Ride the beach at Bob Hall Pier from Padre Balli Park!

Website: http://nuecesbeachparks.com/pbpark.html

Contact: 361/949-8122 or nueces.ballipark@co.nueces.tx.us

Always call before you haul; park fees and rules may be subject to change.

Location: 15820 Park Road 22
Corpus Christi, TX 78418

Directions: From I-37 South exit #4A at TX 358.  Continue on 358 towards Padre Island.  358 will turn into TX HWY 22 which is also S. Padre Island Drive.  Stay on S. Padre Island Dr. and pass Whitecap Blvd, pass Viento Del Mar, you will see blue entrance signs to the park on the left, pass Access Rd. 5, and then take an immediate left at Padre Balli Park Rd (Access Rd. 5 and Padre Balli Park Rd. initially run parallel to each other).  This road will take you into the park.  Follow the road as it curves to the right and it will take you to the Padre Balli Park office.  Note when using the address in Google Maps it does not take you to the exact location.

Hours: The Padre Balli Park office is open from 8am – 10:30pm seven days a week. The office also has a first aid station.

Padre Balli Park Office

Cost:

Free Day Riding – Riding for the day and parking your truck and trailer at the R. Briscoe King Pavilion in Padre Balli Park is free.  When entering the park a sign will point you to the Pavilion which is on the left.

Recently learned the park has changed their policy and overnight camping with horses is no longer allowed, I will try to find out why this policy was changed and post what I learn.  I appreciate being notified of this change by one of our WTTA visitors.

$20.00 Overnight Camping(No longer permitted) with your horses per rig – If you wish to camp overnight with your horses the cost is $20.00.  Be sure to call ahead as space is limited for equestrian camping, but rarely full.  When entering the park, the overnight camping area designated for equestrians is the first parking/tent camping area  on the right.  This area is marked tent camping and is mostly asphalt. However, there is a sandy area between the asphalt and park road for the horses.   There are no horse pens. You can bring in portable panels or electric pens to set up on the sand.  If you wish to leave your horse tied to the trailer while camping be sure to get permission from the park office first, as they normally do not allow this.  Water and electricity is also available at this primitive camping area. When camping overnight you will need to check in at the office, pay your fees, and collect a permit to place on your truck and trailer. You will also receive a card key for the shower/bathroom house, which is a good walk from the tent camping area.

Facilities:

Although horses are allowed in the park and on the beach, there are no facilities designed for horses.  There are no pens, hitching posts, or water troughs. Bring your own water bucket and hose.

Free trailer parking for the day at the R. Briscoe King Pavilion, located on the left when entering the park. 7/16/11 Riders are preparing for an ACTHA competitive trail ride.

Day visitors and/or riders will have access to the public bathrooms located at the Padre Balli Park office.  There are also showers in these bathrooms that cost a dollar (you will need four quarters). Running water is not provided in the pavilion parking area.  You will have to go to the tent camping area to have access to water.

A good sign at arrival. The Padre Balli Park overnight camping area allowed for horses is located on the right when entering the park.

Overnight visitors in the tent camping area have access to electricity and water.  This area is mostly asphalt but there is a sandy spot to set up horse pens or tie your horse to the trailer.  Campers are given a card key to access the park shower house and bathroom facilities.  Washers and dryers are also located in the shower house. The shower house is painted blue and located in the RV parking area. It is the second blue building south of the office.  The tent camping area also has a few small gazebos. No ocean views can be seen from this camp site, but the beach is a very short walk or ride away.

Park Etiquette: Please keep up the stellar reputation of equestrians visiting Padre Balli Park by picking up at your camp or parking site.  Bring a container with you to pack out all horse manure from your parking or camping site.

Mileage: Miles and miles of beach are accessible when going south and eventually lead into the Padre Island National Seashore.  Heading north on the beach will lead to more populated areas, hotels, and eventually a canal which appears to be impassable by horseback on Google Maps.

Map:


Terrain: The terrain is smooth, flat, sandy shore line for miles with sand dunes in some areas just off the beach away from the shore line.  The dunes consist of deep lose sand, especially when conditions are dry.

Bob Hall Pier

Carol on Newt, America's Favorite Trail Horse finalist in the center and James riding Rein on the right.

Everyone must ride on the beach at least once in their life, and enjoying this experience on your own horse is paramount! Padre Balli Park is a great place to park your truck and trailer to ride the beach for the day or camp out with your horses and enjoy the beach for an extended period of time.  The park is located by Bob Hall Pier and provides miles of beach access (especially south of the pier) open for horse back riding.   This beach dons golden shores, blue/green ocean scenes, and thankfully little to no haze to dull the vivid colors on the hot July weekend I visited.  The wet sand close to the surf is great footing, no shoes are required.  Wading out in the ocean is a refreshing blast and great exercise and experience for  your horse.  The deeper sand a little bit further off the shore line also gives your horse a superb workout. Changing it up between riding in the ocean waves, to wet packed-down beach sand, and off the shore line in the deeper sand is the best way to go, providing a diverse workout and experience for both you and your horse. Beach riding is amazing and I highly recommend it to all equestrians. Come on, what horse person would not want want to ride on the wet and wild side and meet  and defeat the challenges of beach riding?

