The American Heart Association’s Beach Ride will return to the saddle next fall.
Despite a dispute with Horry County officials that prematurely ended Saturday’s event, the ride’s organizer said the 34th annual trot on the strand is still a go.
“It caused a few hiccups,” ride leader Gina Burroughs said of this year’s disrupted journey. “But we’re excited to go back to our original route.”
The charitable jockeys typically begin their ride at Lakewood Camping Resort and continue north for 10 miles before turning around and heading back to the campground. This year, Burroughs said, the city of Myrtle Beach told them the usual route wouldn’t work because of an outfall project on the city’s beach. No riders were to travel beyond Second Avenue North.
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Burroughs said the association learned of the obstacle in August and scrambled to come up with a southern route. They received permission from Surfside Beach and checked into Horry County’s policy for horses on the sand.
The association’s understanding was that horses were allowed on the beach in unincorporated Horry from November through February.
“We didn’t know that it was going to be an issue,” Burroughs said. “We thought everything was fine.”
But when riders started showing up in Garden City Beach, which is part of unincorporated Horry, county police received phone calls and responded to the strand.
They told the riders they would have to turn around.
County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said horses are allowed on the unincorporated beach from Nov. 1 through Feb. 28, but the county policy also requires that horses stay in the “designated equestrian zone,” which encompasses the central section of the strand south of Myrtle Beach and north of Surfside Beach. Horse owners are also required to pick up after their animals.
Bourcier said no one from the association applied for a special event permit to take the ride south of Surfside into Garden City Beach, which is also in unincorporated Horry.
The confusion upset some of the 1,500 riders who attended the event, Burroughs said, but she said next year the route will be the same as it’s usually been and she doesn’t expect a similar conflict.
Burroughs noted that the association raised more than $300,000 from the ride and the money goes toward key research and educational initiatives.
She added that many people enjoy watching the horses on the sand.
“It is an amazing sight to see that many horses on the beach,” she said. “It’s very magical.”