ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s described as a “once in a lifetime experience.”
Local company C Ponies allows tourists and locals alike to not just ride a horse, but to swim with one.
Owner Carmen Hanson got the idea for her business as she tried to keep her horses cool during our Florida summers.
“Well we got started – I’m a seventh-generation horse trainer and during the summers it would be too hot to show horses, so I would have summer camps. And on the last day of summer camps we would take the horses out here to the beach and have a cookout and a barbeque,” Hanson said. “And every time we brought the horses out, people would stop and ‘what are you doing’ and ‘oh my God the horses are out here!’ So I decided to start a business.”
At that time, Hanson said she only had one drum horse, which folks flocked to.
“Because of the crazy hair and the feathers and as we started progressing with the business, we found out that the smaller horses just couldn’t keep up with the bigger drafty-type horses. So then I was on the market to buy these horses and they were very expensive.”
Hanson and C Ponies came up with another way, a way that helps not just their business, but horses in need.
“And that’s where the rescue kind of came into play. We didn’t start this wanting to do a rescue. As we progressed, we found more and more horses that were just in horrible conditions,” she said.
“It’s a very hard upkeep with these horses because they are so heavily feathered, they get a lot of diseases in their legs and in their skin,” she explained. “So we kind of started to accumulate those horses and we found out that that saltwater was the best therapy for them because the salt just heals everything.”
The horses are initially put on a “strict training regiment” at first to get them used to the water. They are taken to the beach to splash in the water and to just have fun.
The horses never have to carry a rider until C Ponies guides know the animal enjoys the water.
Hanson said that the company’s riders are a big part of the horses’ rehabilitation. Riders are always encouraged to reach down and pet the horse and give them a hug.
Hanson said it teachers the horses that not all humans are bad.
“You know the island on Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer where all the broken toys go? That’s us. All the broken horses come to us and we take our time and we rehab them. We spend thousands of dollars to get them back into physical shape, but the hardest part is the emotional shape,” she said.
Children must be at least 10 years old to ride unless they are in a lesson plan where they can walk, trot and canter. In that case, C Ponies can be contacted.
C Ponies currently has 22 horses. This is their sixth year in business.
Here is some more information to help you plan your next horseback ride with C Ponies.
Weekday (adult or child) – $150
Weekend (adult or child) – $155
Double riding is not permitted
The company also operates at Bradenton Beach, but only horseback riding, not swimming, is available. Those prices are $10 cheaper than what is listed above. Click here for availability.
Travel time to C Ponies’ St. Petersburg location (links will update to current traffic conditions, weekday afternoon conditions listed):
– From Downtown Tampa: 39 minutes
– From Brandon: 44 minutes
– From New Port Richey: 1 hour, 5 minutes
– From Lakeland: 1 hour, 11 minutes
– From Bradenton: 22 minutes
– From Sarasota: 39 minutes