Dealing with waves, kayaks, and fishing poles.

The beach is a superb opportunity to desensitize your horse to diverse stimuli.  The most obvious challenge for your horse will be the ocean of course.  Waves, different smelling water, and vastness of the ocean is new to most horses.  I found leading your horse up and down the shoreline parallel to the water and inching closer to the surf as your horse gets more comfortable is the best way to start.  The second obstacle is all the beach goers and their gear.  Parts of the beach can get crowded and busy, especially on a hot summer weekend. The crowd is thickest in front of the Balli Park office, at the pier, and north of the pier.

Padre Balli Park Saturday crowd just in front of the office.

Beach goers will be in the water swimming, surfing, floating, kayaking, fishing, and also hanging out in the sand with umbrellas or even under large canopies set up on the beach for shade.  There will be dogs happily playing fetch the ball or frisbee  with their best friends. Parts of this beach also had vehicle traffic from trucks, ATVs, and cars.  Sand castles and holes dug in the sand can also make a horse shy.  Watch for the fishermen as they will be standing on the shore with their fishing lines out in the ocean  and you must ride behind them to avoid getting your horse tangled in fishing line.  Be prepared for your horse to receive some attention while  on the beach.  A few curious barefoot or sandal-clad onlookers and horse admirers of different ages approached us, some slowly and others with reckless abandon oblivious to their own safety or mine; eager to give affection to and ask questions about my horse.  Initially I was not comfortable with this since my horse was a bit jumpy, being new to the beach scene.  Visions of dismembered toes crossed my mind.  I hated turning away eager bystanders anxious to pet a horse.  Once Angel was settled and more accustomed to the environment, I was open to allowing her to be lavished with attention when dismounted and after giving a stern warning of the possible danger.  Thankfully no toes were severed, but smiles did abound.  A few people approached some of the riders asking if they could rent a horse, and there is a horse rental / trail riding facility just north of the pier that they can be directed to. If you want to ease your horse into this scene, start out at dawn and you will have the beach almost to yourself with the bonus of watching sun rays slowly stretch up, reaching out of the ocean’s depth and into a new day.

I did not see any fresh water resources while riding along this stretch of beach, which did limit the distance of our travel.  We only rode about four miles south of the Pier and possibly two or three miles at most north of the Pier from Balli Park before turning back.  It might be possible to drive out before riding and place a large bucket of water out for the horses or pack some water for your horse and bring a collapsible bucket along.  Due to the humidity you do have to be careful about not overheating your horse in hot weather.  Once returning to camp, I gave Angel a good hosing with fresh cool water and she was quick to take some long drinks.  Running water is available in the overnight tent camping area, but bring your own hose and bucket.  Showers and bathrooms are also available but are not close by the tent camping and parking sites.  I wished they had a hitching post in front of the bath house, but that is most likely asking a little too much.

Trail Tale – Our First Beach Ride!

Renee Ilse of Full Circle Equestrian Center organized an ACTHA (American Competitive Trail Horse Association) competition trail ride on the beach by Bob Hall Pier, the first ACTHA beach ride in Texas.  This was my perfect opportunity to ride on the beach with other equestrians, and hopefully other horses who had been to the beach before.  Neither I nor my horse, Angel, have ever experienced beach riding.  I could not miss this chance to finally play on the beach with my horse. I figured riding with other beach experienced equines would be just the trick to help Angel feel confident in this foreign environment.

Renee and her grandson.

My favorite section of film from a scene in “The Black Stallion” consists of gorgeous cinematography capturing The Black racing through sand and waves with grace, beauty, and what an amazing location crowned by a piercing rainbow! Thank you Caleb Daschanel, I shall never tire of watching The Black play with Alec in the ocean. This childhood movie experience was the start of a desire to play on the beach with my horse. Sardinia, Italy can’t really be compared to Padre Island, nonetheless, watching the sun and moon rise up from the ocean by horseback is priceless whether you are in Italy or Corpus.  All of my fellow equestrians seemed to be having an absolute blast and I’d like to think the horses were having fun too.  Angel would paw and splash, reach her tongue out to taste the salty water , curl her lips up in the air, and hold her head high surveying the new environment she was immersed in. She was excited and ready to go.

