Illegal horseback riders a nuisance
Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
While some resort owners in Negril have been calling for the curtailing of illegal horseback riding on the beach strip, at least one rider and a former stable owner have proposed solutions which they say would not deprive horsemen of their income.
Hoteliers have been complaining for almost a year now, during Negril Resort Board meetings, that tourists, aided by wayward horsemen who rent the animals, were allowing the beasts to gallop along the beach with little regard for safety. They also said the animals should be impounded because they were defecating along the beach and causing a general nuisance to beachgoers.
But operator of the now defunct Babbu's Horse Stable, Adam James, said while he was in full support of the barring of horseback riding on the beach, the relevant authorities could assist the horsemen by finding a place for them to operate without negatively impacting anyone else. He said his own operations, which were based in Red Ground in the resort town, had collapsed several years ago because of, among other things, changes in insurance policies for horseback-riding operations that stipulated that guests could not be taken anywhere but the properties where the stables were based.
"If they have the thing the right way, they will make money and they will do good business," James said.
"The Government can help them by finding them a place (base). If they could find that to give them, then it could work out. But at the same time, most of the properties in Negril do not belong to the Government any more. It belongs to private people, so the space for the land is not there anymore, where the Government could assign them somewhere," he said.
James said there was strong demand among visitors to Negril for horseback riding, but that since the closure of his own stable and the relocation of another to Little London, guests had to take long bus rides outside of the town to enjoy such excursions.
"After sitting on a saddle for an hour and 45 minutes, sometimes your butt hurts so much, and then you have to go back and sit on a bus for another 30 minutes. The whole thing is no enjoyment anymore," he said.
Negril strip should remain off-limits
He said the Negril beach strip should remain off-limits to horseback riding, as it was a potential threat to user safety.
"We never took it to the beach (while his stable was operational), because that is always dangerous. You see, you have a lot of different kinds of people running back and forth on the beach. You have kids, you have older people and handicapped people. So those people get scared a lot of time when they see the horses running down the beach, because a lot of people can't control the horses," he said.
"So we know the danger of that, so the only time we took it to the beach was when we got a wedding or some commercials for movie stars or so," he added.
When Western Focus visited the Negril coastline recently, at least two horsemen were spotted riding along the strip in the vicinity of Long Bay Beach. One of the riders, who requested anonymity, told Western Focus that if his horse were to be seized, he would be robbed of his only source of income and his children would suffer. He said a horse could be bought within the resort town for between $30,000 and $40,000.
He also said he and other horsemen had taken steps to ensure that whenever horses defecated, the faeces were removed immediately.
"The only time we no get fi take it up is if the horse do it while we are riding in the water," he said.
He also suggested that the tourism authorities reserve a section of the beach strip at the farthest western end of Long Bay Beach for horseback riding, as that area was hardly, if ever, used by beachgoers.
"Because a di tourist dem always a ask fi do horseback riding. They enjoy doing it and Negril need it," he said.
Last November, then commanding officer of the Negril Police Station, Superintendent Ryan Gayle, had recommended that horse owners be allowed to operate legitimately within the town so they can reap the economic benefits of the industry. The police officer had said guests to the resort town were travelling "far and wide (outside Negril) to get to ride horses legitimately".