, great, great grandfather George Sutherland landed, starting a long line of ornery, horse-loving baby-bearing Sutherlands. There I sat, on my paint mare, staring at the same coastline my ancestor saw 170 years ago. It gave me the shivers.

Coming back in the red sunset, two fellows in a pickup hailed us and said, "Hey are ya'll the cowgirls? We left some crabs and shrimp for you back at your camp!" Sure enough, they had. Well, I don't know if you'll find that kind of neighborliness at Miami Beach, ya'll....We dug us a pit in the sand and grilled up those stone crabs and big fresh shrimp...mmmmmm.

That Sunday morning it dawned still and beautiful. I got up early before everyone else and took my two horses down to the water to watch the sunrise. They went all quiet and dead-still and the three of us alone enjoyed watching the big, soft sun come up over Magnolia Beach, Texas.

* Lin Sutherland teaches horsemanship and riding at Onion Creek Ranch in Austin, Texas. She rides and writes where the west wind takes her.

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