Angel and I arrived at the park in the late afternoon on a humid Friday in July. We were greeted by a rainbow and fellow ACTHA members camping the night before the competitive trail ride.  James and his horse Rein, also new to beach riding,  joined us for our horses’ first dip in the ocean.  We lead our horses into the sandy beach having no idea how they would react.  Luckily, the beach was not too crowded at that time and both horses were calm but wary of the odd smelling water rolling onto the shore.  I found that by leading Angel parallel to the water’s edge, inching closer and closer into the surf as she gained confidence, was the ticket.  Within no time at all I was able to lead her right in, but we went no deeper than her knees for that first time.  She pawed and tasted the water, curling lips up into the air. I allowed her to sniff and taste the water, which was her way of checking it out.  Fortunately, she did not attempt to drink it up, as I would have not allowed that for fear of her getting sick. She did so well I went ahead and stepped up into the saddle and soon realized we had to start over since I was no longer in front of her proving it was safe. Now she had to move forward with no one ahead.  We took a bit longer getting into the water while astride.  Once in, she was excited and still just a bit anxious.   I wanted to get her acquainted with the ocean during the daylight hours before nightfall as a moonlight ride was planned that evening .  After sundown, a small group of us headed back out  for the moonlight ride.  The moon did not cooperate and stayed hidden behind clouds all night long, only peaking out occasionally to tease us.  I was apprehensive of how Angel would do on her second outing to the beach and in the dark.  Surprisingly with no moonlight the beach was still slightly lit up with light pollution from Corpus Christi.  Angel did great despite the dark and seemed to enjoy herself.

Angel and Kelly's first beach ride, 7/2011.

That night I sleep out in the open via my amazingly comfortable deluxe size hammock hooked to its stand.  I found if you lay your sleeping bag on top of the hammock it makes a cozy bed. I love sleeping in my hammock (when the weather allows) while camping with horses.  I only need to crack open my eyes to check on Angel and maybe shine a flashlight in her direction if it is really dark. I do admit the experience would have been far greater if we were camping out on the actual beach.  Even with the overcast night due to several lights in the overnight tent camping area, we were not blinded by darkness and I felt secure, especially with my fellow trail riders camping near me.  The following morning we were up before sunrise and had the beach almost to ourselves with an occasional dog walker or jogger passing by.  I led Angel to the shore and started once again by just leading her parallel to the water slowly inching in.   Before I knew it I was waste deep in the water with her.  I made a point to be still a few moments and watch the sunrise while letting Angel stand still or do what she wanted in the ocean, so long as she did not pull on the lead or push on me.  This time it was I who had to watch out for my own toes since I definitely did not want to wear boots in the ocean.  I began driving Angel forward from the ground while behind her with one long lead line.  I was also lunging her in and out of the water in small circles. By doing this she was moving forward into the water without me being in front of her.  She was becoming braver and confident.  She never attempted to roll in the wet beach sand or water.  I kept her attention by changing her direction often, yielding her hindquarters, backing her up, and keeping her feet moving.  We were playing in the ocean! She did very well and seemed to really enjoy the cool water and waves.  I used the nearby picnic tables on the beach in front of the office to hop on her bareback and we were cruising, just the two of us, through the surf bareback with only a rope halter and the lead rope tied around like reins.  We must have spent close to an hour that morning playing around.

ACTHA riders participating in the competitive trail ride at Padre Balli Park near Bob Hall Pier.

It was time to head back, get breakfast, and get ready for the ACTHA competitive ride.  The ACTHA ride consisted of traveling four miles south of the pier and back while completing six obstacles.  Being the late morning on a Saturday the beach goers and their gear had arrived. They were a  non-judged obstacle, but Angel did not seem to mind all the commotion. The only instance when she was really spooked occurred when seeing the shadow of a kite floating across the sand.  Being overly excited myself about getting to ride on the beach, I lacked discipline in taking time to think through all of the obstacles carefully before jumping in and we did fairly poor in the competition this ride, mostly due to my error and not Angel’s.  I completely forgot to do an off-side mount, even after having practiced it, and I did the most perfect near-side mount possible, oops! I pretty much continued in that fashion for the rest of the obstacles, minus the “backing in the ocean” obstacle, in which we did great.  Most importantly I enjoyed the ride, my horse, the company, and I learned a great deal.  Above all I was riding on the beach — can’t beat that!

After enjoying a great hamburger lunch put together by Renee’s crew and hearing the ride results, I decided to stay another night to get a chance at seeing that elusive moon by horseback on the beach.  Our odds where in favor this time, as the sky was clear and blue.  Only a few riders stayed the extra night and we were rewarded well.  Being a Saturday night, the beach was at its peak of action, thick with commotion.  We rode out in the dark before moonrise.  I was blown away with how well all of the horses did considering the dark, the beach goers, and the traffic.  There was some vehicle traffic on the beach and numerous parked cars in certain areas.  Headlights and flash lights pointing our way made it hard to see at times. Angel had to be sure to sniff all of the tire tracks in the sand to be sure there was no danger. Fortunately we had a few well experienced riders and their steeds who had ridden in the dark shores before to lead our way. At last the vermillion moon crept up out of the ocean and soon beamed its full glory across the gulf capturing my admiring gaze.  Upon our return,  we were blessed with a few unpopulated stretches of shoreline.  One of the seasoned beach riders headed off in a trot and we pursued.  Before I knew it Angel was keeping pace with our now loping companion in my favorite gear, Angel’s amazing extended trot.  Her extended trot can match the speed of most horses at a gallop. Salt water splashed up into the night while the full moon glowed down on us. What a way to end the day!  I slept well in my hammock that night, but peeked open my eyes a few times to see Angel also resting in the soft sand. Once again I enjoyed the sunrise with Angel while playing in sand and salt water before heading home.  Needless to say, we will be doing more beach trail riding in our near future.

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