Horseback rider Johnny Loizides says the beach on Hayling Island in Hampshire, England has welcomed horseback riders since before he was born. Riders from all over the country travel to this three-mile stretch of sand for the freedom and exhilaration that can only come from a beautiful beach ride. While the beach has been a popular place for riders for years, a recent change is putting that at risk. The law allowing horses on the beach is up for review, and riders are doing everything they can to stay on the sand
Johnny contacted iHeartHorses about the situation at Hayling Island Beach saying,
"It would appear that post lockdown, thousands of tourists suddenly appeared on the beach and didn't like the fact that they would have to share it with horses during certain hours. "
Since the 1970's, the Havant Borough Council has allowed horseback riders at the Hayling Island seafront during certain hours of the day. The freedom to ride on the public beach has attracted both local horse owners and those willing to travel for a day of sun, sand, and a splash through the water. With more tourists visiting the beach in recent months, however, the borough has received a number of complaints.
Havant Borough Council member Michael Wilson told BBC that while there have been no reported accidents or incidents, the increasingly crowded beach has led to several complaints. Those complaints say horseback riders are riding at high speeds in crowded areas, jumping groynes without looking to see if a person is on the other side, and failing to pick up manure. They also say the mass of horse trailers creates complications in the parking area and that horses are sometimes on the beach outside the permitted times and areas.
In response to these claims, the council has decided to review the by-law and make a decision as to whether the beach should remain a horse-friendly area.
While beach-going tourists have spurred the controversy, horseback riders are rallying to protect their place on the beach. In only two weeks, over 5,800 people have signed a petition saying the beach is big enough for everyone to enjoy, and horses don't deserve to be kicked off.
Several riders have come forward voicing their opinions saying that in all the years horses have been allowed on the beach, there has never been an accident. The soft sand is an ideal place for horses to exercise, and the sight of horses cantering through the shallows creates "magical memories" for everyone in the area. They also point out that there is an area of the beach that is completely off-limits to horses, so anyone who would rather not be confronted with riders can enjoy their time in that section of sand. Johnny says the locals appreciate the horses as part of the town's charm and a positive part of island life.
The general consensus seems to be that a few irresponsible riders are at risk of ruining the beach for the majority. The sudden increase in tourists has inflamed the issue. A council representative said,
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"Public safety is our paramount concern. We are looking in the by-laws around horse riding on Hayling beach to find a way to keep everyone on the beach safe and happy."
A decision has yet to be made, and those in favor of keeping horses on the beach are hoping to connect with council members about their concerns. If you support their cause, you can sign the petition here.