“Watch the horse, hon,” I said.
“Right there,” I said, pointing to the right side of the narrow road. We drove slowly by a man leading a dark brown horse with a rope.
“Is he walking it to the beach?” Michael asked.
“I guess so.” It was just after 7 am and Michael and I were on our daily drive to take advantage of the morning beach hours. Though many restrictions have been lifted, the beaches are still only open from 6-9 in the morning and 3-6 in the afternoon. On this particular morning we were headed to Needham’s Point, but when one sees horses headed to a beach, one makes alternate plans.
We pulled into a parking area and saw another guy standing with a horse. We greeted him and asked what was going on. “Taking de horse for a bath,” he said. At least that’s what I think he said. The Barbadians speak English but clip the language into a dialect that neither Michael nor I can follow. Many of them have the ability to turn off their dialect when speaking to us tourists. The trainer tried to coax his persnickety horse closer to the water, but Persnickety stood his ground, so Michael and I just skirted by.
As we looked out over the beach, we saw three more horses in various depths of water–up to their knees, up to their chests, and one whose head was the only thing we could see above the gentle waves. Each was being led by a trainer.
“I read about this!” Michael said. “I’ve seen pictures of this, but I didn’t know where it was.”
“Of horses swimming in the ocean?” I asked.
“Well, I don’t think they swim. It’s pretty shallow here. I think they just walk out.” We watched as Head-Above-Water moved further and further out to sea.
“Uh–I don’t think he’s walking, hon,” I said as we watched him glide toward the sailboats moored in the bay.
Persnickety Horse and his trainer had reached the boundary between sand and water. Persnickety started kicking his back legs out behind him sending sand in all directions. I backed away.
Eventually Persnickety made it to the water’s edge and dipped his hooves in, looking like a kid who wasn’t sure he was really interested in this whole water thing.
We watched as the trainers washed down their horses, watched as Head-Above-Water continued his swim out toward the cruise ship that’s been docked in this bay for a year. “I wonder if, when they get back, they wash them again to get the salt off?” I asked.
Were I alone, I would have stayed and watched the horse-bathing for another hour. I’m of the “Who Knows When We’ll See This Again?” variety. Michael is of the, “I’m Sure We Can See This Again Sometime” breed. It turns out Michael was right. We’ve been to this same spot to snorkel or walk the beach and have seen the horses multiple times.
“And did you see the goat?” friends asked us recently when we told them about the horses.
“Yeah — There’s one horse who has a goat for a friend. The goat follows him everywhere–even into the water.”
Well, darn. We’ll just have to go back. . .
Epilogue: Later on, I did a little research. These were horses from the nearby racetrack. Apparently swimming in the ocean is good exercise and good for their muscles. . . Someone else told me this horse bathing thing only happens on Thursdays and Saturdays. Others have said you can catch it on most mornings. Some said 6am only. We were there after 7 and saw it. For those that are ever in Barbados: Go to the parking lot just past the Raddison hotel entrance. Then come back in the afternoon to get a fish cutter from Cuz’s, which is in the same parking lot. . . you won’t be disappointed.