It had been about 15 years since I’d been on a horse and I’m not going to lie, I was nervous! I’d spent my childhood riding at any opportunity I could get. In college and after, I worked in several barns and rode quite a bit. But, when getting ready to move to St Croix in 2001 I sold my saddle and hadn’t ridden since. I missed it, but didn’t realize how much until I met Jennifer from Cruzan Cowgirls Horse Rescue and Horseback Riding Tours.I had heard about Jennifer’s efforts at rescuing unwanted horses from the race track and local owners and had seen posts on Facebook from several of my friends. Being a former horse person, and long-time resident I spent some time observing before getting too excited. But the more I saw, the more I was impressed. I reached out to Jennifer to add her organization to My-StCroix.com‘s tour operator listings and was thrilled when she invited me out to ride with her. Since I had some experience (though it had been awhile) we decided to head out on an unofficial ride and I used it as an opportunity to interview her and find out about her program. What an exciting day it turned out to be!
I met up with Jennifer and her son Jace who helps her out on rides. She trailored three horses over to Rainbow Beach and we headed out from there. I got to ride and bond with Yoshi – a gelding she had purchased/rescued from the race track. In his former life, Yoshi had been a work horse at the track, but apparently he didn’t take too well to the thoroughbreds and had outlived his usefulness. Jennifer saw him out behind the track, inquired about him and the rest is history. It’s how she has obtained most of her horses and what really impressed me about her. She has a laid back and friendly nature and rather than battling the local horse culture, she’s embraced it and learned about it. She’s made friends at the track and respectfully offers to purchase horses that may otherwise be unwanted. Then, she takes the time to rehabilitate and train them using Natural Horsemanship Training principles. Basically, Jennifer is a horse whisperer and if you get a chance to ride with her, you’ll see what I mean!
But, back to the ride… we started out taking a walk up the beach which was is still breathtaking to me even though I live here. We then made our way up Creque Dam Road, passing by the Lawaetz Museum. I’ve traveled this road a million times by car – but traveling up through the “rainforest” on horseback at a slower pace allowed me the time to really enjoy the scenery and notice more of the beauty of the West End. The quiet of the forest and the beauty of the sun shining through the canopy was mesmerizing. We took the long way and rode down some roads I hadn’t traveled before, passing friendly neighbors and other horses out in the pasture. After living here for fourteen years, it was all so new to me and I loved every minute.
Once we made it back to the beach, I got the true thrill of riding Yoshi into the ocean. It was so fun to have him pawing at the water like a kid and then swimming underneath me. Truthfully at one point I thought he may roll in the water, but he was just a little off balance from a wave. However, I jumped off and ended up swimming along side him. I couldn’t have been happier in that moment!
Since that day, I’ve gotten the chance to spend some more time with Jennifer and her family out at the “farm” where she keeps eleven horses along with a menagerie of other rescued animals (since December 2013 she and her family have rescued a total of 52 animals including horses, goats, chickens, bottle fed kittens, dogs and more). Profits from Cruzan Cowgirls Horseback Riding Tours are used to purchase feed, supplies, medical needs and more for the Cruzan Cowgirls Horse Rescue efforts. Additionally, Jennifer has started a “Horse School” teaching St Croix youth the principles of Natural Horsemanship and general horse management practices. I got to spend the day and then head out on a ride on their first day. I was thoroughly impressed with everything I saw, but especially the pure kindness that emanates from the rescue efforts of her entire family. I’m looking forward to riding again with a group of my girlfriends in a couple of weeks and sharing the experience with them. I’m also honored to now call Jennifer – friend.
If you’re lucky enough to live on St Croix or are just coming here for a visit – be sure to book a ride with Cruzan Cowgirls. You can also assist with their rescue efforts by visiting the Cruzan Cowgirls GoFundMe page – there you’ll find information on the Cruzan Cowgirl Rescue Efforts and a wish list of needed items.