Riding a swimming horse during our Grand Cayman family vacation, hosted by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, is definitely toward the top of our list of most memorable travel experiences.
Unlike our swimming pigs adventure in the Bahamas, flights were booked before Pampered Ponies‘ swimming horses landed on our itinerary. My daughter could not believe her luck. Swimming horses were all she could talk about in the days leading up to our trip. Needless to say she wound up loving our ride (as did I).
This is definitely one of the best things to do with kids in Grand Cayman.
Pampered Ponies in Grand Cayman
It took about 10 minutes to reach Pampered Ponies in West Bay from The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. Our Majestic Tours driver picked us up and waited for us throughout the duration of our roughly 2-hour tour.
Pampered Ponies is in a quiet beachside neighborhood with a large shaded corral full of horses that had completely embraced the Caribbean vibe. In other words, they’re mellow and used to to people. And, as the name implies, they’re pampered.
After checking in, we saddled up one by one. There were four guests in our group plus two guides.
Ride Down an Uninhabited Beach
This is a much quieter side of the island compared to Seven Mile Beach and George Town. Our ride started along a road until we leisurely turned left toward the water.
Though it was high tide, the horses were perfectly content to walk on the wet sand with ocean water cooling their feet. Along here is Barker’s National Park. We only saw a handful of other people along the way.
I would guess it took about 20 minutes or maybe longer to reach the spot where the horses like to swim. The peaceful ride on the beach is awesome excursion in its own right. And, if that’s all you’re after… you will not be disappointed. One of the guests opted to stay on shore to watch the horses swim, which is perfectly fine.
Saddles were removed and then it was time to head into crystal blue water. The horses didn’t need to be told where to go. It was a hot day and I suspect they relished cooling down in the ocean… though the water temperature still felt quite warm.
Our guide took my GoPro because I held the reigns in one hand and grabbed on to the horse’s mane with the other. I hadn’t ridden bareback in some time but, thankfully, the water seemed to hold me in place, too. Staying upright was easier than I thought. My daughter did not have any trouble riding her horse.
In we went! I’ve ridden plenty of horses in my life but never a swimming horse.
They walked rather slowly into the water until they couldn’t touch the bottom. I couldn’t distinguish when the actual swimming started as it felt more or less the same as a slow walk. At some point, I looked down to see their legs moving in more of a circular motion. The guide confirmed that, yes, they’re swimming and stuck my GoPro underwater to capture it.
What cracked me up is that all of the horses grinned from ear to ear. They started to hum, too. Hilarious.
We headed straight out to sea and then when the horses were ready (they know their limits), they headed back into shore. The current was a bit strong on the day we went in, but I’d say we were in the ocean for 10 – 15 minutes.
The guest’s horse next to me was seriously having a blast. He was so, so funny.
After the ride, we took a few minutes to dry off and drink some bottled water brought by the guides. The horses were re-saddled and off we went down the beach back to Pampered Ponies.
I would highly recommend this as a fun Cayman Islands activity and will definitely do it again.
Preparing for Your Beach Horseback Ride
I wasn’t quite sure what we should wear on our feet but we were fine in flip flops. Some guests wear water shoes or even tennis shoes (though the latter will definitely get sandy if you take them off to swim).
If you choose swimming, you will get wet. A bathing suit definitely works but because I’d already received a ton of sun, I wore an SPF water shirt and pants. Definitely wear sunscreen and bug spray (mandatory anywhere you go on the island anyway). A hat is helpful for the ride down the road and beach. You can leave it and anything else with the saddles on the beach during swimming.
A Cayman Islands swimming horses tour is a suggested activity for kids age 12 and above. Younger kids with riding experience will be fine. Lori, the owner of Pampered Ponies, can help you decide whether the swimming portion is appropriate for your kids.
Bring a waterproof camera. However, if you use a GoPro, it might be best worn as a chest strap with video left on. You will need both hands to hold on to the horse.
Pampered Ponies’ horses actually swim. Some Cayman Islands tour companies only offer a chance to wade into shallow water with horses. So, it’s important to note the difference when researching.
Learn more and book through Pampered Ponies. We loved our tour.
Would you ride a swimming horse?
*Thank you to the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism for hosting our swimming horse tour.