Possible Horse Surfing Ban Threatens Local Business
With a possible prohibition on horseback riding and horse surfing at the Palma Sola Causeway Park, the owner and employees of Great World Adventures brace themselves.
Tim Mattox, owner of Great World Adventures out of Lakewood Ranch, remembers the man a couple years ago who walked up to him at the Palma Sola Causeway Park and told him about one of the fondest memories of his life.
“He said, ‘Hey, I love what you’re doing,' ” said Mattox, whose company services include guided horse-surfing adventures. “And then he told me how he met his wife horseback riding on this beach in the ’70s and that this really takes him back.”
If a proposed Bradenton City Council ordinance that would prohibit horses on the causeway and its beaches is passed, Mattox’s horse-surfing business, in which guides escort horseback riders, would be kaput. The council voted 4-1 Wednesday to have the city's attorney draft such an ordinance in the coming weeks. A public hearing will be held before a final vote.
Council members in favor of the ordinance said the horses pose health risks in the form of waste and possible safety risks as the 1,000-pound animals are next to children.
The possible prohibition comes at a time when horse-surfing has gained national attention and is being touted by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. It seems the unique activity is as contagious as a YouTube video gone viral.
“There’s people from Germany, Canada, Japan and California who come for vacation in Manatee County specifically to do this,” Mattox said. “Every week we get people who drive here from Miami and Daytona and everywhere in between to do the beach experience. Even those in Orlando drive here to do this.”
Councilman Gene Gallo has spent months pushing for a ban after fielding calls from residents complaining about horse waste. Mattox agrees those with horses on the beach should clean up their waste.
“I think that’s a legitimate complaint,” Mattox said. “Some horse owners don’t pick up after their horses, and of course we get blamed for it. So basically we have to pick up after their horses, and we get blamed for not picking up after our horses. And we always pick up after our horses.”
Horse-surfing farrier Cody Noordzy said because horses are vegetarians, primarily eating grass, their excrement does not include hook worms, unlike dog poop.
And Great World Adventures has a vested interest in keeping the beach clean.
“We don’t just clean up after ourselves,” guide Mackenzi Decker said. “We clean other people's litter. It’s our workplace. It has to look nice.”
Said guide Christy Steed:” I bring my personal horse here, and what we do is less impactful on this beach than what people do on the public beach.”
Mattox said the small strip of beach on the causeway is the state's only such spot south of Jacksonville where horses are allowed on a beach.
“In addition to generating tourism for Manatee County and the city of Bradenton,” Mattox said, “we have been able to deliver some really amazing experiences for individuals who come to Bradenton just to do this.”