A Wild Ride on the Willamette Coast

Lindley and Justin Leahy offer horsemanship in the form of adventure.

by Sarah Crampton

In the day-to-day riding of horses for pleasure and sport, we forget that horses are also a means of transportation. They can take you somewhere. And “oh the places you’ll go!” 

The Willamette Coast Ride in northwest Oregon is an opportunity to go and see and gallop. It is a refreshing escape from the modern-day world of computers and phones, and surprisingly, I found it a healthy break from my own horse and riding goals. It had been a while since I had just galloped for the fun of it, and the horses love it and their happiness with the freedom to GO is contagious. 

The ride combines some of the most spectacular scenery in the Pacific Northwest. You climb mountains to forests filled with ferns and a cathedral of trees, traverse sand dunes with coastal pines on one side and the glorious Pacific on the other, and gallop on the seven-mile stretch of Neskowin Beach crashing and splashing through the surf. The variety of the terrain and the views are unique from the back of your newfound equine partner. 

The Willamette Coast Ride is hosted by solid horseman and horsewoman, Justin and Lindley Leahy. They have a herd of eighteen horses and match riders up with a suitable mount and comfortable saddle. The horses are solid citizens on the trail, sure footed, and never bat an eye as you go down banks into the river, climb and descend the forest trails, and proceed onward to the wide-open ocean air. 

Photo by Beth Raisen

Justin Leahy is from an equestrian family in Ireland and is an experienced show jumper, eventer, and trail rider. He believes horses are innately influenced by their environment and by nature, and trains accordingly. 

He explains, “Horses should live in a herd. It is my job to be their leader. I replace the lead horse. If I move; they move. If I correct a horse, the correction should not be associated with me, but with the action of the horse. 

“Go forward or kick-on are the most common words used in the English equestrian language,” he continues. “Giving riders the space and place to go forward, whether it be in the forests, on the beach or in the arenas of the Pacific Northwest is of primary importance in the improvement of one’s riding skills as well as the connection to the horse.” 

“Giving riders the space and place to go forward, whether it be in the forests, on the beach or in the arenas of the Pacific Northwest is of primary importance in the improvement of one’s riding skills as well as the connection to the horse.” 

Lindley also grew up trail riding horses and has competed in dressage and eventing. She comments, “We are so grateful to have available to us such great places to explore for the Willamette Coast riders.” 

Lindley adds, “I would of course enjoy being able to go out to a few competitions a year, but I also enjoy going trail riding to new places, camping with the horses and my children, getting them on ponies and being out in nature!” 

The Leahys, under the name Bally Carlton Horses, also breed Irish Sport horses for show jumping and eventing. They have three quality foals on the ground now that will be put into training when the time comes. With a hint of Irish humor Justin states, “We like to say they are ‘Made in America, with Irish parts.’” 

Justin and Lindley are very experienced in matching riders to their horses. On day one you try out the horse picked for you with a quick trot and canter around the grass paddock to be sure you’re a good fit. Justin instructs you to ride with contact, as you are not just a passenger. He explained that the term soft hands is in practice the timing of the release that is so important to reward the horse and allows him to go forward. After everyone has settled on their new mount, it’s off to the neighboring fields and vineyards as you work up a thirst for wine tasting. 

When not being transported to new sites on the back of a horse, you can explore the local town’s shops, partake in wine tasting, and enjoy the comfort of a fine Bed and Breakfast Inn with gourmet meals. The week flies by quickly as it just gets better with each day. A dinner on the coast for seafood, several nights in condos right on the expansive Neskowin Beach, mountain vistas, more cantering, and finishing with exhilarating long gallops on the beach that will blow your hair back. 

For info on a visit: 

www.WillametteCoastRide.com 

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